Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo visited Israel along with several ministers as part of the strengthening of bilateral relations. The meetings covered topics such as commercial cooperation in space technology, business creation, cyber-security and medicine.
“Israel is a very attractive partner for us, especially in the economy and commerce, because it is a highly developed country that promotes advanced and innovative technologies,” Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told reporters in Jerusalem. We have taken the steps to establish cooperation in different fields between institutions and agencies of both countries, as well as the creation of business councils, forums and round tables.
As a result of this approach, Israel and Poland made a joint controversial statement about the historical past that did not mention the persecution of the Jews of Poland during the Holocaust in spite of the several paragraphs dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.
Critics contend that the right-wing government in Poland has been trying to destroy unpleasant facts from historical records.
A senior Israeli official said that at no time during the talks did Israel try to include anything left over from the Poles who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
According to the official, the main problem that worried the Israelis was the Warsaw-driven legislation that could restrict academic research on the Holocaust. Prime Minister Biniamin Netanyahu raised this issue with Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo during a joint cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
“I agree that the truth is the truth, but it is necessary to investigate openly and freely,” Netanyahu told his Polish colleagues. “There were Nazi collaborators from every country, including the Poles,” he added.
According to the official, Szydlo responded that his government did not seek to undermine or limit Holocaust investigation, and that this point was emphasized in legislation.
The joint statement has received mixed criticism from historians. Poland did not explicitly promise to stop pursuing investigators who study the crimes of Poland during the Holocaust, only agreed a general statement that supports academic freedom.
In any case, Israel accepted Poland’s demand for an explicit condemnation of the term “Polish extermination camps.” The Polish government fears that this term might confuse people with the belief that the Poles established and led the death camps Nazi occupation in occupied Poland.
The Polish Government is pushing for legislation that would impose jail sentences on anyone who claims that the Poles collaborated in Nazi crimes, which cast doubt on the idea that the Poles were only victims of the Nazis or those using the Term “Polish extermination camps.” But for Prof. Yehuda Bauer, a leading Holocaust historian and former chief historian at the Yad Vashem Museum, the statement also had positive aspects, as one paragraph of the statement states: “The two governments strongly oppose any form of Racial discrimination and anti-Semitism, as well as any attempt to distort the history of Jewish or Polish peoples by denying or diminishing the victimization of Jews during the Holocaust, or by using the misleading terms of memory as “extermination camps from Poland'”.