Anti-Semitism – A Difficult Subject

Anti-Semitism – A Difficult Subject

Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw

Anti-Semitism is a difficult subject especially for some politicians and journalists. But, firstly, let’s state explicitly that anti-Semitism is abhorrent. We condemn it unequivocally. We are also against all other forms of Hate Crime and discrimination. Especially when the victims are Poles. Just over a week ago there was yet another Polish victim of Hate Crime in the UK.  Facts are the number of Hate Crimes increased after the Brexit referendum in the UK and after the election of Donald Trump in the US. Not “Fake News”. What was fake were the politicians in the US and UK jumping onto a bandwagon about a Polish IPN law and distorting both the intention of that law and the issue of anti-Semitism. There was a widespread hysteria about the Polish law. Some argued it was an attempt to re-write Holocaust history [it wasn’t], some others added it was evidence of a [false] stereotype of endemic Polish anti-Semitism [it wasn’t]. If only these people were not so ignorant about the factual history then perhaps they would not been so quick to sign their names to letters or rave about another country when there were far greater problems in their own backyard.

These critics all seem to have forgotten, or never knew, that Poland was the center of the Jewish world for HUNDREDS of years. For that reason, prior to the GERMAN invasion and brutal German occupation, 10% of the population was Jewish. The respected historian, Norman Davies, said “that over 85% of Jewish alive today can trace their origins to historic Poland”. Why Poland? Because it was the only country that was (and remains) welcoming to Jews. Poles know their history, especially about WW2. There is not one Polish family that did not suffer loss or imprisonment by either the German Nazi or the Soviet (Russian) invaders. People ignore the destruction of Poland and the 3 million of the 6 million victims who were not Jewish. Poles are rarely mentioned as victims, they are usually excluded.

To prevent offensive distortions of the history the Polish government brought in legislation to prevent blatant inaccuracies such as “Polish death camps” appearing. All informed opinion agreed that those type of descriptions were incorrect and the inaccuracies distorted the history. The victims were being changed into the perpetrators due to casual grammatical and factual errors. The mistakes are painful to Poland which fought the Nazi German tyranny at much greater costs and longer than any other nation. The IPN law was entirely sympathetic to the historical record and this internationally (IHRA) agreed definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion.
Attempts to blur the responsibility for the establishment of concentration and death camps devised and operated by Nazi Germany by putting blame on other nations or ethnic groups.

Some Israeli politicians and journalists encourage distorted (/fabricated) history and use their anti-Polonism to try to score points with their voters or readers. Yael Lapid, the Israeli opposition leader, falsely claimed his “grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles”. In fact both his grandmothers survived. Yad Vashem, bizarrely, contradicted their Chief Historian with regard to actual facts. But, it is confusing given that the Israeli government was aware of the Polish IPN law as it was being formulated.

But, as we can see in some earlier posts on this site, some politicians can’t resist trying to put their boots into kicking Poland and bizarrely equating the IPN law as an attempt to rewrite history or as some bizarre evidence of anti-Semitism. Some politicians see something mentioning anti-Semitism plus Poland and suffer a false conflation as they queue up to sign it oblivious to the facts and apparently blind to the greater issues in their own country. This was particular galling from LABOUR politicians whose leader has been described as an “existential threat to Jewish life in the UK”. The party’s failure to deal with the issue is still ongoing.

The POLIN museum, which presents a 1000-year history of Polish Jews, has a display about anti-Semitism but apparently they were so short of materials they included an innocuous tweet from a presidential candidate which she said was defamatory and shameful by the museum.

So, what’s the overall picture regarding anti-Semitism.

Table showing anti-Semitic incidents – adapted from EU FRA report on anti-Semitism. Australia, Canada and USA added. Data from official police reports and monitoring by unofficial agencies.

For the US, the total is for crimes plus incidents per FBI figures. Australia has no official figures so “unofficial” ECAJ numbers are used instead. Figures for Italy are not publicly available. The next report from “The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights” (FRA) will be published later this year.

It is obvious and needs no further comment that anti-Semitic Hate Crime is lower in Poland than many other countries. Belgium has a third of the population of Poland but a slightly higher number of incidents. “In France, there have been thirteen murders of Jews motivated by antisemitism since 2003.”  Same source: “…the most targeted group for hate crimes in Canada were Jews,…  Of note, Jews make up only about 1% of the population of Canada”.

The Labour party’s problems revolve around the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism which include:
“Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.”
“Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Talking of double standards. Exactly the same principle applies. And yet, so many politicians and others, including journalists, fall into this trap with their racist anti-Polonism.
“Accusing Poles as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Polish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Poles.”

There is some added irony that Jeremy Corbyn had previously made the conflation and showed his ignorance about the IPN law AND the Holocaust. Did he think attacking Poland was a way to get in the good books with Jewish voters and defuse the [still ongoing] self-made mess? If so, it spectacularly failed to work.
Mr Corbyn also spoke of anti-Semitism around the world, as he highlighted new Polish laws making it illegal to acknowledge the country’s complicity in the Holocaust,…”
Jeremy, there was no complicity by Poland. That is the simple truth.

It seems most other countries have much greater problems with anti-Semitism than that which is alleged to be in Poland. Why do politicians, oblivious to facts, rush in to condemn Poland whilst ignoring much bigger problems closer to their home? Have the members of Congress/Senate or the Houses of Parliament ever debated the situation or signed letters about the problem in Germany?  Or done anything about the problem in their own countries? Rather than sanctimoniously pontificating on Poland – a country that many of these critics have probably never visited. It is a strange world.

Chris Jezewski

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