Dear Polish Parliament, No Law Can Rewrite History

Last week, the Senate of Poland granted the Polish people the dubious and shameful achievement of being the first state to legalize holocaust denial. Instead of recognizing the crimes of the past, Poland tries to quiet Holocaust survivors and re-write history. This attempt will not succeed.

The Polish law dictates that the Poles have no responsibility whatsoever in crimes committed against Jews in the Holocaust and no Poles can or should be accused of these crimes.

Despite harsh objections from Israel, a U.S. call to avoid any advance of the law and the Polish prime minister promising his Israeli counterpart that a dialogue will take place in an attempt to reach understandings, the legislation of the law was promoted in what seems as the worst timing of all—the week of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

There is a very wide consensus among Israelis that this law is a shame and rightfully so. No law can rewrite the truth or make it disappear. Israel has no objection to the ban of the term "Polish extermination camps" because they really are Nazi extermination camps.

However, no one should overlook the fact that some people and nations in Europe heard, knew, helped and handed over some Jews to the German Nazi extermination machine. They too share the responsibility even if they were conquered. There is no disagreement that among those were Poles. Many Poles also showed extreme courage and went to great lengths while risking their lives to save Jews. This is why there is no legitimate reason to ban the testimonies of thousands of Poles. History was complex. This fact makes the law superficial.

No law can be a match for the chilling witnesses, testimonies and relics of the camps, and history will judge Poland twice. Not only taking an active part in the extermination of Jews and others but also and from now on, holocaust denial. As a response, I initiated, with the support of the majority of MKs, a legislation in the Israeli parliament that seeks to provide a legal defense to the ones who might suffer from the shameful Polish law.

In addition, it is suggested to expand the term "Holocaust denial" in the Israeli legislation book and determine that a denial, minimization or assimilation with crimes committed by the assistants of the German Nazis, among them Poles, would be considered a felony with up to five years in prison.

Even though Poland is not directly responsible for the atrocities that Nazi Germany committed, it is important to say with a loud voice: No law can rewrite history. No matter the great efforts that entities will put into trying to blur and hide what happened, no law will erase the names and memories of six million Jews, my nation, who were murdered on European soil.

No law can rewrite history. The Holocaust is possibly the darkest stain in the history of humankind. It should serve as a guide and lesson for the world. We should talk about it, mention it and fight the dark entities who try to erase it because if it is successfully erased, it might happen again. Maybe in another region in the world, and maybe against other nation.

No law can rewrite history and fade such an important memory. Even if Polish legislators want it badly, the tattooed ink numbers on the tired skin of Holocaust survivors, who still walk between us, will not be erased, nor will their yells.

Polish legislators need to understand two main notions: the first, Israelis stand as one voice in rejection and objection against this appalling law. The Israeli public opinion is stronger than ever. I'm an Israeli opposition parliament member and I oppose many things the coalition does but when it comes to this law our strong stand crosses colors, genders, and backgrounds. We are determined and united in the notion that no parliament in the world can erase our collective memory, our history and what binds us, Israelis, together.

The second notion Poles should understand, more important, is that Poland needs to be on the right side of history. In our days more than ever, we could see a clear distinction between dark and light. Dark: nations and entities who deny the Holocaust. Light: those who try to fight the dark with all their might. Poland must not be on the dark side of history, the one that sides with Holocaust denial. This law is a step towards the wrong side.

It is better if Polish legislators choose to increase the knowledge of Poles regarding the better and worse roles they played in the darkest period known to man. It is better if instead of blurring and covering up, they learn and remind themselves what happened to us. Israel will not forget. This shame no law can erase.

Itzik Shmuli is an Israeli politician who currently serves as a member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) for the Zionist Union, a coalition of two centrist opposition parties.

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