Just how bad are things getting for minorities in Poland? Minorities disagree among themselves.
The Daily Telegraph has a rather alarming quote today by Mark Edelman, 87, the oldest surviving member of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto uprising of 1943. Commenting on what he sees as the proto-fascist government coalition led by Law and Justice (PiS), he warned, ominously:
“If we want to save Poland, my advice would be to take up the knife and hit them where it hurts."
A rather silly thing to say – but it shows how bad things have got in some people’s eyes.
The remark comes after revelations in the Polish press that the new, government appointed vice chairman of public television, TVP, had once published a magazine (pictured - at the bottom you can see the name of the editor) calling for the expulsion of Jews from Poland. A photo was also published of Piotr Farfal, a former skinhead, giving a Nazi salute.
He claims that he was only waving at someone he was saying hello to. In one article he wrote, aged 18: "We won't tolerate cowards, traitors and jews.".
He obviously had a troubled youth. Now he is a lawyer. Maybe he grew up a little?
Poland a proto-fascist state? Poland’s chief rabbi, Micheal Schudrich, - who was attacked in the street when Pope Benedict was visiting Poland in May - doesn’t think so. After the New York Times wrote an article under the headline Poland's Bigoted Government Schudrich ran to the government’s rescue and fired off an email to the NYT editors:
‘President Kaczynski invited me to the Presidential Palace, where he reiterated his condemnation of anti-Semitism and the important place that the re-emerging Jewish community of Poland has in today's society.
Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga sent me a letter vowing actively to fight anti-Semitism. The mayor of Lodz, Jerzy Kropiwnicki, called me with the same sense of outrage.
There are many challenges facing Poland's new coalition. In this instance, it is not the case that "the rest of the government's actions give a wink to official bigotry."
But, crucially, Schudrich goes on:
‘Tellingly, there was no response from the League of Polish Families [the deputy chairman of TVP's party], the ultranationalist anti-Semitic party recently invited into the governing coalition. ‘
We have a government coalition made up of traditional conservatives. Some of them are very dodgy indeed. But likening Poland to a 1930s proto-fascist state, as Edelman seems to, misses the point that it is not the 1930s any longer. It’s a different world now and age of dictatorships and all that accompanies them has ended.
What is worrying, however, is the number of young people who are leaving and going to live in the UK, Ireland...anywhere. These are progressively minded people, almost by definition. That further weakens an already weak and ineffective liberal opposition.
So no fascist state, but I’m afraid the coalition government has been giving more than just a wink to bigotry.