Poland ignores Israeli threat over bill

Despite Pressure, Poland's President to Sign Controversial Holocaust Bill

Poland's President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed into law a controversial Holocaust bill meant to safeguard his country's image overseas but which has instead sparked tensions with Israel, the U.S. and Ukraine.

The United States is disappointed that the Polish president has signed legislation that would impose criminal penalties for attributing Nazi crimes to the Polish state, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

Poland is governed by a nationalist party, Law and Justice (PiS), which is keen to show the world how Poland was victimised by its German and Soviet neighbours in the war.

Israel has said the law would curb free speech, criminalise basic historical facts and stop any discussion on the role that some Poles played in Nazi crimes.

In a televised address, Duda said the legislation would preserve Poland's global reputation and said that artistic and historical research work will not be affected by the law.

On Tuesday, several dozen activists chanted anti-Semitic slogans at a rally in front of his presidential palace.

The website, launched on 30 January, highlights some of the atrocities of the Holocaust and stresses that the campaign to exterminate Jews was run by Nazi Germany and also saw millions of Poles and members of other ethnic groups killed. Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in Poland, including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

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"The death camps in Poland were built and operated by the Germans, and we can not allow them to evade responsibility for these actions", Bennett said. The legislation provides exemptions for academic research and art.

Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Monday that Poland was open to amending the law but insisted that Israel's criticism was "due to a misunderstanding" and "over-interpretation". But the law is expected to take effect before the tribunal would be able to issue any clarifications, and the independence of the judges themselves.

"We hope that within allotted time until the court's deliberations are concluded, we will manage to agree on changes and corrections", the spokesperson said.

The law has been criticised by the United States as an attack on free speech, although it provides exemptions for academic researchers and artists.

Bennett's office said in a release that the Polish government cancelled the visit following Bennett's remarks, and said Bennett was "honored" by the cancellation.

Thousands of Poles risked their lives to protect Jewish neighbours during the war.

The Holocaust law should be seen as part of a broader anti-EU narrative by the Polish government, Jan T. Gross, a historian at Princeton University in the USA, told The New York Times newspaper.

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