Monday, September 11, 2006

President Kaczynski goes to Israel

He doesn’t like going abroad much – but this week the President of Poland is visiting a key country for Polish foreign policy.

Lech Kaczynski likes to stay at home. But one of the draw backs of being head of state is that you have to keep packing your passport.

Since becoming president last autumn he still hasn’t done much traveling. He has made the short hop to Brussels and Germany and back in February he was in Washington. But now he is begining to seriously clock up some frequent fly miles by going to Tel Aviv .

The EU, US, Israel – these are the key destinations for a new Polish president to make an impact and give some character and purpose to diplomacy.

Israel is far from being an easy trip.

The inclusion of the League of Polish Families (LPR) in the governing coalition this year, a party which Tel Aviv thinks is anti-Semitic, prompted the Israeli government to protest via their Ambassador in Warsaw. So the Polish president is going to be very eager to please.

Today a joint declaration on the visits of youth delegations to Poland was signed by Israel’s Deputy Director-General for Eurasian Affairs Mark Sofer and Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Kowal.

These youth visits were under the control of LPR’s Roman Giertych as education secretary, before the government removed them from his department after complaints from Israel.

President Kaczynski told Haaretz before he left for Israel:

"Giertych is not anti-Semitic, He only grew up in an anti-Semitic tradition. He is the son and grandson of Polish politicians. But recently he has undergone a change. Today he is certainly not anti-Semitic. There is no problem with him. The problem lies in the extremist elements in his party."

But what about the statue Kaczynski unveiled last month dedicated to WW II Polish resistance fighter Jozef Kuras, who not only fought the Nazis and then the communists but also found time to attack an orphanage full of Jewish Holocaust survivors?

"I heard about Kuras as an anti-Communist activist," he says, "but I was not aware of all the other aspects relating to him. This is a subject of historical controversy. Accordingly, I have ordered an examination of the matter so that the historical truth will come to light."

So keen was the President to impress Israeli journalists he occasionally went over the top a little.

"I am fond of Israel, Poland has a special relationship with Israel," Kaczynski told Haaretz, "Arik Sharon is one of my big heroes."

Maybe not a great thing to come out with. Sharon is not a popular figure in either Palestine or Lebanon. Poland has promised to send over 500 troops as part of the UN peacekeeping force in Hezbollah territory. Polish forces might have to confront them if they see any breach of the ceasefire. He is also going to have meetings with the President of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

But there was no stopping Kaczynski. On his personal view of Jews he gushed:

“I love Jews. I had many Jewish friends in the different periods of my life. I understand today what I did not understand as a child: that my attitude toward the Jews was that I viewed them as Poles in every respect, albeit as special Poles. [?] At home and in my milieu I heard that Christos was actually a Jew. It is true that I also heard other voices, which claimed that the Jews crucified Christ."


Kaczynski is in Israel for four days, the longest time he has spent in a country abroad. Such is the importance of Israel to Polish foreign policy.

Polish president: We're Israel's best friend in Europe, Jerusalem Post, Sep 11


BEING HAD said...

Shakespeare said me thinks thou dost protest too much… anti-Semite, anti-Semite, anti-Semite, anti-Semite, anti-Semite, anti-Semite, anti-Semite, hysterical anti-Semite. Read something by Jan Gross ( or articles like this: (, or even have a look at the big wooden cross somebody needed to put up next door to Auschwitz just to let people know how they feel about Jews. Nope, sorry. Read Jersey Kosinsnki even… Some of my nest friends are…Nope, Anti-Semite.

Anonymous said...

Hi Beatroot,

I like the idea of Kaczynski going to Israel this way. He feels strongly about it and wants to make his position clear. Thats one thing you gotta say about know precisely where he stands on the issues. Maybe hes uncomfortable with the holocaust and antisemitism. He wants to change things for the better. I think hes right.

Top Cat

beatroot said...

