Israel condemns Poland’s restitution law, senior diplomat recalls – CBS17.com

WARSAW, Poland (PA) – Israel on Saturday condemned Poland’s approval of a law that restricts the rights of Holocaust survivors or their descendants to recover property seized by the country’s former communist regime and has announced that he was recalling his highest diplomat in protest.

The move sparked a diplomatic crisis between Israel’s new government and the nationalist conservative government in Poland. After years of close ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s new government, which includes senior officials who are the children of Holocaust survivors, has taken a much more confrontational approach.

Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the law earlier today, which deals with credits granted by the Communist government that ruled Poland from the end of World War II until 1989.

The law itself says nothing about the Holocaust or WWII. Instead, it establishes that any administrative decision made 30 years or more ago can no longer be challenged, meaning that landowners who saw their home or business seized during the Communist era can no longer get it. compensation.

It is expected to forever cut the hopes of some families – Jewish and non-Jewish – to recover the property seized during this time.

The US and Israeli governments had strongly urged Poland not to pass the law, and Israel had warned that it would damage relations.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called Duda’s signing of the law a “shameful decision and a shameful disregard for the memory of the Holocaust” and said that “Poland has chosen to continue harming those who have lost everything “.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he had asked Israel’s charge d’affaires in Warsaw to return home immediately and that Israel’s new ambassador to Poland, who was due to leave for Warsaw, would remain in Israel.

Israel’s foreign ministry also said it was recommending the Polish ambassador, who is on vacation, not to return to Israel.

“Poland approved today – not for the first time – an immoral and anti-Semitic law,” said Lapid, whose late father was a Holocaust survivor.

Defense Minister Defense Minister Benny Gantz, noting that he was the son of Holocaust survivors, said he was “deeply disturbed”.

“Restitution of property is a small but important part of the process of respecting the rights of those who survived and recognizing those who perished in one of the world’s greatest genocides,” said Gantz.

Duda said on Saturday he had carefully analyzed the matter and decided to sign the law to end legal insecurity and fraud related to properties whose ownership remains in doubt decades after their foreclosure.

The law does not distinguish between Jewish and non-Jewish claimants, and Duda said he strongly opposes anyone suggesting the law was specifically directed against Jews who survived the Holocaust.

“I unequivocally reject this rhetoric and say it with all my might,” Duda said. “Linking this act to the Holocaust raises my firm objection.”

Before World War II, Poland was home to the largest Jewish community in Europe with almost 3.5 million people. Most were killed in the Holocaust and their property confiscated by the Nazis.

Some of the small numbers of Polish Jews who survived faced violence and persecution from Poles after the war, prompting many to emigrate to countries like the United States and Israel, which was founded as a sanctuary. for the Jews after the Holocaust and which is their home today. to tens of thousands of aging Holocaust survivors.

Many of these properties, as well as those of many non-Jewish owners in Warsaw and other cities, were seized by post-war Polish Communist authorities.

When communism fell in 1989, it opened up the possibility for claimants to try to reclaim family property. Some cases have been resolved by the courts, but Poland has never adopted a comprehensive law that would regulate the restitution or compensation of seized property.

To complicate matters, some criminal groups in recent years have falsely claimed to represent legitimate landlords, obtaining valuable properties through fraud and later evicting tenants from the properties.

“I am convinced that with my signing the era of legal chaos ends – the era of the mafias of reprivatization, the uncertainty of millions of Poles and the lack of respect for the fundamental rights of the citizens of our country. I believe in a state that protects its citizens from injustice, ”said Duda.

The legislation has been widely supported across the political spectrum in Poland.

The last major diplomatic crisis between Israel and Poland erupted in 2018 when Warsaw introduced a law that many in Israel saw as an attempt to suppress discussion of the crimes that Poles committed against Jews during the German occupation of the Second World War. The law was eventually watered down and was not enforced.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem.

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