(Algemeiner) Israel’s Education Ministry on Wednesday announced that it was canceling visits to Poland for thousands of Israeli school students over a dispute concerning security arrangements that involved the unprecedented demand for armed Israeli guards to accompany the students — although Israel’s Foreign Minister stated that the row also related to Polish policies on ‘Holocaust’ commemoration:
A statement from the ministry said the heritage tours involving about 7,000 young Israelis had been frozen because of a Polish refusal to allow armed agents of Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, to accompany the students. The statement added that negotiations with the government in Warsaw to resume the trips were ongoing.
A spokesperson for the Polish Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Israeli government had been told that a “return to the current rules, including the participation of armed Israeli servicemen, is not possible.” Speaking while on a visit to the Albanian capital, Tirana, the spokesperson, Łukasz Jasina, said that the decision had been taken to preserve Poland’s image as a law-abiding and safe country.
“We cannot afford to have a situation in which Poland may appear as a dangerous country, with citizens whom Israeli youth need to be protected from,” Jasina said. “Also, a situation in which servicemen from another country are carrying weapons on the territory of our country is intolerable.”
However, in a separate briefing with journalist in Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid asserted that the dispute was rooted in the Holocaust commemoration policies of Poland’s nationalist government. In 2018, the Polish parliament passed legislation allowing for civil prosecution of historians who research the collaboration of Polish citizens with the Nazi authorities during the Nazi occupation, while last year a new law effectively closed off restitution claims for Holocaust victims and their families. Relations between Warsaw and Jerusalem nosedived as a result, although some improvement has been registered in the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine.
“The relations between Israel and Poland were harmed because of Polish laws about the Holocaust,” Lapid said. He accused the Polish government of wanting “to mess with the content of the trips and what can or can’t be said to Israeli children visiting.” Israel would “not allow this,” Lapid continued. “They can’t tell us what to teach Israeli children. That endangered the trips this summer.”
In an extensive interview with “The Algemeiner” last August, a group of prominent historians of the Holocaust in Poland discussed the impact of the legislation on their work. “A few weeks ago, during the conflict over the restitution legislation, I said on social media, ‘please, remember that the extermination camps were not built for Poles, they were built for Jews,’” one of the participants, Prof. Jan Grabowski, recalled. “This statement resulted in my being reported to the prosecutor’s office by these so-called ‘patriotic elements.’ Alongside this is the fact that the institutions of the Polish state are singing the same tune.”
This Israeli demand for armed guards to accompany its student trips to ‘Holocaust’ sites is meant to embarrass Poland — after all, how can a small group of armed guards protect 7 million, often unruly students?
Make no mistake, the local Poles do not welcome these Israeli student visitors to the camps and surrounding towns — they have a well-deserved for arrogant and rude behavior toward the locals as if “they own the place.”
Some local Polish hotels have even gone so far as to refuse to take reservations from Israeli students.
Last year, Poland announced that it was considering cancelling these annual Israeli student trips because they instilled “hatred of Poland” and the Polish people — an understatement to say the least.
Clearly, there is no love lost between Poland and the Israelis — if any people understand the Jewish mindset it is the Poles who have tolerated the largest population of Jews over its history of any European country — and as we know, familiarity breeds contempt.
Considering there are only about 4,500 Jews living in Poland today — despite that, a recent survey showed that 20% of Poles believe that it was a positive outcome that because of WWII, there are far fewer Jews living in Poland.