Polish, Israeli officials discuss anti-defamation law

Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin Darek Delmanowicz

Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin discussed Poland's amended act on the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), dubbed the anti-defamation law, with Israeli Minister of Science Ofir Akunison in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

The new law criminalises statements that falsely attribute Nazi Germany's crimes to the Polish state or nation.

Gowin, who is also the science and higher education minister started a three-day visit to Israel on Sunday, as a guest at "The First International Ministerial-Level Scientific Conference: Thinking Out of the Box." The event is part of the celebrations of Israel's 70th anniversary.

Talking to reporters in Tel Aviv, Akunis summed up his Sunday talks with Gowin as "a very good meeting," adding that both sides are waiting for the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, and then will decide together what to do about the IPN act in the future.

The Israeli minister believes that the law "was a big mistake", specifying that he meant the atmosphere which was created around it. Akunis expressed hope that as a result of the Constitutional Tribunal debate, the act will be revoked or withdrawn.

Gowin called the meeting "a very important step towards putting aside everything that in recent months has divided the two nations, which, have been living together for centuries."

According to the Polish official, the controversy surrounding the legislation is based on misunderstandings.

"I assured our Israeli partners that the intention of the Polish government and society is not to question any part of the truth about the Holocaust, but only oppose historical lies, which attribute to the entire Polish nation co-responsibility for the Holocaust.

During Sunday's meeting, the two ministers also talked about cooperation in science, innovation and technology, and decided to sign a new agreement between Poland and Israel in late 2018, or early 2019. Akunis said that the two countries would like to start joint research in such areas as robotics, cybernetics and space.

The amended law on the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) entered into force on March 1. Under the law, all those who publicly attribute, contrary to the facts, responsibility or co-responsibility for the Third Reich's crimes - or other crimes against humanity and peace, as well as war crimes - to the Polish nation or the Polish state can be punished with a fine or a prison term of up to three years.

Having signed the bill on Feb. 6, President Andrzej Duda referred it to the Constitutional Tribunal to determine whether freedom of speech is limited in an unauthorised manner by its provisions.

The legislation proved controversial for Israel, the United States and Ukraine. Israel claims that the penalties for defamation that the act envisages may restrict research on the Holocaust.