Poland hits back at Israel in WWII claims law row

Warsaw (AFP) –


Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday rejected accusations of anti-Semitism from Israel over a new law that will restrict claims on properties seized in the aftermath of World War II.

Morawiecki said Israel's decision to recall its charge d'affaires to Warsaw was "baseless and irresponsible" and accused the Israeli government of prioritising "party interests".

"No-one who knows the truth about the Holocaust and Poland's suffering during World War II can accept this way of conducting politics," he said on Facebook.

Morawiecki warned Israel's move would "increase hatred towards Poland and Poles" and said the children of Poland's ambassador to Israel were being brought back to Poland.

"If the Israeli government continues to attack Poland in this way, it will have a very negative impact on our relations, both bilaterally and in international forums," he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid responded saying that "the negative impact on our ties began the moment that Poland chose to begin passing laws aimed at harming the memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish people".

"Gone are the days when Poles harmed Jews without consequence," he said, adding that Israel had "no intention of turning a blind eye to the shameful conduct of the anti-democratic Polish government".

- 'Immoral, anti-Semitic law' -

The law sets a 30-year limit on legal challenges to property confiscations -- many of them relating to Poland's once thriving Jewish community.

Since the confiscations mostly occurred immediately after the war during the Communist era, the legislation will block thousands of claims.

The government has said it will bolster legal certainty in the property market but opponents say it is unjust to people with legitimate claims, including Holocaust survivors and their families.

Lapid on Saturday called it "an immoral, anti-Semitic law" and said the new ambassador to Poland, who was scheduled to depart to Warsaw, "will remain in Israel for the time being".

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also slammed the law as "shameful" and said it showed "disgraceful contempt for the Holocaust's memory".

"This is a grave measure that Israel cannot remain indifferent to," he said in a statement.

Lapid said the foreign ministry would recommend that the Polish envoy to Israel, currently on holiday, "continue his vacation in his country".

"He should use the time on his hands to explain to Poles the meaning of the Holocaust to Israelis," Lapid said.

Six million Poles, half of them Jewish, were killed during World War II in Poland.

After the war, Communist authorities nationalised vast numbers of properties that had been left empty because their owners had been killed or fled.

While the law covers both Jewish and non-Jewish claimants, campaigners say Jewish owners will be disproportionately affected because they were often late in lodging claims after the war.

Unlike some of its neighbours, Poland never passed a comprehensive law for compensating former property owners and Morawiecki has insisted that his country "won't pay for Germany's crimes".