For the Polish Government, Memory of the Holocaust Must Not Interfere with a Narrative of Polish Victimhood

July 21 2020

Earlier this month, Andrzej Duda narrowly won another term as president of Poland. Among the symbolic issues bandied about in the campaign was the legislation to provide restitution for Jewish property stolen by Polish Gentiles during and after the Holocaust (Duda is opposed), and an admiring remark from Duda’s opponent about Benedict Spinoza (denounced by the government-owned television channel as an “anti-Catholic” statement in favor of a “Jewish philosopher.”) Ben Cohen comments:

According to the Polish president, the responsibility for restitution lies solely with Germany. There are a number of legal objections to Duda’s view. . . . But such technicalities cut little ice in Warsaw these days, chiefly because Duda’s government has “nationalized” the memory of the Holocaust. By that, I mean that the official depiction of the Holocaust by the state-run Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) would have us believe that Poles and Jews were equal partners in victimhood, and that the Holocaust was as much a Polish tragedy as a Jewish one.

Within the confines of this distorted narrative, there is no room to discuss the thorny issue of collaboration—the very word elicits fury in the corridors of the IPN—of ordinary Poles with the occupying German authorities. Any notion that Poles contributed directly to the slaughter of their country’s historic Jewish community is regarded not as historical fact, but as defamation.

For Poland’s current crop of leaders, it isn’t enough that the most serious Holocaust historians, along with Jewish and Israeli leaders, have recognized that the Poles suffered profoundly as a nation under the Nazis, and that many of the mechanisms for collaboration that existed elsewhere in Eastern Europe—like, for example, joining local units of the SS—were absent in Poland. It seems that nothing less than a title deed to the word “Holocaust” will suffice.

As wrenching as it is to say this. . . the legacy of two forms of totalitarianism—Nazism and Communism—continue to impact Poland, alongside its long, grim tradition of domestic anti-Semitism.

Read more at JNS

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Poland

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount