Jewish leaders in Poland say they are offended Israel’s acting foreign minister said Poles “sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”
The leaders issued a statement Monday saying that accusing all Poles of anti-Semitism slighted thousands of Poles honored by Israel’s Holocaust memorial center, Yad Vashem, for helping Jews during the Holocaust.
The comment on Sunday by the Israeli minister, Israel Katz, led to the scuttling of a meeting of central European leaders in Israel this week.
Katz quoted a former Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, in making his remark alleging all Poles are prone to anti-Semitism.
Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, and Union of Jewish Religious Communities head Monika Krawczyk said Shamir’s words “were unjust already when they were first said, in 1989.”
The two continued that the words Katz repeated “are even more unjust today, 30 years later, when so much has been done on both sides for a mutual understanding of our very difficult, but shared history.”
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis says a planned summit meeting in Israel with his counterparts from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia has been canceled over a bitter new Holocaust spat between Poland and Israel.
Babis, who is leaving for Israel later Monday, told reporters: “No V4 meeting in Israel is going to happen.”
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia form an informal group known as the Visegrad group, or V4. The prime ministers regularly invite counterparts from other countries for those summits.
Babis says only bilateral meetings are planned in Israel. The prime ministers of Slovakia and Hungaria are already in Israel.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the cancellation of the summit.
“There will be no full V4 meeting (it requires the presence of all four). Three PMs are arriving and will hold meetings with PM,” he said in a statement.
Babis says a V4 summit might take place in the second half of the year when the Czech Republic holds the V4 presidency.
Poland’s prime minister says his country is not sending a delegation to a meeting in Jerusalem after the acting Israeli foreign minister said that Poles “collaborated with the Nazis” and “sucked anti-Semitism from their mothers’ milk.”
The developments mark a new low in a bitter conflict over how to remember and characterize Polish actions toward Jews during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the remarks by acting foreign minister Israel Katz “unacceptable” and “racist.”
Morawiecki had already announced Sunday that he was pulling out of the meeting in Israel on Monday and Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of four central European nations. That had followed a comment by Netanyahu last week about Polish cooperation with the Nazis.
A government official says Poland is considering pulling out altogether from a visit to Israel over a comment made by the acting Israeli foreign minister, the latest in a bitter new Holocaust spat between the two nations.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki already pulled out of the meeting Monday and Tuesday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by leaders from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was tapped to go in his place.
On Monday, Michal Dworczyk, the head Morawiecki’s office, said Czaputowicz’s attendance is now in doubt over comments made by Israel Katz, the acting foreign minister.
Katz said Sunday that Poles “sucked anti-Semitism from their mothers’ milk,” citing something once said by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, whose father was murdered by Poles.