NEWS - Archive May 2006

Poland in trouble (May)


29/5/2006- Poland's tiny Jewish community is increasingly harassed by hate mail and phone calls amid concerns the ruling conservatives are turning a blind eye to xenophobia, Jewish leaders and diplomats say. "In the last few weeks we have seen a clear rise in various types of incidents, which we did not see earlier," said Piotr Kadlcik, head of Jewish religious communities in Poland. "We receive threatening phone calls and text messages," he told private Radio Zet. Worries that latent anti-Semitism in European Union member Poland is creeping back were highlighted on Saturday when the country's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich was punched by an unknown assailant shouting "Poland for the Poles." Schudrich, a New Yorker, and Israeli Ambassador David Peleg said they viewed the attack as an isolated act of hooliganism. But they also said the decision by the ruling Law and Justice to invite far-right League of Polish Families into a coalition this month encouraged such acts. Western diplomats say the government's ties with Radio Maryja, a fringe Catholic broadcaster which sometimes airs xenophobic views, is also of concern. "When you let an extreme rightist, xenophobic party into the coalition, it empowers the ultranationalists and those people who like to run around town screaming
nasty things and looking for a fight," Schudrich told Reuters. The incident happened during a visit to Poland by Pope Benedict, who on Sunday visited the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz to pray for reconciliation between Catholics and Jews.

President Lech Kaczynski invited Rabbi Michael Schudrich to his palace, where he expressed regret over the attack and said Poland will not tolerate anti-Semitism, said the presidential undersecretary of state, Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka. "The purpose was to say 'I'm sorry for what happened,"' Junczyk-Ziomecka, who was present during the nearly one-hour meeting, told The Associated Press. She said Kaczynski also told Schudrich that "Poland is an open society, a democratic society. It is open for everyone who wants to be here." Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz condemned the attack on Sunday and called Schudrich to say he would not tolerate anti-Semitism. The police said they were searching for the assailant and had opened an investigation into the hate mails. "I have recently received plenty of such signals and complaints," Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewskathe, an adviser to the prime minister, was quoted as saying by the weekly Wprost. Poland was home to the world's largest Jewish community of some 3 million before World War Two before most of them were killed by the occupying Germans. Thousands of survivors emigrated in 1968 after an anti-Semitic campaign by the then-ruling communists, reinforcing perceptions that anti-Semitism is deeply embedded in Poland. Only a few thousand Jews remain in the country.

Good times at risk
Relations between Jews and other Poles took a turn for the better in 1989 when Poland overthrew communism, and so did ties with Israel, with the Jewish state seeing Poland as one of its strongest allies in the EU, Israeli officials say. Diplomats say ties took a hit after Law and Justice teamed up with the League and populist Self-Defense party, saying it needed their support to push through
its anti-corruption agenda. The Israeli and U.S. ambassadors in Poland have formally and privately warned Law and Justice that the
alliance was a concern to their capitals, diplomats said. Members of both parties had for years made thinly veiled anti-Semitic remarks and railed against Poland's EU drive and foreign investors. Both have toned down their views and the EU has chosen to give
both parties the benefit of the doubt. League leader Roman Giertych, who is education minister, called the attack on Schudrich "banditry" and rejected any connection between his party and anti-Semitic acts. "We have absolutely no connection to this sort of racism or anti-Semitism," he told reporters.



29/5/2006- In early May, Radek Sikorski drew some fire when he compared the North European Gas Pipeline deal linking Russia's West Siberian fields and Germany to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. That the Polish defense minister had decided to comment on what is, strictly-speaking, an economic matter was sign enough that Poland's politicians are currently dealing with a shortage of sober analysis. "Hysterical" is how Gleb Pavlovsky, a public relations guru with close ties to President Vladimir Putin, accurately described the outburst. The 1939 pact was a deal between totalitarian regimes from opposing ideological extremes that was principally designed to postpone an inevitable war between Germany and the Soviet Union so that the two could get other nefarious projects out of the way first. These days, war between Russia and Germany is anything but inevitable, so it was clear from the start that Sikorski's historical reasoning had gone amiss. No one doubts that Poland has a right to its historical sensitivity in relation to Germany and Russia. The experiences of the Nazi devastation of Warsaw, among other crimes, and the 35 years of Communist rule engineered by Moscow will always lead the Poles to cast a wary eye on happenings to their immediate east and west. But Sikorski's comments mark a recent turn in political attitude that is having ramifications on the domestic front as well as in the international arena. This new shrillness has grown since the Law and Justice, or PiS, party became the ruling party in a minority government back in September. With the formation of a populist coalition between the PiS, the Self-Defense Party -- which largely targets the country's farmers -- and the far-right League of Polish Families, or LPR, in early May, the volume has just climbed higher and higher.

