Friday, December 22, 2017

We will work with Holocaust deniers, says leading pro-Israel group

Israel’s supporters appear confident that Poland’s government – which refuses to accept some facts about the Holocaust – will be an important ally when it joins the United Nations Security Council in the new year.


The European Leadership Network, a pro-Israel lobby group, has reported that assurances were recently given by unnamed Polish officials about their country’s intentions.


The Israeli government was told towards the end of last month that it “can count” on Poland’s backing in 2018 and 2019, according to a briefing paper drawn up by the lobby group. Poland will be a temporary member of the Security Council over that period.


“Israel looks to Poland as one of the friendliest countries in the European Union,” the briefing paper – unpublished until now – adds. “Today, Poland helps improve the language of EU resolutions affecting Israeli interests and its voting record at the United Nations is better than many [other] EU member states.”


The briefing paper was drafted before this week’s debate in the UN General Assembly. Poland was one of the 35 countries to abstain in a vote condemning the recent announcement by Donald Trump that the US will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


The European Leadership Network’s office in Warsaw is headed by Jacek Olejnik, who has worked in the diplomatic services of both Poland and Israel.


His team is willing to cooperate closely with the Polish government, the briefing paper suggests, despite how the ruling Law and Justice party has reacted with hostility when crimes committed against Jews on Polish soil have come under scrutiny.


One government minister has even suggested it was merely an “opinion” to state that Poles carried out a 1941 massacre of Jews in the Jedwabne area during the Nazi occupation of the country.


Valued client


The European Leadership Network goes so far as to allege that Law and Justice is “in denial” over how Polish citizens were involved in murders of Jews during the Holocaust.


Nonetheless, the group notes that prominent figures in Law and Justice take positions favorable to Israel.


Anna Fotyga, a former foreign minister who now represents that party in the European Parliament, is praised in the aforementioned briefing paper for opposing the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Fotyga has called on the EU to ensure that it does not fund any organization that endorses the boycott of Israel.


When I asked if any assurances were given to Israel ahead of Poland joining the Security Council, the foreign ministry in Warsaw did not answer the question. The ministry fudged the issue by replying that Poland had “always been a supporter of a balanced approach” that would guarantee “the security of Israel,” while “taking into account Palestinian state-building aspirations.”


It is significant that the European Leadership Network perceives Poland as a key ally for both the US and Israel. The European Leadership Network is closely connected to the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.


The briefing paper identifies Poland as a valued client for Israel’s weapons industry. In July this year, Poland’s defense ministry agreed to buy a missile interceptor system called David’s Sling, designed by the Israeli firm Rafael. According to the European Leadership Network, that was “one of the largest orders the company ever received.”


Rafael, a state-owned weapons producer, is a profiteer of Israel’s attacks on Palestinians. For example, the Tamuz missiles that it manufactures were used during the major offensive against Gaza in the summer of 2014.


Bigoted


The European Leadership Network also states that it has “developed relations” with high-ranking officials such as Pawel Soloch, head of Poland’s National Security Bureau.


Earlier this year, Soloch described Muslim communities as “a natural feeding ground” for “terrorists.”


His bigotred remarks were reported sympathetically by the US website Breitbart and other racist publications.


In the recent past, Israel’s supporters have been happy to work with political parties and governments with extremist views.


The European Leadership Network has expressed a willingness to cooperate with the far-right Alternative for Germany as some of its members have publicly backed Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank.


Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, is remaining in contact with the newly formed Austrian government, although seeking to avoid direct meetings with ministers who are part of the neo-Nazi Freedom Party.


But this may be just for show, as lawmakers from Netanyahu’s Likud have already been forged close ties with the Freedom Party.


Netanyahu has, meanwhile, hailed his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban as a stout defender of Israel in international forums. The same Viktor Orban has eulogized the Hitler-allied wartime Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy who facilitated the transit of Jews to Auschwitz.


A few months ago, Netanyahu said it was “crazy” that the EU has attached conditions to its relations with Israel. Netanyahu did not spell out that the Union has never imposed robust sanctions on Israel when those conditions – which include respect for human rights – were not met.


Netanyahu’s comments were made to the leaders of Poland and Hungary. The EU’s conditions are contained in an “association agreement” that entered into force in 2000. As Poland and Hungary only joined the Union four years later, they are not historically responsible for the EU’s tacit policy of complaining about Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, while simultaneously hugging Israel – the oppressor – tighter.


The inference behind Netanyahu’s point was that some EU governments are less “crazy” than others. The right-wing governments of Poland and Hungary are not likely to berate Israel. They are happy to do business without asking awkward questions. Perhaps that is why Israel feels it can count on them.


•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 21 December 2017.

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