Has the time come to stop hating Poland?

Haaretz takes up the issue

[..] Anyone who prefers not to be confused by the facts would do well not to talk with Israeli diplomats in Poland these days. They describe the sixth-largest country in the European Union (EU) as “the most pro-Israeli on the continent.” “Warsaw is closer to Jerusalem than to Brussels,” as one of these diplomats put it. “The Arab ambassadors in Warsaw have to lower their gaze time and again as they listen to the speeches of the Polish leaders about the Middle East. If there is a government in Europe that Israel relies on at times of trouble, it is the Polish one, and that despite the problematic elements in it.” That was true at the time of the Second Lebanon War, and during the discussions about the Iranian nuclear program, and any time that the Middle East is discussed in the forums of the EU or the United Nations. Israel defines bilateral relations with Poland by the unusual term “strategic,” and, for its part, Warsaw does likewise.

In Poland, which is devoid of Muslim migrant workers, there is no Arab lobby, there are no calls to boycott Israeli academia, and there are no anti-Israeli demonstrations. Posters on Jewish or Israeli themes are not defaced, shop windows displaying Jewish literature are not shattered; and synagogues do not require protection.

Antisemitism? Yes, the Israeli diplomats say. But this is “antisemitism lite,” which is overshadowed by the a wave of philosemitism: As hallucinatory as this may sound, it transpires that being a Jew is “in” today in Poland. The media, the elites and the general public show a great deal of interest in everything connected with Israel and Jews. There is a proliferation of organizations, societies, funds and unions that have been established to revive Jewish culture. Poles have begun seeking Jewish roots. The universities of Krakow, Warsaw and Wroclaw offer Jewish studies programs. The public radio broadcasts a daily program in Hebrew, and even the Polish Catholic Church has granted its auspices to an annual official “Judaism Day,” whose aim is to strengthen the interfaith dialogue.

“There are more Jewish festivals than Jews in Poland,” the sad joke goes. In the largest of these festivals, in Krakow, some 20,000 people participated  most of them, of course, non-Jews in 200 events last year that include cantorial singing, dancing, klezmer music, films,lectures, workshops on food and art, and even “Jewish gospel.”

The Polish government has allocated a special budget for the “Polish season in Israel” being organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Cultural Institute, which will produce dozens of cultural events in Israel during the next two years. The Poles, for whom the desire to debunk stereotypes is of the utmost importance, would like also to hold a parallel “Israeli season in Poland,” but it appears that Israel is less enthusiastic and so far the awaited budget has not yet been found.

In addition to all this, in another two weeks, the cornerstone will be laid for the establishment of the giant museum for the history of Polish Jewry, opposite the memorial to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto; most of the funding for the museum (some $55 million) will come from the Polish government and the Warsaw municipality.

But maybe all of this, ironically, is really a sign that the Poles still have a Jewish problem? What if the source of Poland’s surprising philo-Semitism is actually rooted in the belief that it is better to get close to “the Jews who rule the world?” Observers in Poland totally reject this thesis. The country that U.S. President George Bush also describes as “our best friend in Europe” is trying to shake off the heritage of communism and the Eastern bloc’s traditional pro-Arab policies. Since it does not have a colonial past, it also does not have a moral debt to the Arab world, and that region’s significance in Polish eyes is far less than the Arab world’s importance to the Western world.

The same observers add that Polish identity appears to have been frozen since World War II. Once this was because of the Nazis and a second time, because of the communists. In the framework of their search for identity, the Poles are today finding out what a tremendous influence the Jews, who lived in their midst for many hundreds of years, had.

The Poles would like to erase the eras of Nazism and communism, but to revive the chapter of their shared lives with the Jews.

Has the time come to stop hating Poland? That was the question asked this week on the JewishJournal.com web site. It is said that love is blind and hatred blinds us. Anyone who has open eyes cannot help but see that there is also a New Poland today.

June 16, 2007 | 4 Comments »

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4 Comments / 4 Comments

  1. There will never be or should be a time to stop hating Poland!Germany!Russia!The Baltic states, as well as just about all of Europe for that matter. Most are still antisemites and very few today relate to their past persecution of the Jewish People.That does not mean that we do not have our own national interests that require interaction with them but to stop hating would be a denial of our own humanity, history, and collective memory which is what has kept the Jewish people united as a people for last 3800 years.

  2. I wish alliances between nation states were not so fickle, however, this is the way things are. It seems prudent for Israel and Poland to work together, however, one should be cautious.

    Poland lived under jack boot of Soviet Communism for a long time. The memory of that is still probably still fresh on the Polish mind. As such, the Polish are probably much more inclined to empathise with a country in Israel’s position.

  3. If Poland ever was really hated, I do think it is time to stop hating it. As I’m writing this, it seems Poland and Israel have shared interests. Close relations between the two countries would seem to make sense, however, one should be wary. In the world of nation states, a nation should not marry itself to another nation. Today’s ally can be tomorrow’s enemy. I think there is a saying that goes something like this, “a nation’s allies are subject to change, however, a nation’s interests do not change.”

  4. Polish history compares with that of Israel on many important points. It was the Poles who turned the tide of Islam in Europe in 1683, and they are still proud of it.

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