Intolerance often gets people screaming, and in Poland's case a growing fear of outsiders has led to an increase in decibels. But this has happened in such a way that, despite the sullen manner with which Poland's political leaders greet anything Russian, events in Polish society are amazingly beginning to mirror those taking place in Moscow and beyond. The hysteria is not confined to Poland, of course. Last year, when thugs attacked the children of Russian diplomats in a Warsaw park, the Kremlin screamed that it was evidence of widespread anti-Russian sentiment. Had the response been calmer, Russian hooligans would probably not have been encouraged to mount a series of retaliatory attacks on Polish nationals in Moscow in the weeks that followed. When Russian Muslim leader Talgat Tajuddin said that gay parade marchers "should be bashed" if they dared venture onto Moscow's streets, he was echoing, almost verbatim, remarks made by LPR deputy Wojciech Wierzejski when the possibility of a gay parade in Warsaw was again. "They should be beaten with batons," he said. "Once they feel the pain, they won't come again because gays are, by definition, cowards." The last sentence was aimed at German gay activists who were planning to come to Warsaw for the event. So much for a repetition of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. If we can speak of an ideological pipeline being laid in Europe, then surely it is between Warsaw and Moscow, with liberal Berlin being firmly left out in the cold.

As was the case with Putin, Polish President Lech Kaczynski was elected largely because he promised to end the endemic corruption that had infected the previous administration. Putin's pursuit of the oligarchs has led to accusations of creeping dictatorship. The PiS government's accelerating initiatives against the post-communist left have raised suspicions of an anti-democratic witch hunt. Control of the media is also a major issue in both countries. That there is a lack of independence in Russian broadcast journalism has been well documented. In Poland, the PiS-led government just appointed Bronislaw Wildstein, an aggressive anti-communist who believes in exposing and charging those people who had dealings with the old regime, to head Polish public television. In March, PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski charged there was "no press freedom" in Poland and that the new government would take steps to allow journalists "to report the truth," a statement that drew attacks from media representatives. "The time when the state controlled the media has long passed," said Wanda Rapaczynska, head of the Agora group, which publishes the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. "I hope the PiS chairman will not try to capitalize on this fantasy that journalists are not free to report truthfully." So the picture of Poland that was being painted during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the country belied the atmosphere of suspicion, and sometimes fear, that has been building up since the right-wing populists came to power. The pope's message was largely a humble one, with occasional critical allusions to the arch-conservative clerics who allow anti-Semitic comments to be broadcast on the radically Catholic Radio Maryja

Russia is also no stranger to virulent racism, which is invariably anti-Semitic to the core as well. The members of the Mad Crowd ultranationalist group that were arrested in St. Petersburg and charged with a number of murders -- motivated both by racism and infighting -- are only its most extreme manifestation. While Polish extremists have yet to take up arms against their hate targets, their activities are also becoming alarmingly vicious. Earlier this month, an anarchist was stabbed in Warsaw, seemingly because his attackers found his name and address published on an extreme right-wing web site. Polish football hooligans -- notoriously right-wing -- have upped their level of violence in recent weeks and, along with rioting in Warsaw's Old Town and generating some other disturbances, have reportedly been involved in kidnapping and extortion. Kaczynski's clean, bold new Fourth Republic thus comes full circle. So, despite the bile that Moscow and Warsaw frequently spit at each other, perhaps the best bet for the two countries' leaders would be to sit down and talk it out man to man. What is already clear is that the two sides will find that they have a whole lot in common.
Indymedia Poland



