WARSAW: Poland’s prime minister on Wednesday condemned what he described as a “xenophobic” assault on the country’s ambassador to Israel, who was spat at on a Tel Aviv street at a time of rising tensions between the two nations.
Israeli officials expressed shock at the assault on Marek Magierowski on Tuesday afternoon and were investigating the incident. Israeli police said they had detained and released a 65-year-old man suspected of approaching the ambassador, who was sitting in his car, and spitting at him.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the suspect remained under house arrest until Thursday.
The incident comes amid a bitter standoff between Poland and Israel over how to remember the Holocaust and over demands that Poland pay reparations for former Jewish properties that were seized by Nazi Germany and later nationalized by Poland’s communist regime.
Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari was summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry in Warsaw on Wednesday over the incident. Michal Dworczyk, the head of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s office, said the Polish government expects the perpetrator to be punished. Morawiecki expressed his concern at what he described as a “racist” attack.
“Poland strongly condemns this xenophobic act of aggression. Violence against diplomats or any other citizens should never be tolerated,” Morawiecki said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, said the assault was being investigated and that “we will update our Polish friends” on what is found.
“Israel expresses its full sympathy with the Polish ambassador and shock at the attack,” Nahshon said. “This is a top priority to us, as we are fully committed to diplomats’ safety and security.”
Ties between the two countries became strained in January 2018 when Poland passed a law that criminalized blaming the Polish nation for the crimes of Nazi Germany during World War II. Poland’s conservative nationalist government described it as an effort to end linguistic formulations, such as “Polish death camps,” to refer to the death camps that Germans operated on occupied Polish territory during the war.
However, many people in Israel felt it was an attempt by the Polish government to repress debate and scholarship looking at the cases of those Poles who helped the Nazis in killing Jews during the occupation, and even after the war ended.