Polish adviser says Israel wants ‘monopoly on the Holocaust’

In this June 25, 2015 file photo railway tracks lie in front of the main entrance of former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (AP)
Updated 11 February 2018

Polish adviser says Israel wants ‘monopoly on the Holocaust’

WARSAW, Poland: An adviser to Poland’s president says he thinks Israel’s negative reaction to a law criminalizing some statements about Poland’s actions during World War II stemmed from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust.”
Andrzej Zybertowicz, a Nicolaus Copernicus University sociology professor who also serves as a presidential adviser, called Israel’s opposition to the new law “anti-Polish” and said it shows the Mideast nation is “clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust.”
“Many Jews engaged in denunciation, collaboration during the war. I think Israel has still not worked it through,” Zybertowicz said in the interview in the Polska-The Times newspaper Friday.
Zybertowicz could not immediately be reached for comment but tweeted a link to the article.
His remarks follow open expressions of anti-Semitism that surfaced online and in some government-controlled media when Israeli officials objected to the law, which outlaws public statements that falsely and intentionally attribute Nazi crimes to Poland under the German occupation.
The ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, appeared to acknowledge the recent outburst of anti-Jewish rhetoric in the country, denouncing anti-Semitism in a speech Saturday night as a “serious illness of the soul” and an “illness of the mind” that must be rejected. At the same time, he said Poland does not have to agree with “either Jews or Poles,” who want to “offend” Poland.
Jews have sometimes been described, often derisively, as having remained passive during the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Key acts of resistance contradict that, most notably the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Smaller revolts took place in the death camps, including Sobibor and Treblinka, where starving prisoners without weapons faced heavily armed German guards.
In Israel, some fear the Polish speech law will allow the Polish government to whitewash the role some individual Poles had in the deaths of Jews. The law allows for prison terms of up to three years.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and other government officials said it was needed because Poles sometimes are depicted as collaborators or complicit in the Nazi genocide.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that she won’t get involved or interfere with Poland’s law because “as Germans, we are responsible for the things that happened during the Holocaust.” Merkel said in her weekly podcast that the onus on Germany from the Holocaust is something every German government will have to address.
Duda signed the law on Tuesday but also asked the country’s constitutional court to review it.
Poland’s government went into exile abroad when German forces took over, while an underground army at home resisted the Nazis. After Jews, ethnic Poles made up the largest group of victims at the Nazi-run camps. There were, however, cases of Poles who identified Jews to the Germans or killed them directly.


Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

Updated 38 sec ago

Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

  • Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he would “never” allow Ethiopia to impose a “de facto situation” by filling the dam without an agreement
CAIRO: The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater for its large and growing population.

Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is 60 percent complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

But Egypt, with a population of around the same size, fears that the process of filling the reservoir behind the dam could slice into its share of the river, with catastrophic consequences. Pro-government media have cast it as a national security threat that could warrant military action.

Speaking at the UN last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he would “never” allow Ethiopia to impose a “de facto situation” by filling the dam without an agreement.

“While we acknowledge Ethiopia’s right to development, the water of the Nile is a question of life, a matter of existence to Egypt,” he said.

Egypt has been holding talks for years with Ethiopia and Sudan, upstream countries that have long complained about Cairo’s overwhelming share of the river, which is enshrined in treaties dating back to the British colonial era. Those talks came to an acrimonious halt earlier this month, the third time they have broken down since 2014.

“We are fed up with Ethiopian procrastination. We will not spend our lifetime in useless talks,” an Egyptian official told The Associated Press. “All options are on the table, but we prefer dialogue and political means.”

Egypt has reached out to the United States, Russia, China and Europe, apparently hoping to reach a better deal through international mediation. The White House said earlier this month it supports talks to reach a sustainable agreement while “respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”

Mohamed el-Molla, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, said Cairo would take the dispute to the UN Security Council if the Ethiopians refuse international mediation.

That has angered Ethiopia, which wants to resolve the dispute through the tripartite talks.

An Ethiopian official said the packages offered by Cairo so far “were deliberately prepared to be unacceptable for Ethiopia.”

“Now they are saying Ethiopia has rejected the offer, and calling for a third-party intervention,” the official added. Both the Ethiopian and the Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks with the media.

The main dispute is centered on the filling of the dam’s 74-billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Ethiopia wants to fill it as soon as possible so it can generate over 6,400 Megawatts, a massive boost to the current production of 4,000 Megawatts. Ethiopia said earlier this year that the dam would start generating power by the end of 2020 and would operate at full capacity by 2022.

That has the potential to sharply reduce the flow of the Blue Nile, the main tributary to the river, which is fed by annual monsoon rains in the Ethiopian highlands. If the filling takes place during one of the region’s periodic droughts, its downstream impact could be even more severe.

Egypt has proposed no less than seven years for filling the reservoir, and for Ethiopia to adjust the pace according to rainfall, said an Egyptian Irrigation Ministry official who is a member of its negotiation team. The official also was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Nile supplies more than 90 percent of Egypt’s freshwater. Egyptians already have one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 570 cubic meters per year, compared to a global average of 1,000. Ethiopians however have an average of 125 cubic meters per year.

Egypt wants to guarantee a minimum annual release of 40 billion cubic meters of water from the Blue Nile. The irrigation official said anything less could affect Egypt’s own massive Aswan High Dam, with dire economic consequences.

“It could put millions of farmers out of work. We might lose more than one million jobs and $1.8 billion annually, as well as $300 million worth of electricity,” he said.

The official said Ethiopia has agreed to guarantee just 31 billion cubic meters.

El-Sisi is set to meet with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Wednesday in the Russian city of Sochi, on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit. They may be able to revive talks, but the stakes get higher as the dam nears completion.

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, warned earlier this year that the “risk of future clashes could be severe if the parties do not also reach agreement on a longer-term basin-wide river management framework.”

In recent weeks there have been calls by some commentators in Egypt’s pro-government media to resort to force.
Abdallah el-Senawy, a prominent columnist for the daily newspaper el-Shorouk, said the only alternatives were internationalizing the dispute or taking military action.

“Egypt is not a small county,” he wrote in a Sunday column. “If all diplomatic and legal options fail, a military intervention might be obligatory.”
Anwar el-Hawary, the former editor of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, compared the dispute to the 1973 war with Israel, in which Egypt launched a surprise attack into the Sinai Peninsula.

“If we fought to liberate Sinai, it is logical to fight to liberate the water,” he wrote on Facebook. “The danger is the same in the two cases. War is the last response.”