Polish embassy complaint over 'antisemitism' claims in Giles Coren's column

The Polish ambassador to the UK has expressed outrage over a column in The Times by Giles Coren poking fun at the country's attitude toward Jews.

Mr Coren, who is known for courting controversy in his columns, wrote the piece in Saturday's paper, ostensibly in response to the census findings that Polish is now England's second language.

But, writing in a pidgin-Polish style about his ancestors leaving Poland for the UK, he referred to Liberal Democrat MP David Ward's recent comments accusing "the Jews" of failing to learn the lessons of the Holocaust, and his subsequent backtracking

"If he not like Jews, say not like Jews," wrote Mr Coren. "Polish mans is not afraid say is not like Jews."

He went on to add: "What is confuse Polish mans is why MP David Ward not just say he not like Jews...Why is make mouthy meal apology?

"In Poland man who not like Jews simple throw them down well with pitchfork still alive, drink vodka, big laugh ha ha, then is fill in concrete and dance on grave. And is not then afterwards say like scaredy cat coward, "I am sorry for the unintended offence."

In a letter of complaint published by the paper today, Polish envoy Witold Sobków pointed out that this was not the first time Mr Coren "has provoked the Polish community in the UK with accusations of antisemitism.

"We deplore the fact that he is allowed to express such views," he wrote. "He forgets that in Poland we build synagogues, not burn them as in some countries. When it comes to the Righteous among the Nations, the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem mentions 6,339 Polish rescuers, and only 19 from the UK."

Adding that Poland never "collaborated with Nazi Germany", Mr Sobków said: "This does not mean that there were no acts of antisemitism.

"But we cannot accept Mr Coren's primitive description of Poles as model antisemites, even if perhaps he wants to say that the danger of antisemitism is still present in today's Western Europe."

Accused by a reader on Twitter of deliberately painting "a whole nation - tens of millions of people - as brutal antisemites", Mr Coren argued that in the column he also painted "England as a nation of antisemites".

In another tweet he wrote: "I didn't say [Poles] were terrible, I said they wouldn't be mealy-mouthed like David Ward. The terrible people are the English."

Last year Mr Coren was reported to the Press Complaints Commission by a Holocaust survivor after he wrote a disparaging review of Oslo Court, a north London restaurant popular with Jewish pensioners.

Last updated: 2:40pm, February 5 2013