Mateusz Morawiecki at January 2019 event marking liberation of Auschwitz
Mateusz Morawiecki at January 2019 event marking liberation of AuschwitzREUTERS

The Polish government demanded Tuesday that Israel formally apologize for statements by the Israeli foreign minister it deemed “racist”, amid a worsening diplomatic row between the two countries.

On Tuesday, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Szymon Szynkowski, said Israel must “distance itself from their foreign minister’s statement and apologize for it,” the Polish Press Agency reported.

An aide of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned that if an apology was not forthcoming, relations between Israel and Poland would suffer. “Because we can’t allow for being slandered on the international arena,” Marek Suski, a Polish lawmaker and aide of Morawiecki said.

The Speaker of the Polish senate, Stanislaw Karczewski, urged Israeli leaders to “refrain from their anti-Polish statements.”

On Sunday, Poland pulled out of the planned Visegrad Group (V4) summit in Jerusalem in protest of comments by newly-appointed Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) regarding an ongoing diplomatic row with Poland over the country’s Holocaust censorship law.

Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu, Katz told Yisrael Hayom, “expressed himself clearly,” regarding Netanyahu’s comments on Polish collaborators with the Nazis.

“The memory of the Holocaust is something we cannot compromise about, it is something clear and we won’t forget or forgive. Poles collaborated with the Nazis, and as Yitzhak Shamir, whose father was murdered by Poles, said, ‘they suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk’.”

Katz’s comments quickly drew condemnation from Poland, which labelled the comments “racist”.

Poland had earlier criticized Netanyahu for publicly defying the country’s Holocaust censorship law during his visit last week to Warsaw, during which he pointed out that some Poles had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

Poles collaborated with the Nazis,” said Netanyahu in Warsaw. “See, I’m saying it. It is a fact. And I don’t know a single person who was ever sued because of it.”

Under a Polish law passed last year, it is illegal to discuss Polish collaboration with the Nazis, with offenders liable to be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

The law drew heavy criticism from the Israeli government, with the US State Department also expressing opposition to the bill. Polish opposition parties also criticized the law, and proposed to amend the bill.