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Polish ambassador to Israel assaulted and spat on in Tel Aviv

Warsaw, Poland – A 65-year-old man spat on the Polish ambassador in Tel Aviv, Israel, Marek Magierowski on Tuesday while he was sitting in his car. According to his lawyer, the man had just been turned away from the embassy after attempting to ask for information about the restitution of Jewish property.

Although he apologized for his gesture, the accused said he didn’t know the man he spat on was the Polish ambassador to Israel, and claimed embassy guards had previously insulted him and called him a “little Jew”. Police are currently investigating the incident.

Government condemns “racist attack” against Polish ambassador in Israel

Polish authorities quickly condemned the attack, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki calling it a “racist attack” and “xenophobic act of aggression”. “The violence against diplomats or any other national will not be tolerated”, the Polish Premier added on Twitter.

While Israel’s ambassador to Poland Anna Azari was summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry following the incident, the Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its “fullest sympathy to the ambassador” and said it was “chocked” by the aggression.

Poland’s president Andrzej Duda went one step further, claiming the incident showed the “hatred” fostered by Jews against Polish people.

The controversial issue of Jewish property restitution

This incident comes amid growing tensions between the two countries over demands, pushed by Israel and the United States, that Poland pay reparations for former Jewish properties that were looted by Nazi Germany and nationalized by the communist regime after the war.

But the nationalist ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has repeatedly refused to pay any kind of compensation. Last week, thousands of people marched in the capital Warsaw to oppose the restitution of Jewish property and “attempts to steal Polish property”.

Bilateral talks between Poland and Israel, due to be held this week, were cancelled at the last minute by Poland’s Foreign Ministry, which declared that the changes to the composition of the Israeli delegation “led us to assume that the return of the property of Holocaust victims was to be the main issue”, prompting the summit’s cancellation.

Long-standing tensions between Poland and Israel

But tensions between Poland and Israel have been rising for some time, and reached their peak when the Polish government passed the so-called “Holocaust law” criminalizing the attribution of Nazi Germany’s crimes during World War II to Poland and Poles, including the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”. Although the bill was eventually watered down under pressure from the U.S. and Israel, many observers highlight the continued rise of anti-Semitic and Holocaust revisionism discourse from Polish officials.

In February, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cancelled a trip to Jerusalem, where he was supposed to attend a summit with Visegrad Group leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after the latter’s controversial remarks about the collaboration of some Polish people with Nazi Germany during the war.

This issue has remained at the forefront of Polish public debate in recent months amid mounting controversies. In March, a right-wing Polish newspaper faced backlash for running an article on “How to Spot a Jew” on its front-page. In April, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) slammed a Polish town’s Good Friday ritual lynching of a Judas effigy, labelled as a “ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism”.

To warn of the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Poland, a Warsaw theatre recently staged a play based on ‘Mein Kampf’, “to show that the language used by politicians, by everyone in Poland, is worse that the language of Hitler”.