28/5/2006- Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was attacked in a central Warsaw street on Saturday in what the Interior Ministry said was probably a provocation meant to portray Poland as an anti-Semitic country. "While I was walking in Warsaw, someone yelled 'Poland is for Poles'," Schudrich, a New Yorker who became chief rabbi of Warsaw in 2000 and of all Poland in 2004, told Reuters on Sunday. "I went back and asked him why he said that and then he hit me and sprayed me with something like pepper gas." A Warsaw police spokesman said the spray appeared to be ineffective because Schudrich had suffered no adverse effects. The Interior Ministry said in a statement it was looking for a 25-year-old man and that the incident might be a "provocation aimed at creating an image of Poland as an anti-Semitic country." The attack coincided with a visit to Poland by German-born Pope Benedict, who was due to pray later on Sunday at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, where 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during World War Two. Schudrich, 50, oversees a small Jewish community in Poland, which has in past years made strides in reconciling with its Jews following bouts of anti-Semitism under communist rule which ended in 1989.



27/5/2006- Reporters Without Borders wrote to Polish justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro today to alert him to serious threats being made against Polish journalists by Redwatch, an extreme right-wing group that advocates violence. Redwatch-Poland has posted a list of 15 left-wing and far-left journalists and directly threatened them with reprisals for their anti-fascist views. Redwatch is an international organisation that has its headquarters in Britain. Its website encourages its members to attack human rights activists, politicians, journalists and students by posting their names, photographs and addresses. A human rights activist who was No. 2 on the list of “enemies” on the Redwatch-Poland site narrowly escaped a murder attempt on a Warsaw street on 16 May. His assailants hit him, used a pepper spray on him and stabbed him before making off. The knife came within a few centimetres of his heart. The Polish site is an offshoot of the website of another Polish neo-fascist organisation, Blood and Honour. The prosecutor handling the case, Elzbieta Janicka, told Reporters Without Borders that the investigation into the Redwatch-Poland site’s content was blocked because it was hosted on a server in the United States. She said the office of the Warsaw public prosecutor had requested information from the relevant US authorities but she did not know if the request had reached the right people. Asked if the police were checking on Polish fascist organisations, she simply said, “enquiries are continuing.” Reporters Without Borders sent the justice minister the list of the 15 threatened journalists, who prefer not to be identified again for security reasons. The press freedom organisation said it took the threats very seriously as they are often followed by action, and it voiced astonishment about the vagueness of the prosecutor in charge of the case.

It urged the minister to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible are identified and brought to trial and that the threat posed by far-right groups based in Poland is taken seriously by everyone concerned, including the prosecutor. Redwatch-Poland and the other Polish neo-fascist group to which it is linked, Blood and Honour, have views similar to those of such groups as Youth of Great Poland, which belongs to the League of Polish Families (LPR), a member of the ruling coalition. Redwatch-Poland targets the left-wing and far-left media and those that defend gay rights. The 15 named journalists work for the following media: the website, the monthly Pracownicza Demokracja, the magazine Nigdy Wiecej, the website, the monthly Dzi, the Polish edition of the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, the magazine Krytyka Polityczna, the monthly Nowy Robotnik, the daily Dziennik Zachodni, the news website, the quarterly magazine Zadra, Radio Koszalin and the website. Some of the targeted journalists told Reporters Without Borders they were sceptical about the efforts being made by the police to find those responsible for the threats, pointing out that they had not been contacted by anyone involved in the investigation.
Reporters Without Borders



When Benedict XVI arrives in Poland today he will find anger over the mix of Catholicism and politics

