Exaggerated Accusations of Polish Complicity in the Holocaust Won’t Help Combat Warsaw’s Revisionism

Last week, the Israeli parliamentarian Yair Lapid—the co-chair of the Blue and White party—gave an interview to a Polish radio station in which he stated that “Poles cooperated in creating and running extermination camps” and, furthermore, that “it is no coincidence that the Nazis created their center of extermination in Poland. They knew that the Polish population would help them.” Ben Cohen argues that such statements, which are not the first from Lapid, only encourage Polish hostility toward frank discussion of the Shoah:

No one denies that there was a powerful anti-Semitic political movement in Poland between World War I and World War II, as was the case in many countries of Europe. But when the Nazis occupied Poland, they diverged from their practice elsewhere on the continent by administering the country directly. As a result, there was no Polish equivalent of Pétain in France or Quisling in Norway. Nor did you find Poles serving in the SS, as was the case with Ukrainians or Lithuanians. Nor was there a Polish pro-Nazi paramilitary, like the Ustaša in Croatia or the Arrow Cross in Hungary. Yet Lapid claims nonetheless that the Polish nation bears the lion’s share of Holocaust guilt.

The idea that the Nazis situated the six main extermination camps in Poland solely because of the country’s native tradition of anti-Semitism is also fanciful and needlessly insulting. The reasoning in Berlin . . . was based far more on [other] considerations. Poland had the largest single population of Jews on the continent, 2.9 million—in other words, about half of the total number of Holocaust victims. By Nazi standards, slaughtering them in their home country was all very efficient. . . .

Meanwhile, the Polish government has attempted to outlaw any discussion of Poles’ collaboration with the Nazis, while far more accurate statements by Israeli politicians have strained relations between the countries:

[Over the past year], the anti-Semitic atmosphere in Poland has worsened. A common theme in the media is the claim that the Jews are invoking the specter of Polish guilt as a prelude to forcing Poland into passing a law giving restitution for the individual assets of Polish Jews that were stolen during the war—an act that Polish nationalists would regard as a treacherous abandonment of the principle that Germany, and Germany alone, was and remains responsible for the fate of the Jews.

[Still], the fact that it is Poland that has chosen to weaponize the Holocaust during its current nationalist resurgence doesn’t license [Jews] to be cavalier with the truth, to make vague or inaccurate statements, or to repeat falsehoods that can be simply disproved.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Poland, Yair Lapid

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship