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Israel Calls Out Poland On Proposed Holocaust Law


Poland is pushing through a bill that would make it illegal to blame the country for atrocities committed during World War II. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says this sounds like a Holocaust denial. So Israel has summoned a Polish envoy to Israel in protest. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem, where talks with Poland are expected to begin sometime soon.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: As part of an ongoing campaign by Poland's nationalist leadership to defend the country's role during the Holocaust, a new proposed law says whoever publicly accuses the Polish nation of being complicit in Nazi crimes can be jailed for up to three years or fined. The government says Poles were victims of the Nazis and heroically resisted them. But now Israeli officials are protesting the bill. They say the story is more complex. While thousands of Poles have been recognized for helping Jews during the Holocaust, there were Poles guilty of aiding the Nazis, says Michal Maayan, deputy spokesperson for Israel's Foreign Ministry.

MICHAL MAAYAN: We know that the mechanism and the death camps were German. But there is a lot of evidence of Polish people that were aiding in the killing of the Jews.

ESTRIN: The Polish government has long rejected the use of phrases like the Polish death camps, calling it misrepresentative. Both Polish and Israeli scholars hope the bill will not have a chill effect on historical research in Poland.

MAAYAN: If you create an atmosphere where it's harder to research, and people are more timid to discuss what happened in the Holocaust, that might, in turn in the future, lead to bad elements such as Holocaust denial.

ESTRIN: Israeli officials say the timing of the proposed law is unfortunate. It passed a vote by the lower house of the Polish Parliament on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Now Israel has summoned Poland's deputy ambassador and says Poland has agreed to begin an immediate dialogue about the bill. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.