Poland cancels Israeli visit over WWII property restitution row

Israeli visit would have focused primarily on property restitution, Polish Foreign Ministry claims.

AFP,

A previous Knesset delegation to Poland
A previous Knesset delegation to Poland
Flash 90

Poland on Monday said it had cancelled a visit by Israeli officials over their intention to raise the issue of the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, a matter Warsaw insists is closed.

"Poland decided to cancel the visit of Israeli officials after the Israeli side made last-minute changes in the composition of the delegation suggesting that the talks would primarily focus on the issues related to property restitution," the foreign ministry said in a statement posted to its website.

It said a delegation headed by Avi Cohen-Scali, the director general of the Israeli Ministry for Social Equality, had been due in Warsaw on 13 May.

Several thousand nationalists rallied in the Polish capital on Saturday against a US law on the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, an issue which has surfaced ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.

Poland's governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party as well as the centrist and liberal opposition have downplayed the law signed by US President Donald Trump in May 2018, insisting that it will have no impact on Poland.

The US Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act -- known as the 447 law -- requires the US State Department to report to Congress on the progress of countries including Poland on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during World War II and its aftermath.

Pre-war Poland was a Jewish heartland, with a centuries-old community numbering some 3.2 million, or around 10 percent of the country's population at the time.

Anti-Semitic concerns regarding Poland have recently resurfaced.

Last year, Warsaw passed a law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German war crimes.

The move sparked an outcry from Israel, which saw it as an attempt to ban testimonials on Polish crimes against Jews.

In response, Warsaw amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.

In February, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz drew Poland's ire by saying "Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk."

In April, the World Jewish Congress condemned a Polish town after reports that residents hung and burnt an effigy "made to look like a stereotypical Jew" in a revival of an old Easter tradition.




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