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Poland withdraws from Jerusalem summit after 'racist' Israeli remarks

Poland's prime minister on Monday cancelled Warsaw's participation in the Jerusalem summit. [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 February, 2019

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Warsaw has pulled out of a summit in Jerusalem this week following uproar over comments by Netanyahu and Israel's foreign minister about Poland and the Holocaust.

Poland's prime minister on Monday cancelled Warsaw's participation in a summit of central European countries in Jerusalem, calling comments about the actions of Poles during the Holocaust by Israel's foreign minister "racist".

"The words of the Israeli foreign minister are racist and unacceptable... it is clear that our foreign minister (Jacek) Czaputowicz will not be travelling to the summit," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Polish media, after comments by Israel's new foreign minister accusing Poles of anti-Semitism.

The move comes after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki backed out of the summit on Sunday, following uproar in Poland over reported comments by Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu about the Poles and the Holocaust.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was due to replace Morawiecki, but a senior government official in Warsaw said on Monday that this was now under a "question mark" following comments by Israel's diplomatic chief Israel Katz.

Katz told Israel's i24 television that "there were many Poles who collaborated with the Nazis, and like Yitzhak Shamir, whose father was murdered, said: Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk."

"The situation has changed since yesterday," Michal Dworczyk, head of the Polish prime minister's chancellery, told Polish radio on Monday, adding that "we're dealing with a disgraceful statement by Israel's new foreign minister."

The initial row broke out last week 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 Germany during World War II. Tel Aviv later clamed the comments were mistranslated.

'Historical truth'

Warsaw has long been at pains to point out that Poland, which was occupied by Nazi Germany, could not have and did not collaborate in the Holocaust although individual Poles gave up Jews to the Nazis.

The Israeli prime minister's office had said that Netanyahu had not implicated all Poles in the Holocaust.

It insisted that Netanyahu was "misquoted" in Haaretz and other publications that reported different versions of the quote.

Netanyahu was in Warsaw last week for a two-day summit on the Middle East, co-hosted by Poland and the United States, which focused on isolating Iran while building Arab-Israeli ties.

The fresh controversy in Polish-Israeli ties comes after last year's row over a Polish law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German crimes.

After protests from Israel and the US, Poland amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.

Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II and lost six million citizens including three million Jews.

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