Responding to Foreign Minister Israel Katz’ impolitic proclamation that “Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk,” itself a reiteration of Yitzhak Shamir’s comment, Yossi Klein Halevi tells us he loves Poland, because the best of Poland are among the best of humanity.
Halevi highlights numerous examples of Polish commitment to Jewish culture or artifacts. And the bold inroads Pope John Paul II made to repair Christian-Jewish relations are indeed highly commendable. Like Halevi, I stand in mute awe of Poles who risked their own lives to save the lives of Jews in the Holocaust.
These Poles are among the best of humanity, and Halevi tells us a people should be judged by its best.
But should it?
An important study analyzes the current state of Poland’s anti-Semitism, and it is extensive. In fact, anti-Semitism is so ingrained in Polish culture that it plays several important functions in contemporary Polish society.
Almost 20 percent of Poles agree with the statement: “Although the Holocaust was a great tragedy, one good thing about it is that there are no more Jews living currently in Poland.”
In a survey of several European countries, nearly half of those surveyed in Poland, 45%, held anti-Semitic attitudes, the second highest percentage of any country surveyed. (Only Spain scored higher.)
Most Poles — 54% — think that Polish Jews, a scant 0.1% of Poland, have too much influence over the economy. Overall, the case of Poland is an example of the endurance of anti-Semitism without Jews.
And there is no sign that Poland’s animus toward Jews will change any time soon. The Catholic Church of Poland is reticent about educating its populace, and with state refusal to recognize the fact that many Polish citizens took part in the Holocaust, there is no reason to assume Poland’s antiSemitism will abate.
In light of Poland’s deep-seated anti-Semitism, Halevi’s examples of Polish judeophilia are all the more impressive. But they remain a minority in a sea of ingrained anti-Semitism.
So Halevi may love Poland. But Poland does not love the Jews.