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

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.”


US reaches ceasefire deal with Turkey in northern Syria

Updated 28 min 15 sec ago

US reaches ceasefire deal with Turkey in northern Syria

  • Truce announced by Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Erdogan
  • Turkey will control strip of Syria more than 30km deep after YPG withdrawal

ANKARA: Turkey agreed on Thursday to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish forces withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara had sought to capture, in a deal hailed by Washington but which Turkish leaders cast as a complete victory.
The truce was announced by US Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, and was swiftly hailed by President Donald Trump, who said it would save “millions of lives.”

 


But if implemented it would achieve all the main objectives Turkey announced when it launched the assault eight days ago: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 kilometers deep, with the Kurdish YPG militia, formerly close US allies, obliged to pull out.
“The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces,” a joint US-Turkish statement released after the talks said.
A Turkish official told Reuters Ankara got “exactly what we wanted” from the talks with the United States. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described it as a pause, solely to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw.

 

Kurdish fighters would be forced to give up their heavy weapons and their positions would be destroyed, Cavusoglu said. He declined to call the agreement a “cease-fire,” saying cease-fires could be agreed only by legitimate sides, and not by the Kurds that Turkey considers terrorists.
Pence said Washington had already been in contact with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had agreed to withdraw and were already pulling out.
Trump tweeted: “Great news out of Turkey.”
“Thank you to Erdogan,” Trump said. “Millions of lives will be saved!“
“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a cease-fire in Syria,” Pence told a news conference after more than four hours of talks at the presidential palace in Ankara.
“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence said. “All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.”
The deal struck with Erdogan also provided for Turkey not to engage in military operations in the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobani, Pence said. Cavusoglu said Turkey had given no commitments about Kobani.
Pence added that he had spoken to Trump after the talks and that Trump had expressed his gratitude for the cease-fire accord. Washington’s main goal had been to halt the violence, and it had succeeded, Pence said.
The Turkish assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 200,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Daesh fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.
Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish-led fighters, Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Ankara launched its offensive on Oct. 9.
Trump had defended his move on Wednesday as “strategically brilliant.” He said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a successful meeting, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that “will be devastating to Turkey’s economy” otherwise.