False stereotypes about Poles as a fertile ground for dissemination of fake news

In 1989, Yitzhak Shamir, former Israeli Prime Minister made no effort to hide his view of Poland. When speaking of anti-Semitism, he said: “Poles suck it in with their mother’s milk”. Such fundamentally false and derogative statements illustrate in an exemplary way, how the Jewish community has been programmed to perceive the Polish people, who themselves were victims of Nazi Germany, as brute and stupid anti-Semites. This misperception prevails unfortunately among some Jews also today and is reflected in the recent misleading Israeli media reports about Poland. They totally ignore Polish suffering (3 million ethnic Poles were killed during the WWII), they forget hundreds of thousands of Poles who risked their lives to rescue the Jews in occupied Poland and they disregard the contributions of Poles to the defeat of Germany. They just concentrate exclusively on isolated cases of Polish collaboration with the German occupier and inflate them, like the Israeli president Rivlin during the recent March of the Living, to alleged Poland’s complicity in the Holocaust. They would never have got away with that when dealing with France, the Netherlands or Romania, the countries which collaborated en masse with Nazi Germany and which willfully deported hundreds of thousands of Jews to the German death camps in occupied Poland, in Germany and in Austria. The Israeli Prime Minister Shamir would never dare to address such an offensive message to the French or German people.

Deborah Lipstadt, an American historian, best known as author of the books “Denying the Holocaust” (1993) and Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Georgia, United States stated in her blog on October 26, 2007: “it is wrong to depict Poland as a place of unending antisemitism or to fall prey to the absurd but, nonetheless, oft-heard comment made by Jews who visit the place, “The Poles were worse than the Nazis.””

Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli political scientist, Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities criticized the Holocaust trips of young Israelis to Poland in Haaretz on March 7, 2018. He stated, “Because of the structure of these trips, tens of thousands of young Israelis unintentionally associate the Holocaust with Poland, sometimes far more than with Nazi Germany”. He demanded that such trips should start in Germany.

Even Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich said over the weekend during a Limmud FSU Global Leadership Summit that took place in Warsaw: “Some of the Jewish responses to Poland’s Holocaust law were irresponsible”.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and members of Polish diaspora have been fighting for years against false accusations of Poland’s complicity in the Holocaust and against historically false terms like “Polish death camps”. The Polish legislators tried desperately to address this problem by amending in January 2018 the existing antidefamation law. Unfortunately, the attempt to defend Poland’s good name met with a very hostile and sometimes hysterical reaction in Israel and in the mainstream media. John Hittinger, Professor in the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St Thomas, Houston and the founder and President of the International Catholic University commented it on February 15, 2018 in the Catholic US magazine “Crisis” in this way: “This past week I was amazed to discover such a sudden worldwide interest in Poland, and the facile and angry judgment of the western media. Poland’s identity and self-determination became everybody’s business and so many people stepped forward to teach Poland a lesson or two. But what most astounded me was the lack of proportion between the hyperbolic and near vitriolic denunciations of Poland and the solid and evident truth of the law and the sincere effort of the Polish people to seek to express their own memory and identity. One of the least controversial truths has created such controversy.”

As the Israel politicians and media are generally not interested to allow other genocides to be recognized appropriately (the Holocaust serves as a powerful political instrument), they engage in a smear campaign disregarding the WWII genocide of Poles and accusing the Polish people of complicity in the Holocaust. Public persons in Israel who use hate speech mainly belong to two opposition parties – Labor party (Itzik Shmuli) and centrist Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid). Lapid, a politician who struggled with learning disabilities and left the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium  without earning a bagrut certificate, said with no hesitation on January 27, 2018: “There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that.” In the political parties like the Labor party or Yesh Atid, the words of Yitzhak Shamir fall on a fertile ground. Their activists wrongly perceive Poland as an anti-Semitic country and have no objections to portray Poland in the worst possible light.

Unfortunately, the total lack of assertiveness of Polish officials invites the followers of Shmuli and Lapid to lash out at Poles as stupid goyim who “suck anti-Semitism in with their mother’s milk”.