JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed Poland's cancellation of a planned visit this week to discuss the Polish Holocaust bill. The legislation makes it illegal to speak of Poland's complicity in the Nazi death camps on its soil. Anyone breaching the new law could wind up in prison for up to three years.
On Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the bill – passed the previous week by parliament – into law. It bans use of the term "Polish death camps," as opposed to "Nazi death camps."
Bennett said he would expose the truth about the legislation to the Polish people, prompting the government to cancel his visit.
"The blood of Polish Jews cries from the ground, and no law will silence it," Bennett said in a statement late Monday. "The government of Poland cancelled my visit because I mentioned the crimes of its people. I am honored." Israeli leaders like Bennett believe the legislation whitewashes any Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
Yet some Poles see themselves as having been victims too in the Holocaust and many risked their lives to save Jews.
The perspective of historian Dr. Inna Rogatchi provides a chilling window into today's Poland and Europe.
In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Rogatchi, shared her insights on the new law.
"The world cannot afford the luxury of turning away from the looming danger of rising Polish ultra-nationalism," she warned.
Rogatchi said Israeli journalists who were invited to meet with Poland's prime minister about the law "came in droves, but they did not report what we saw."
These Israeli journalists witnessed two demonstrations while they were there – one opposing the bill, and the other, by ultra-nationalists – urging the president to sign it.
Rogatchi said the ultra-Nationalist's demonstration urging his signature "…was like Germany in the 1930s, after Kristallnacht, when the line had been crossed." She said they far outnumbered the group demonstrating against the law, describing them as "much, much louder."
"They were aggressive, angry and more self-assured," she said, quoting their leaders during the demonstration.
"Take off your kippah," they shouted at President Duda, as if he identified himself with Jewish men. "Sign the law! Enough Jewish lies! Jews try to rob Poland! Stop Jewish aggression in Poland."
Rogatchi said there has been far too little international response to the new law and rising "wave of anti-Semitism in Poland."
The statement by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, just a few hours before the Polish Senate (the upper house of its parliament) voted last week and his statement yesterday that he was "disappointed" in Duda's decision, were too little too late, she said.
"Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry," the Washington Post quoted Tillerson's response to signing the bill into law. "We believe that open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering misleading speech."
The response from the EU was also too late and too weak, Rogatchi said.
"There has been no other reaction from the European Union, which is not surprising given their attitude toward Israel under the guidance of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini."
She continued. "Given the existing precedent of the applied Nazism during the Shoah [Holocaust] and World War II, this almost zero international reaction, except [for] Israel and [the] USA, is simply outrageous."
"The response to the explosion of today's Polish anti-Semitism, in my opinion, should include measures all across the spectrum [from] rethinking participation in the March of the Living and the trips to the camps in Poland, to the military, economic and other fields of cooperation," Rogatchi said.
She concluded. "Jews and our friends all over the world must not be silent in the face of such vile hatred."
"Unlike some Polish hacks, we do know who ran the crematoria. And we remember who helped it happen so efficiently there in Poland, in the country of the haunting forests soaked with Jewish blood."