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Polish PM Cancels Israel Trip after Official’s ‘Racist’ Comments

Polish PM Cancels Israel Trip after Official’s ‘Racist’ Comments

Monday, 18 February, 2019 - 12:45
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki at the Middle East summit in Warsaw last week. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki canceled on Monday a planned trip to Israel following “racist” comments by acting Israeli foreign minister that Poles “collaborated with the Nazis”.

"I am the son of Holocaust survivors," Israel Katz said in an interview Sunday with Reshet 13 TV.

“The memory of the Holocaust is not something to compromise about. It is obvious. We will not forget, and we will not forgive,” he added on his first day on the job.

He then vowed that no one would change the historical truth of what happened.

"Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely. Collaborated with the Nazis. As (former Israeli Prime Minister) Yitzhak Shamir said — his father was murdered by Poles — he said that from his point of view they sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk. You can't sugarcoat this history," he said.

The Polish pullout triggered the collapse of the planned summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Visegrad Four -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

With the Hungarian and Slovak prime ministers already in Israel, bilateral meetings will take place instead, according to announcements by Czech Prime Minister Andrei Babis and Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

The Visegrad Group, often known as the V4, was due to hold its first summit in Jerusalem Monday and Tuesday for talks with Israeli officials.

The developments mark a new low in a bitter conflict between Poland and Israel over how to remember and characterize Polish actions toward Jews during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.

Morawiecki had already announced Sunday that he was pulling out of the meeting after a comment by Netanyahu last week about Polish cooperation with Nazis.

"The words of the Israeli foreign minister are racist and unacceptable," he said.

Poland's Foreign Ministry also summoned the Israeli ambassador, Anna Azari, to demand a second set of clarifications in recent days.

The initial row broke out Thursday when Netanyahu -- who was quoted in Haaretz newspaper as saying that "the Poles collaborated with the Nazis" -- was condemned in Poland for appearing to accuse all Polish people of cooperating with Nazi Germany during World War II.

Netanyahu's office said he was misquoted. The Polish government first summoned the Israeli ambassador on Friday but said it was not satisfied with the explanation of the Israeli leader being quoted incorrectly.

Poland was the first occupation of Adolf Hitler's regime and never had a collaborationist government.

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