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

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy