Israeli minister ‘honored’ to be barred from Poland over Holocaust bill

City workers putting up barriers around the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, in this Jan. 31, 2018 photo, after a local governor, citing security concerns, banned traffic in the area in order to prevent a planned protest by far-right groups amid a spat between Poland and Israel. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Israeli minister ‘honored’ to be barred from Poland over Holocaust bill

WARSAW/JERUSALEM: Israel’s education minister said on Monday he was “honored” Poland had cancelled his visit to Warsaw this week because he refused to back off of condemnation of a bill that would outlaw suggesting Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.
Earlier on Monday, Naftali Bennett said he would travel to Poland to discuss the bill, which Israeli officials have said amounts to Holocaust denial. However Poland’s government spokeswoman said there would be no such visit.
“The blood of Polish Jews cries from the ground, and no law will silence it,” Bennett later said in a statement. “The government of Poland cancelled my visit, because I mentioned the crimes of its people. I am honored.”
After Bennett’s statement, the government spokeswoman declined to comment further on the issue.
Israel has denounced the Polish Holocaust bill, which passed in parliament last week and is awaiting a decision by President Andrzej Duda over whether to sign it.
The Polish measure would impose prison sentences of up to three years for mentioning the term “Polish death camps” and for suggesting “publicly and against the facts” that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany’s crimes.
Poland’s rightwing nationalist government says the bill is necessary to protect the reputation of Poles as victims of Nazi aggression. Israel says the law would ban true statements about the role that some Poles played in Nazi crimes.
The bill has drawn criticism from the United States and condemnation from a number of international organizations as well as Polish minority groups.
Poland, which had Europe’s biggest Jewish population when it was invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union at the start of World War Two, became ground zero for the “final solution”, Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe.
More than three million of Poland’s 3.2 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of the Jews killed in the Holocaust. Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in Poland, including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.
According to figures from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis also killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians. “The death camps in Poland were built and operated by the Germans, and we cannot allow them to evade responsibility for these actions,” Bennett said.
“However, many Polish people, all over the country, chased, informed or actively took part in the murder of over 200,000 Jews during, and after, the Holocaust. Only a few thousand people, Righteous Among the Nations, risked themselves to save Jews.”


UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

Updated 17 December 2018
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UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

  • The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups
  • The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation

JERUSALEM: The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Monday appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians next year, saying that they needed more but had to be realistic in the face of “record-low” funding.
The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups, including UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Humanitarian actors are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action,” he said in a joint statement issued on Monday, ahead of the appeal’s launch in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Although “much more assistance is needed,” McGoldrick said, the plan was “reflecting what we can realistically accomplish in this highly constrained context.”
Over the past year, the United States has slashed its funding to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.
The United States promised $365 million to the agency in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations.
The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
US-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014 and a bid by US President Donald Trump to restart them has so far showed little progress.
Around 77 percent of the funds sought in the 2019 plan would go to Gaza, the appeal organizers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and recurring hostilities.
“The humanitarian context in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is still deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation violations in a time of lack of resources and declining funds because of the politicization of the humanitarian aid,” Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said in the statement.