The Hysteria over the Polish Law

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By Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen.. BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 785, April 3, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The essence of Zionism as a national liberation movement is the Jewish People’s return to history as a sovereign actor – a nation among the nations. Insofar as the Holocaust is not the justification for its sovereign existence, Israel’s response to the Polish law forbidding Poles from being accused of involvement in Nazi crimes must take into account pragmatic considerations in the changing political arena. [Photo top right: Theodor Hertzl | Wikimedia Commons | Credit: Carl Pietzner (1853–1927) um 1909]. The intensity of the reactions in Israel to the “Polish death camps law,” which forbids accusing the Polish people of any sort of involvement in Nazi crimes, exposed a sensitive nerve in Israel’s collective identity. The memory of the Holocaust is, of course, common to the country’s Jewish citizens, but on this issue the reactions from the left side of the map were more vociferous. It was claimed inter alia that because the Holocaust constituted the justification for Israel’s existence, the Polish law requires a particularly harsh reaction.

This assertion, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. While the Holocaust was undoubtedly a traumatic and pivotal event in Jewish history, it was not, and cannot be, the justification for the existence of the state of Israel.

“What was the word Holocaust two years before the Holocaust?” asked the poet Meir Wieseltier. The longing for Zion, in contrast, existed long before the founding of the Zionist movement in the late nineteenth century. As Theodore Herzl stated in his closing address to the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel in August 1903: “I want to state now in the language of our ancestors an ancient consolation that for me is also a commitment: If I forget thee, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” Read the full story.



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