Polish Ambassador Spat at in Israeli Street by 'Racist' Attacker Amid Holocaust Speech Tensions

Poland Israel ambassador attacked racism
Holocaust survivor Malkah Gorka is pictured during a protest in front of Polish embassy in Tel Aviv on February 8, 2018, against a controversial Holocaust speech bill passed by the country's senate. GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images

Poland's ambassador to Israel has reportedly been attacked in a Tel Aviv street in an apparent racist assault.

Marek Magierowski said he was accosted on Tuesday close to the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv. The male attacker apparently assaulted Magierowski—including spitting at him—and shouted at him, The Times of Israel reported.

Magierowski said he could not make out what the man was shouting, but heard "Polish, Polish." He managed to take a photograph of the attacker and his car, helping police arrest the man.

The Times of Israel named the attacker as Arik Lederman, 65. He has since been released from custody. At his remand hearing, Lederman's attorney explained his client had gone to the Polish Embassy to ask about Jewish property abandoned in Poland during and after the Holocaust.

The status of such property is controversial, with some activists still demanding that Poland return or compensate such lost property, which was later nationalized by the post-war Communist Polish state.

But according to Lederman, an embassy guard made an anti-Semitic slur, addressing him as a "Zhid." The ambassador's driver then beeped his car horn at Lederman as he walked away, the attorney claimed.

In ordering Lederman's release, Judge Alaa Masarwaa said the case was not complex and that the suspect would not be able to obstruct the ongoing investigation. "There is no doubt that an assault and spitting at a diplomatic personage is contemptible," Masarwaa wrote. He said the incident "makes the [assailant] an embarrassment to the rest of Israel's citizens."

Poland's Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador in Warsaw to explain the incident. The country's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the "racist" and "xenephopibc" attack made him "very worried." He added: "Violence against diplomats or any other citizens should never be tolerated."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon expressed his "fullest sympathy to the ambassador and our shock at the attack." Nahshon said the investigation was ongoing and that Polish authorities would be kept apprised of its progress.

Relations between Israel and Poland have become somewhat frayed over the past year or so, as a result of a new law passed by the right-wing government in Warsaw criminalizing any suggestion of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

Six million Jews were among the victims of the World War II-era genocide. Perpetrated by Adolf Hitler's Nazi government and its allies, the Holocaust is thought to have claimed more than 17 million lives in total.

The death rate for Poles of all ethnic groups was particularly high. In Poland, as in all other nations under Nazi occupation, historians have found evidence of anti-Semitic collaboration between Poles and the occupying Nazis. Simultaneously, Polish resistance groups are among some of the most celebrated anti-Nazi partisans of the entire war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Polish government of "distorting the truth" and "rewriting history" with the new law. In February, Morawiecki pulled out of a trip to Israel after Netanyahu suggested Poles collaborated with the Nazi invaders.

As recently as this week, the Polish government canceled a visit by Israeli officials who wished to discuss compensation for Jewish property lost during the Holocaust.