Polish Senate backs controversial legislation that will regulate Holocaust speech

Polish Senate backs controversial legislation that will regulate Holocaust speech”

We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland's strategic interests and relationships - including with the United States and Israel.

Poland's conservative ruling Law and Justice party authored the bill, which calls for up to three years in prison for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or people.

Those found guilty under the legislation could receive a fine or a three-year prison sentence for using the term "Polish death camp" to refer to concentration camps built on Polish soil by Nazi occupiers.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) media freedom representative Harlem Desir expressed Thursday his concern over the new Polish law which criminalizes statements accusing Poles of complicity in the Holocaust, calling the legislation a violation of the freedom of expression.

Israel's Foreign Ministry says the country "opposes categorically" the vote in the Polish Senate in favor of regulating Holocaust speech.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Neather Nauert voiced her government's concerns as the Polish Senate was preparing to approve the bill, a step that would put it closer to becoming law. "No law will change the facts".

Saying the bill defends Poland's good name, the senators voted early Thursday 57-23 to back the bill with two abstentions.

Polish President Andrzej Duda now has 21 days to sign the bill into law.

Though Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki suggested Israel had been consulted on the bill and voiced no objections, many in Israel have argued that the move is an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II. It was approved by the lower house last week. Poland was among the hardest-hit victims of Nazi Germany and is preserving Holocaust memorials.

The U.S. administration has asked Poland to rethink the proposed legislation saying it could "undermine free speech and academic discourse" and strain ties with the U.S. and Israel.

"We have no tolerance for the distortion of the truth and rewriting history or denying the Holocaust", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

In Israel, Transport Minister Israel Katz called for the Polish ambassador to be summoned over the law and opposition MP Itzik Shmuli said Poland had become "the first nation to legislate Holocaust denial".

Poland's Foreign Ministry says the new legislation to regulate Holocaust speech is meant to "fight all forms of denying and distorting the truth about the Holocaust as well as belittling the responsibility of its actual perpetrators".

Israel's Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, also condemned the approval of the new law, saying, "It is unfortunate that Poland, despite the shortcomings in the current wording of the law and the vocal protests against it, chose to approve a problematic new bill that will distort the historical truth".

Yad Vashem has called the legislation "unfortunate", warning it was "liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust".

"In the balance between diplomatic considerations and moral considerations, there must be a clear decision: perpetuating the memory of the victims of the Holocaust above any other consideration".

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