Thanks Roamerican – I changed the order in which I wrote the thing but forgot to delete the second Kuras bit. I have deleted it now.


Top Cat
I don’t think many people would say that Kaczynski is an insincere person – even many of his enemies. And I think he is genuinely warm to Israel. But Israel is also an important plank of Polish foreign policy for many reasons.

beatroot said...

Being had.

Who’s the anti-Semite? Kaczynski? The quotes I gave are a bit odd, as I indicted in the text. But I think that is just naivety….

And his faith in Giertych’s ‘road to Damascus’ – nae Jerusalem – conversion is almost … moving.


Anonymous said...

Beatroot, I don't remember where i saw the quote...probably here, but it stated that Kaczynski has no sense of foreign policy....thats right...and that would explain why he would follow gut feelings to irritate the Germans and compliment Israel. And I kinda think who can blame him for having issues with Germany? Whos to say 60 years is long enough? I guess I appreciate his sincerety.

Top Cat

beatroot said...

But Top Cat: 60 years is a long time. Three generations. The Germans have changed. They have changed much more than the British, for instance, many of who still have a WW II mentality about Germany.

Many Germans also have a backward opinion of most Poles – not knowing what a complicated place Poland is.

I have a theory about the way nations think about other nations.

Mostly the image people have of another country is at least 25 years out of date.

Kaczynski has an innocent view of foreign policy. He is old fashioned and awkward. But I do think he likes Israel.

But who can see also by the quotes I gave by him that his is not the same attitude to Jews that I am used to, coming from London. Jews seem to be an issue in a country where there are very few Jews.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me he is just currying favor with the US. He loves Jews in Israel but their memory or existence in Poland remains to him and his ilk discomforting to say the least.

But the talk about how *they* meaning apparently all Poles feel about Jews is bigotted crap.

Anonymous said...

what happend there is a terrible thing.

Top Cat

BEING HAD said...

Thanks for pointing that out Beatroot.
I'd like to say something about American non-racial discriminatory ideology vs European race objectivism. America is a melting pot and growing up there I had friends of all sorts of skin shades and ethnic backgrounds and generally never thought anything of it. I mean, my folks complained that I never seemed to date any Jewish girls, but when I finally did bring one home, she also happened to be black. But there simply isn't such generational ethnic co-mingling in Europe and so there is that initial visual identification thing that happens to everybody. Now certainly one could say that the poles are no worse or no better than anyone else when it comes to thinking "us and them" along racial lines, but it certainly seems as though they have had as big a problem dealing with the realities of their treatments of the Jews during the war as the Germans have. And their absolute hysteria over their orthodoxy adds to the fire. So yea I would say that Kaczynski's remarks lead one to see an anti-Semetic issue there and his remarks, though perhaps intended to be politically light hearted nevertheless demean Jews as a lesser race that is in need of sympathy somehow.
And as an aside, I have read lately on other blogs that people can't see the absolute Hitler-esque neo-nazi-ism in Hugo Chaves' speech about the Jews. I mean really, you can stare at me and say "Oh, you only see this because you are Jewish", but really, does one have to be black to take offence at the word nigger?

beatroot said...

Yeah, it's another hang over from communism - which closed off the borders.

When Poland disappeared in 1790 only 60 percent of Poles were catholic. When they got independence in 1918 only 80 percent were catholic.

WW II plus communism equals a monoculture.

So inter ethnic mingling is just theoretical in today's Poland.

Anonymous said...

Not even Abe Foxman, much less a reputable and distinguished scholar like Jan Gross, makes absurd statements like:

"They (Poles) have had as big a problem dealing with the realities of their treatments of the Jews during the war as the Germans have."

Statements such as the above make the Kaczynski krew, and Chavez for that matter, look like paragons of tolerance and decency in comparison.

beatroot said...

"They (Poles) have had as big a problem dealing with the realities of their treatments of the Jews during the war as the Germans have."

That is indeed a ridiculous statement.