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Israeli-European summit canceled after Holocaust remarks about Poland

By
Clyde Hughes
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Monday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Monday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The Visegrad Summit, a five-nation conference between Israel and four central European countries, was called off Monday after Poland withdrew over comments from an Israeli official about the country's role in the Holocaust.

In an interview Sunday, foreign minister Yisrael Katz quoted former Israeli premier Yitzhak Shamir when he said the Polish "suckle anti-Semitism" from their "mother's milk."

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"No one will tell us how to remember the fallen," he added.

The summit had been scheduled for Tuesday.

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The remarks heightened tensions between the two countries that started at the U.S.-led Warsaw conference last week.

Israel said Prime Minister Benjamin will now meet with European attendees from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia in what will instead be bilateral meetings, and not part of the Visegrad event, the Jerusalem Post reported.

At the Warsaw conference last week, Netanyahu appeared to criticize a Polish law preventing broad statements about the nation's collaboration with Nazis during World War II. Poland views itself of victims of Nazi occupation at the time.

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"Poles cooperated with the Germans," Netanyahu had said.

Katz's comments angered Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who called the remarks "racist and unacceptable."

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Poland's ambassador to Israel criticized the remarks, as well, saying, "It is really astonishing that the newly appointed foreign minister of Israel quotes such a shameful and racist remark. Utterly unacceptable."

Before the cancellation, Netanyahu called the meeting an important step to engage Central Europe governments that have supported Israel.

Poland built a resistance movement against the Nazis during the war while its government-in-exile struggled to warn the world about the mass killing of Jews. Holocaust researchers, though, said there is evidence to suggest some Polish villagers may have killed fleeing Jews.

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