WARSAW, Poland — The Latest on the Polish Senate’s vote to regulate Holocaust speech (all times local):
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says that telling the truth about what happened during the Holocaust is a joint task for Poles and Jews and his country would never curb debate that occurs in pursuit of that goal.
Morawiecki made a televised address on Thursday night amid a bitter argument with Israel over Poland’s legislation that would outlaw false attributions of Nazi Germany’s crimes to the Polish state and nation.
Israeli officials have said they are worried such a law would inhibit research and discussions about the Holocaust.
Morawiecki says Poland will “never curb the freedom of the Holocaust debate. We owe that to all those who experienced it.”
He said Jews and Poles together experienced death and suffering at the camps Nazi Germany set up in occupied Poland and that “spreading the truth about the Holocaust” was their joint task.
He says Poland is “on the side of the truth.”
The Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish rights group, is calling pending legislation in Poland regulating Holocaust speech an “outrage” and is accusing Poland’s conservative government of trying to whitewash history.
The organization calls it an “ill-conceived attempt to whitewash the widespread participation of individual Poles in the persecution and murder of Jews during the Holocaust.”
The Polish ruling Law and Justice party has authored the legislation, which has passed both houses of parliament and awaits the president’s signature. It says the aim is to fight historically incorrect allegations of Polish complicity in the Holocaust crimes of Nazi Germany.
Its leaders want to eliminate the use of the term “Polish death camps” when referring to wartime camps run by Nazi Germany in occupied Polish territory.
The legislation has sparked a major diplomatic crisis with Israel.
A group of Israeli parliamentarians are hoping to use their own lawmaking authority to respond to legislation that would outlaw intentionally blaming the Polish nation for crimes Nazi Germany committed in occupied Poland.
They introduced a bill on Thursday that would toughen Israel’s Holocaust denial to make “denying or minimizing the involvement of the Nazi helpers and collaborators” a crime.”
The proposal also would “guarantee full legal protection for Holocaust survivors, educators and tour guides who could potentially be liable for prosecution in a foreign country for relating historical accuracies about the Holocaust.”
Amending the current law could take weeks at minimum.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Israel is seeking to postpone a planned visit by the head of the Polish National Security Council.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry says the new legislation to regulate Holocaust speech is intended to “fight all forms of denying and distorting the truth about the Holocaust as well as belittling the responsibility of its actual perpetrators.”
In a statement, the ministry said the “main goal” of the legislation, that still needs the approval by the president, is to “protect historic truth” and expressed hope that it will not affect Poland’s strategic partnership with the U.S.
The U.S. administration has asked Poland to rethink the proposed legislation saying it could “undermine free speech and academic discourse” and strain ties with the U.S. and Israel.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says the country “opposes categorically” the vote in the Polish Senate in favor of regulating Holocaust speech.
In a statement, it said Israel views “with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth.”
No law, it added, “will change the facts.”
The bill, proposed by Poland’s ruling party, could imprison individuals for up to three years for intentionally attempting to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish nation as a whole. It was approved by the lower house last week.
Poland’s Senate has backed legislation regulating Holocaust speech that has sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel and calls from the United States for a reconsideration of a bill seen as threatening freedom of speech.
The bill proposed by Poland’s ruling conservative party calls for up to three years in prison for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or people. It exempts artistic and research work.
Saying the bill defends Poland’s good name, the senators voted early Thursday 57-23 to back the bill with two abstentions.
To become law, the bill requires approval from the president, who supports it.
Israel sees the move as an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.