25/5/2006- In the shadow of a giant, shimmering steel cross in central Warsaw, 17-year-old Alexander Pawlowski has a blunt message for Pope Benedict XVI: “He should tell the Government to stop ramming the Roman Catholic faith down our throats.” The Pope, who embarks today on his first pilgrimage to Poland, is unlikely to heed the schoolboy protester, who is drumming up support against a fervently Catholic Government led by a right-wing nationalist Prime Minister. The teenager is, however, one of a growing army of critics who say that Poland is fast becoming the least tolerant member of the European Union. The Pope is treading in the footsteps of John Paul II and will use his trip to echo the words of his Polish mentor: stay true to the Catholic faith at a time of Islamic resurgence and shifting global values. Behind the scenes, though — and explicitly during a planned visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp on Sunday — he will be urging the Polish Church to stay out of politics and do more to encourage social tolerance and civic rights. Critics of the Government — from harassed homosexuals to censored sixth-formers, from nervous Jewish activists to cowed doctors — want more and are sure to be disappointed by the pontiff. Pope John Paul made his first pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and captured a popular mood: it was the first nail in the coffin of communism. Pope Benedict, by contrast, is visiting a country deeply divided and confused. “It has become ‘absurdistan’,” a gynaecologist, speaking in the privacy of his consulting room, said. He listed recent demands of deputies from the League of Polish Families, now a key government coalition partner. “Some want the Ten Commandments posted on public buildings, another wants cameras put on the entrances of brothels and many want to ban gay schoolteachers.”

The gynaecologist is at the sharp end of the new Catholic evangelism. Poland’s strict abortion law permits emergency termination in the case of serious foetal deformity or a direct threat to the mother’s life. “But performing any kind of termination is regarded as a flaw in your career, and doctors will do anything to get out of it, however necessary it may be. We are afraid and have become cowards,” he said. Thomas Baczkowski agrees. He is the chairman of a gay rights group, the Rownosci Foundation, which has been denied public funding. “The noose is tightening,” he said. “Homosexuality was never illegal here but the communist secret police gathered a list of 15,000 gays for their own purposes. Now there are signs that some use could be made of this list by the present rulers.” Politicians have been mysteriously resigning. “Some of them are people we know to have been secretly gay,” Mr Baczkowski said. Tax inspectors are raiding gay pubs to check their account books. Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, the Prime Minister, has denounced homosexuality as abnormal, and President Kaczynski, in his previous incarnation as the Mayor of Warsaw, banned gay demonstrations and encouraged counter-protests. “Many younger Polish gays are now emigrating to London or Berlin,” Mr Baczkowski said. “The gays are the avant-garde of a liberal society, just as Jews used to be in the 19th century,” Piotr Pazinski, editor of the Jewish magazine, Midrasz, said. “That’s why you will find many Jewish activists expressing sympathy: it’s about protecting minorities — the very cornerstone of a liberal democracy.” Mr Pazinski also detects what he calls “velvet anti-Semitism” in Poland. Most politicians are wary of openly denouncing the Jews, who are, in any case, a very small community. “It’s all between the lines, a question of language and atmosphere,” he said.

The most forthright manifestation of intolerant Poland is Radio Maryja, which has developed a big following in rural areas and is part of a Catholic media empire run by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a monk. It broadcasts prayers and hymns interspersed with rough-tongued commentary on freemasons, Jews, homosexuals, Germans and the EU. The Vatican asked the Polish Church to crack down on the station and Father Rydzyk was given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. This battle for the soul of Catholicism is dividing Poland. The Government makes its sentiments clear but in a way that does not bring it into open conflict with EU norms. Polish institutions jump to conform. One guideline from the Education Ministry advises schools not to hold discussions on the Iraq war, ecological issues or sex. Alexander Pawlowski is indignant about an attempt by the Education Ministry to force schools to filter internet access. “Bit by bit they are taking away our freedom,” he said. The leadership of the Church is split between Pope John Paul loyalists, who want to maintain conservative standards while upholding the traditions of an open society, and those bishops who favour a more inward-looking nationalist agenda. The late Pope effectively steered the Polish Church from Rome. Now, it is rudderless. Pope Benedict will address the bishops in Czestochowa, in the south, on Saturday. It will be a private talk — the Pope disapproves of public confrontation. Most Polish observers believe that he does not yet have the power to change the direction of the country.

