The Chief Rabbi of Poland has defended controversial Polish MEP Michal Kaminski against charges of antisemitism and criticised the New Statesman magazine for a “grotesque distortion” of his words.
Mr Kaminski was at the centre of the row over the Conservative Party’s new alliance in the European Parliament, and concerns were raised by community leaders over his alleged antisemitism.
An article in the New Statesman by James Macintyre contained quotes from Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, under the headline: "Jewish Leaders Turn on Cameron's Tories: Poland's chief rabbi and others call on Cameron to sever ties with Polish MEP.”
Rabbi Schudrich said today that he did not want his words to be manipulated by politicians, including Foreign Secretary David Miliband, to prove that Mr Kaminski is antisemitic. He also criticised the headline on the New Statesman article.
In an email sent to the think-tank Policy Exchange, Rabbi Schudrich said: "There is no doubt that Kaminski is a strong friend of the State of Israel. He himself has spoken out against anti-Semitism on several occasions during the past decade.
"It is a grotesque distortion that people are quoting me to prove that Kaminski is an anti-Semite. Portraying Kaminski as a neo Nazi plays into the painful and false stereotype that all Poles are anti-Semitic."
"I would also like to clarify that the headline of James Macintyre article of July 29, 2009 entitled: "Jewish Leaders Turn on Cameron's Tories: Poland's chief rabbi and others call on Cameron to sever ties with Polish MEP" does not represent what I said to the author.
"I made no political statement and this headline is misleading and untrue."
Mehdi Hasan, Senior Editor at the New Statesman said: "The headline has since been amended, after the Chief Rabbi alerted the New Statesman to the error, but, for the record, and to our knowledge, the Chief Rabbi has never withdrawn or contested his original remarks as quoted by James Macintyre."
In his original email to Mr Macintyre, Rabbi Schudrich wrote: "I do not comment on political decisions. However, it is clear that Mr Kaminski was a member of NOP, a group that is openly far right and neo-nazi. Anyone who would want to align himself with a person who was an active member of NOP and the Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne (which was established to deny historical facts of the massacre at Jedwabne) needs to understand with what and by whom he is being represented."
Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “David Miliband claimed in his party conference speech that Michal Kaminski had been denounced by the Chief Rabbi of Poland for anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism.
“The Chief Rabbi of Poland has now said very clearly that Michal Kaminski is not a neo-Nazi, is not an anti-Semite and has in fact spoken out against anti-Semitism.
“It is now time for David Miliband to do the decent thing, apologise and withdraw his accusations.”