WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance, issued the following statement in response to an escalation of anti-Semitic manifestations in Poland over Passover and Easter weekend:
“I was disheartened to learn that Passover greetings from U.S. Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher were met with significant anti-semitic commentary on social media.
“Public leaders have a responsibility to lead. At a time when anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry are taking the most dangerous and deadly forms, government officials must leave no doubt where they stand when faced with messages of hate. I urge Polish government officials to speak out, as Minister of Interior Joachim Brudzinski did in response to a community burning of a Jewish effigy on Easter.”
Concerns about anti-Semitism in Poland have grown in recent years, including following the adoption of a law in January 2018 that imposed criminal penalties for certain characterizations of Holocaust crimes that the government finds objectionable. At the time the law was adopted, the Department of State stated, “We all must be careful not to inhibit discussion and commentary on the Holocaust. We believe open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering inaccurate and hurtful speech. We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships – including with the United States and Israel. The resulting divisions that may arise among our allies benefit only our rivals.” The law was amended in June 2018 to remove the possibility of criminal sanctions but continues to provide for civil penalties.
In February 2018, Jewish organizations issued a joint statement expressing outrage over a growing wave of intolerance, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism in Poland, including on state-run television.
The Polish Government provides financial support for several institutions run by or associated with Tadeusz Rydzyk, whose radio station was described by the State Department in 2008 as “one of Europe’s most blatantly anti-Semitic media venues.”
The U.S. ambassador to Poland issued greetings on Passover and Easter. Her Passover message generated significant anti-Semitic comments on social media.
The same weekend, a community in a small town in south-east Poland beat and burned a Jewish effigy, an act subsequently denounced by the Catholic Church and the Minister of Interior.