Crisis between Warsaw and Tel Aviv is partly frozen - Israeli Ambassador

Jan Karwowski

Anna Azari, Israel's ambassador to Poland, said on Thursday that the crisis between the two countries over Poland's new anti-defamation law, is currently "partly frozen" as everybody awaits the verdict of the Constitutional Tribunal on the new legislation.

The diplomat made the declaration in an interview for a web TV programme. Asked further why Tel Aviv reacted so "fiercely" to Warsaw's new anti-defamation law, Azari replied that it was to be expected.

This is because Israeli officials had been voicing their reservations ever since the Polish Justice Ministry began work on the new regulations, the ambassador explained.

Azari also noted that recently "anti-Semitic words have become acceptable in the Polish public space." She added that hopefully, when the anti-defamation controversy ends, there will be an opportunity to "work on reducing the level of anti-Semitism and anti-Polonism." The latter, the diplomat said, can be found "in Jewish circles outside Israel."

Poland's new anti-defamation law makes it a crime to publicly and falsely accuse the Polish nation or state of partial or full responsibility for the crimes committed by the German Third Reich or for other crimes against humanity, peace and for war crimes (or to drastically downplay the responsibility of the actual perpetrators). Offenders face a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years.

The legislation has been criticised by the US and Israel, on the grounds that it could curb the freedom of speech of Holocaust survivors, for example.

Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the bill into law in February, and then referred it to the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) to assess if freedom-of-speech concerns are valid, among other reservations.

TK president Julia Przyłębska said in late April that the date of the tribunal's session on the anti-defamation law is set to be "designated soon."