By Stephen Pollard
October 9, 2009
I have a piece in today's Guardian, responding to Jonathan Freedland's attack on Michal Kaminski, and me for defending him:
Jonathan Freedland attacked Michal Kaminski, the Polish MEP; Roberts Zile, the Latvian MEP; and me (Once no self-respecting politician would have gone near such people,
7 October). Freedland seems to have decided that Kaminski is an
antisemite; but, far from this, Kaminski is – as his record in Brussels
shows clearly – one of the greatest friends to the Jews in a town where
antisemitism and a visceral loathing of Israel are rife.
says of Kaminski: "In 2001 he upbraided the president for daring to
apologise for a 1941 pogrom in the town of Jedwabne which left hundreds
of Jews dead. Kaminski said there was nothing to apologise for – at
least not until Jews apologised for what he alleged was the role Jewish
partisans and Jewish communists had played alongside the Red Army in Poland."
fact, Kaminski's argument was that apologising for the collective guilt
of Poles let the individual murderers off the hook. The massacre was
not committed by "the Poles" against "the Jews", but was a vile crime
committed by specific individuals. And – as Freedland conveniently
omits to point out – Kaminski added (given that President Kwasniewski
was a former communist) that if the communists were into apologies,
they should apologise for something for which they were individually
responsible: their antisemitic campaign of 1968.
As for Kaminski
saying he would apologise only if Jews did: he explains in an interview
with the Jewish Chronicle today that "there were acts of collaboration
by Jewish people with the Soviet army when the Soviet army came to
Poland … If you are asking the Polish nation to apologise for the crime
made in Jedwabne, you would have to require the whole Jewish nation to
apologise for what some Jewish communists did in Eastern Poland."
National Rebirth of Poland, whose forerunner Kaminski joined as a
15-year-old, is indeed virulently antisemitic and neofascist. But the
group today is very different from 1987. As a schoolboy he could not
join Solidarity, and so he joined one of the few Polish nationalist
groups. It is simply wrong to say the organisation was antisemitic
during the two years Kaminski was a member.
members of Roberts Zile's Latvian grouping "have played a leading part
in the annual parade honouring veterans of the Latvian Legion of the
Waffen-SS". I know the facts about Kaminski, but I can think of no
worse source for evidence against Zile than those who so disgracefully
Freedland cites the fact that "the president
of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has now written to Cameron".
That is his job – and he should have done it at the start of the
controversy. As it happens, on Wednesday night the Board president met
Mark Francois, the Conservative European spokesman, who happily agreed
to hand over the party's dossier on Kaminski.
The best Freedland
can come up with to dismiss my own evidence is to describe me as a
"fierce anti-Brown partisan". I am puzzled as to how my view of Gordon
Brown as being unfit to occupy 10 Downing Street has any relevance to
the alleged antisemitism of a Polish MEP. But far from being
anti-Labour, in the six general elections in which I have been eligible
to vote, I have voted Labour six times.