What is a tragic, destabilizing war for the Middle East is giving countries like Poland a chance to look good on the international stage.
Poland has been trying to position itself for a few years now as ‘Israel’s best friend in Europe’.
It’s an image that fits with its close relations with the US and it also sends the message that Poland is not the home anymore of 1930s style anti-Semitic prejudices.
Jewish children from Naharyia in northern Israel, an area frequently shelled by Hezbollah’s low-tech ‘fire and hope’ artillery, have just arrived in Lodz for a couple of weeks holiday.
Poland is promising to be a member of the multinational force that will go into southern Lebanon just as soon as a UN resolution to the liking of the important players is ready and a ceasefire can be arranged.
Poland already has 200 troops in Lebanon as part of the peacekeeping force placed there after Israel was forced out by Hezbollah in 2000.
When the EU tried to write a united statement about the conflict last week it was Britain backed by Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany that managed to water down the resolution to stay in line with thinking in Washington.
There is only one problem with Poland’s desire to show the world - Israel - that Poland is not a land full of people who still think they are living in the 1930s.
Israel was horrified that the League of Polish Families (LPR) and Self defense parties joined the governing coalition a few months ago.
When leader of LPR, Roman Giertych was appointed Education Secretary leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote under the headline, A Polish minister with an anti-Semitic past:
His father, Prof. Maciej Giertych, a member of the European Parliament, recently sparked a storm during its session marking 70 years since the Spanish Civil War; he called Francesco Franco one of the most brilliant leaders of the 20th century.
In another incident, Ryszard Bender, a senator from Giertych's party said that Auschwitz was not a death camp, but rather a labor camp, and everyone there - Jews, Gypsies and others - had to work hard but at least had something to eat.
"I like the Jewish people and I don't understand why they don't like me."
He also admitted to the Jerusalem Post that his recent visit to Jedwabne - the scene of a Jewish pogrom in 1941 - had confused many of his supporters and 'was one of the most difficult decisions of my life'.
Such are the efforts of Polish politicians from all parts of the spectrum to appear pro-Israel that some of them are willing to piss off some of their core supporters, who do still think they are living in the 1930s.
It’s simply one of the most important parts of Poland’s image abroad.
So the war with Lebanon is a chance to further reinforce the view that Poland is 'Israel’s best friend in Europe'.
But as with most Western intervention in the region over the past century I don’t think Poland’s involvement is going to do much good for the people of Israel and Lebanon. The war is being used by western governments to look good abroad when they find it difficult to appear so fantastic at home.
Israel anger over Polish minister BBC July 10
New Polish Coalition Jeopardizes Israeli Cooperation on Holocaust Education, AP July 9
Israeli ambassador criticized for meddling in Poland's affairs, ArabNews.com July 10