“Polish Anti-defamation Law” from the perspective of Westminster Hall

“Polish Anti-defamation Law” from the perspective of Westminster Hall

By Chris Jeżewski, Polish Media Issues

Yesterday saw a debate in the UK Houses of Commons about the “Polish Anti-defamation law”. It was not clear why legislation in another country would have been of such interest to British MPs but the issue was compounded when the initiator of the debate, Alex Sobel, linked the law to anti-Semitism and several MPs jumped onto that bandwagon without researching the tune or knowing the music. It is somewhat ironical that all the speakers, some inadvertently, agreed with the principle that was behind the law. Specifically, that phrases such as “Polish death camps” were incorrect and distortion of history that is offensive to Poland and Poles. Some MPs were exercised enough to condemn a law seeking to stop Holocaust Denial and Distortion but they had never done anything to help prevent the distortions and inaccuracies about Poland.

Mention of the Holocaust inevitably attracts a commentary from Jewish media and organisations. Sadly, many sincerely believe that there is an endemic Polish anti-Semitism since they are oblivious to the thousand-year history of Jews in Poland. Unlike Great Britain which legislated against Jews from 1290 (expulsion) until the early to mid 19th century (emancipation). Meanwhile, Poland was the center of the Jewish world for hundreds of years. That history and legacy were erased by the German occupation of Poland during WW2. This was then subsequently compounded by Soviet Communist propaganda about Poland.

Whilst it is a fact that the law was a  BAD IDEA that has created nothing but problems and negative publicity some of the speakers misinterpreted the legislation as some form of historical revisionism. Yes, that’s right, the same speakers who also said there were ONLY (German) Nazi death camps. Although some couldn’t actually use the factually accurate word “German” to describe the camps or the nation solely responsible for the Holocaust. They missed the point of the law is to stop mistakes with the factual history and to prevent Poland being falsely labeled as an ally and collaborator of Nazi Germany.

Remarkably, no-one commented on the anti-Semitism issues in the LABOUR party or the UK which are much bigger problems.

So, onto the debate.

Alex Sobel, 3/10. A promising start about the Polish Righteous. But then he lost the plot. The (misguided) RDI prosecution against the Argentinian newspaper Pagina 12 was thrown out by the Polish court. President Obama apologized for his mis-speaking. Sobel seemed surprised that when he prodded the wasp and hornet nest he had made, by conflating separate issues, then a few would try to sting. It doesn’t excuse the abuse but it was self-inflicted. The Polish legislation caused a rabid and hysterical reaction amongst the Jewish media, politicians, and organisations. They, like Sobel, did not appear to have read what the law actually stated even though Israel had been consulted on the legislation. Neither did they try to understand the principle behind it (which they all seem to agree with). Sobel admitted he had never visited Poland or spoken with the Polish Ambassador. Poor and selective summation at the end.

Daniel Kawczynski, 10/10. Magnificent. A subject close to his heart. He recounted how his great uncle and his family were executed for trying to help a Jewish family. Mention of his campaign against the BBC and their repeated use of “Polish camp” phrases. Daniel was very clear on Polish history and German camps.  Offered an invitation to Alex Sobel to travel to Poland with the APPG.

Steve Pound, 10/10. He had a hard act to follow but he was equally magnificent. Eloquent, passionate and knowledgeable. Excellent knowledge of Poland’s contribution to the Allies during WW2. Unlike Alex Sobel and the remaining speakers, Mr. Pound understood the reason for the legislation and he (rightly) came “to a conclusion that is completely opposite to the one that he [Sobel] has reached”. Steve made a good point that the camps were German and not Nazi.

John Mann, 1/10. Suffered from having his speech partly written in CAPITALS. Slightly rambling. Unaware of the appearances of “Polish death camp” in the media. (Do a search, John!). Pointless digression into supposed similar laws in other “Eastern European” countries. Mann tried to join dots that weren’t there. Apparently selectively oblivious to the fact that Poland was invaded by Germany and that Germany was responsible for the Holocaust. Not clear what fan insults at football matches and graffiti have to do with the issues. “It is harder for the dead to be eyewitnesses.” Most people would say it is impossible!

Louise Ellman, 0/10. Agreed that Polish death camps was a misnomer which gained some points but these had to be deducted later. She was confused about the Polish law and seemed to think it was some form of revisionism or censorship about the Holocaust. No-one has ever denied or is trying to deny, that a few low-life Poles and criminals collaborated with the German Nazis. The Polish Minister did not deny the massacre of Jedwabne; he questioned the tendentious Gross narrative that is unquestioningly accepted. Mention of Jan Gross as a factually correct historian causes all points to be deducted. The superb irony being that the investigations into Jedwabne were stopped following JEWISH requests. If she is so keen on history being investigated and debated then she should campaign for that investigation to resume.

Peter Grant, 7/10. Good sentiments and understanding of history. Trouble is Peter, the idiots are accusing Poland of crimes that the nation did not commit. The UK parliament and others have totally ignored the problem.

Khalid Mahmood, 0/10. Got a point for saying “Polish death camps” were Nazi but showed a confused understanding of the Polish law and the issues. “The law goes further, however, and allows the state to give people a three-year sentence for talking about Polish camps and debating Poland’s role.” Oy Vey! THERE WERE NO “POLISH CAMPS”. Look back on what you said earlier. Also, NO, it does not stifle any debate. Poland’s role in what, Mr. Mahmood? He inadvertently provided a good example of the issue. 60,000 nationalists didn’t march in Warsaw. Most were families, although there were 1 or 2 inappropriate banners. Then there was a total digression into property restitution. Mr. Mahmood obviously doesn’t know who invaded Poland and what the Allies did to Polish borders and Poland after the war.

Harriett Baldwin (Minister of State, Department for International Development), 3/10. “The Government understand how painful any false attribution of Poland’s culpability in Nazi crimes may be, whether explicit or implicit.” What Poland’s culpability? One hopes this was an innocent mistake since she seemed to be distracted and rushing. She also tried to join non-existent dots between Poland’s pre-war and post-war Jewish populations. Is the Minister unaware of what happened in between and which nation built Auschwitz? Was she listening when Mr. Kawczynski and Mr. Pound spoke? She could also ask LORD Pickles as to why Poles are NOT mentioned as victims on the UK’s proposed Holocaust Memorial. She said there were 2 million but the accepted number is 3 million.

Conclusion: History or research is not being stifled by Poland or the Polish legislation. Instead, there was a (misguided) attempt to prevent Holocaust Denial and Distortion to ensure TRUTH and accuracy.

Please read the minutes of the debate here.

Please watch the debate here.

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