The Israeli politician who hosted the controversial MEP at the heart of the row over David Cameron’s alliance in Europe has admitted he was not aware of the MEP’s controversial comments about Jews — until he read them in the JC this week.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who met Polish MEP Michal Kaminski in Israel this summer, said:“I knew him as a staunch supporter of Israel who upholds democratic values and believes in a strong response to terrorism. This was our basis for the meeting.”
Asked when he first learned about the controversy surrounding Mr Kaminski, which has been raging for months, he said: “I just saw it this morning at your office, in your paper. It was the first time I saw it. I had no clue. I am not following too closely internal European politics. Today is the first time I heard about it.”
Mr Kaminski leads the European Conservatives and Reformists bloc in the European Parliament. He has been challenged by Jewish groups for saying, in 2001, that the Polish nation should no more apologise for the 1941 massacre of Jews in the town of Jedwabne than “the whole Jewish nation [should apologise] for what some Jewish Communists did in Poland”.
He has also been criticised for wearing, in the past, the Chrobry Sword, a symbol of the Catholic ultra-right in Poland.
Mr Ayalon met Mr Kaminski in September in a visit organised by the Conservative Friends of Israel. The meeting has been taken as an indication the Israeli government approved of Mr Kaminski, who is known in Brussels as an Israel supporter.
Regarding Mr Kaminski’s comments on Jedwabne, Mr Ayalon said: “I don’t know if he said it or not. Any such assertion is morally reprehensible and unacceptable totally. Anyone who said it, even by mistake, should retract it, explain and apologise.
“But as a matter of practice, we shouldn’t shoot from the hip. I wouldn’t mind at all to pick up the phone and discuss this with him directly. If I hear something is not right, I will ask for a clarification or apology. Friendship is about this, sometimes there are misunderstandings.”
He added that it took “courage” for Mr Kaminski to stand up for Israel in Brussels.
Mr Ayalon’s spokesman later phoned the JC to emphasise that Mr Kaminski was “a good friend of Israel, a staunch friend of Israel, especially in the EU parliament. We understand that antisemitism needs to be fought in every arena, especially in the UK. “Kaminski is probably one of our best friends in the European Parliament.”