Poland Cancels Meeting With Israeli Compensation Delegation

YERUSHALAYIM -
Yad Vashem
An original yellow star (not on general display) is seen at the artifacts department of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

The Polish Foreign Ministry on Monday canceled a meeting that was to be held with an Israeli delegation, claiming that Israel “enacted last-minute changes in the makeup of the delegation which showed that their intention was that the talks would focus on compensation of Jewish property lost in the Holocaust.” Poland has said numerous times that it would not discuss the issue.

The Israeli delegation is led by Avi Cohen-Scali, director general of the Social Equality Ministry, with the delegation made up of officials from that Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. The meeting that was set to take place in Warsaw was actually one of a series of discussions that have been taking place over the past several years, with Israel discussing the return of Jewish property not only with Poland, but with other Eastern European countries as well.

The cancellation came after weekend protests led by far right groups against an American law that would keep tabs on the progress countries are making on restitution of Jewish property. Under the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act requires the U.S. Department of State to notify Congress of the progress countries are making on restitution.

Although it does not single out Poland, that country is the only one without legislation on the matter. There are no sanctions attached to the law.

Complicating the matter is the fact that elections are set to be held in Poland at the end of the month, and the compensation issue is one that raises the hackles of many Poles, who see themselves as victims of the Holocaust as much as Jews were.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel said that Israel saw pushing for the return of Jewish property “a moral imperative for a Jewish state. No group, whether it is a government or an anti-Semitic gang, will stop us from fulfilling this imperative. I congratulate the Polish government for the progress we have made on this issue so far, and for standing firm against anti-Semitic voices, especially during an election campaign. Time is moving forward quickly, and we need to act more quickly to solve this issue before it is too late.”