Poland says Noa Kirel accepted initiation to visit amid row over Holocaust remarks

Poland’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday that Israeli pop star  Noa Kirel has accepted his invitation to visit the country after he earlier expressed “pain” at comments made by the singer at the Eurovision song contest.

“Thank you Noa Kirel for accepting my invitation to visit Poland again,” Paweł Jabłońsk tweeted in Polish and in English.

“I hope that together we will use this opportunity to discuss history, commemoration of the victims of [the] Holocaust and other WWII crimes, and also the future – how to inspire Polish & Israeli youth to learn about history and get to know each other. Against false stereotypes,” he wrote.

Kirel, who came third in the recent  European songfest, sparked controversy in the eastern European nation, including criticism from politicians and denunciations in Polish mediawhen she described being awarded the maximum 12 points by Poland as a victory for her family and for the people of Israel.

“When Poland gives Israel 12 points, after almost the entire Kirel family was murdered in the Holocaust, it is a victory,” Kirel told Israel’s Kan news immediately after the competition.

“To receive 12 points from Poland, after the history of my family and of the people of Israel in the Holocaust, moments like that are really a victory,” she added in similar comments to the Ynet news site, when asked directly about the significance of being given maximum points by Poland.

Members of Kirel’s father’s family were killed at Auschwitz. She visited the death camp with her father in 2019.

There was no immediate confirmation from Kirel that she had accepted the invitation. She has not commented publicly on the issue.

In a long post on social media on Saturday, Jabłoński said he would invite Kirel to Poland “to understand why she thinks about our homeland in this way and to explain why [her comments] are painful to us.”

The incident touches on a long-running dispute between Israel and Poland over Warsaw’s ongoing efforts to minimize Polish responsibility for the persecution and mass murder of Jews on its territory during the Holocaust.

Jabłoński said Kirel should come and “see with her own eyes the places where Nazi Germany committed cruel crimes against Poles and Jews in our country.”

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński speaks to The Associated in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, September 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Jabłoński has highlighted Israeli youth trips to Poland, saying they gave an incorrect picture of the Holocaust to Israelis.

The trips are at the heart of a recently signed agreement between Israel and Poland to restore long-tense diplomatic relations.

That deal has come under widespread criticism in Israel, which says it coopts the Polish stance, despite scholars noting the significant evidence of cooperation by Poles with the Nazi regime.

The agreement is a step toward normalizing ties with Poland, which until several years ago was one of the most pro-Israel countries in the European Union. Relations deteriorated in 2018, after Poland passed legislation that outlawed blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. Then-foreign minister Yair Lapid called the law antisemitictouching off a diplomatic row.

The agreement will see the Israeli student groups visit a list of Polish-recommended sites that critics say provide a distorted view of the Holocaust, ignore Polish complicity in the Holocaust and aggrandize efforts by Poles to save Jews.

People participate in the annual ‘March of the Living’, a trek between two former Nazi-run death camps, in Oswiecim, Poland, on April 18, 2023, to mourn victims of the Holocaust and celebrate the existence of the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)

Young Jewish Israelis traditionally travel to Poland in the summer between 11th and 12th grade, touring former Nazi camps in order to learn about the Holocaust and memorialize those murdered. The trip has long been considered a rite of passage in Israeli education and, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, some 40,000 Israeli students participated each year.

Poland was the first country invaded and occupied by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s regime during World War II and never had a collaborationist government. Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile struggled to warn the world about the mass killing of Jews, and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews.

However, Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish people who murdered Jews who were fleeing the Nazis, or Polish blackmailers who preyed on helpless Jews for financial gain.

Six million Jews, including nearly all of Poland’s roughly 3 million Jews, were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust, and major Nazi death camps were in Poland.

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