Polish attitudes to gays
+ 89 per cent consider homosexuality abnormal
+ Almost half of those think it should not be tolerated
+ Only 6 per cent would have no problem with their child being gay
+ 70 per cent are against homosexual unions and 85 per cent oppose gay adoption
+ 80 per cent oppose gay teachers
+ 75 per cent do not want Pope Benedict XVI to make any changes to the Church’s teachings on the subject
Source: Polish Public Opinion Research Centre
The Times Online



Say "NO" to white-collar fascists and fascist bandits on the streets!
The release was written on request and with the consent of Maciej D.:

17/5/2006- There was an attempted murder carried out against Maciej D in Powisle in Warsaw around 18.30hrs on 16 May. Maciej D. is a well-known local anti-fascist activist. He had been intimidated by Warsaw fascist for a long time having been attacked before a few times in front of his house in Warsaw. According to the doctor's opinion, this time the attackers attempted to kill the victim. One of the attackers used a tear gas, while the other one stabbed Maciej with a 30cm-long knife in his back, near the heart. In result, one of his lungs was punctured; luckily, he survived. He is currently in a hospital where he underwent a surgery. The doctors described his condition as stable.

The latest incident, is most probably, connected with the growing societal acceptance of nationalistic and neo-fascist attitudes and with the lack of reaction to the publications calling on violence against people with different opinions. The most adequate example of these publications is the website "Redwatch" which has published pictures, descriptions, and addresses of anti-fascist, ecological activists, left-wing journalists and academics. The website has been created by members of ultra right-wing organizations such as Blood and Honor, NOP, All-Polish Youth and NOR. Maciej D. was one of the persons described on the "Redwatch" website. We are afraid that the attacks will carried against other people listed on the website.

It is high time to say "STOP" to the political situation in which such incidents are being tolerated. It is high time to say "STOP" to the political agreement under which the highest positions in the country are taken by people known for their right-wing opinions and dissemination of hate speech targeting those whose opinions are different.

We are calling to join the mass protest against right-wing politicians, such as R.Giertych and W.Wierzejski, whose presence on the political stage encourages fascists. Say "NO" to white-collar fascists and fascist bandits on the streets!

Maciek's friends and the members of anti-fascist movement:
Demonstration at 15hrs on 20 May
Venue: Zygmunt's Statue (Old City), Warsaw
Indymedia Poland



17/5/2006- A member of the Polish political party League of Polish Families, which party is a member of the coalition government, startled Poland with his comments about homosexuals in Poland. The comments were made by Wojciech Wierzejski. What follows is a selection of comments made by this individual. In a letter to the Polish Minister Of Justice and to the Polish Minister of the Interior he requested that they check "Legal and illegal sources of financing" of organizations of gay activists. He claims that the protests against the Minister of Education, Roman Giertych, who is the head of the political party League of Polish Families, are the work of homosexual organizations. He said that there were in fact students and teachers who were participants in the demonstrations held in Warsaw against the appointment of Roman Giertych as Minister of Education and not only homosexuals. But he said that the teachers and students were useful fools who were manipulated by the homosexuals. "And there aren't enough anarchists in Poland to organize such large rallies on the streets. " "Homos organize those rallies using on-line chats and forums. They sign all kinds of appeals against Roman Giertych. " "Every police officer will confirm that homosexuals are a circle that is nearly 100 percent identical to the circle of the pedophiles. It is a fact that does not require any research. " "If deviants begin to demonstrate, they should be hit with batons. " He has taken the position that the opposition to Roman Giertych is a homosexual conspiracy. While he takes this position a petition to remove Roman Giertych as Minister of Education had to be removed yesterday from the Internet because of the traffic that was going to that website. Over 300 people per second were trying to sign the petition to remove Roman Giertych as the Minister of Education.


17/5/2006- While gay activists in Poland commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), the country’s minister of education, is seeking a police investigation against gay groups. Wojciech Wierzejski, a member of the Polish ruling coalition partner, Giertych's League of Polish Families, who govern along with the anti gay Law and Justice Party, has been the subject of student demonstrations and petitions against him. He is blaming it all on gay groups, claiming the “homos” are conspiring against him, the Financial Times reports. Mr Wierzejski is reported to believe that gay people want to implement “deviant” ideas in schools, and vows that as long as he is minister, "there will be no homosexual propaganda in schools.” A postcards project has been taking place in Poland today for IDAHO, gay groups are sending postcards which show lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in various every day situations.
Pink News



17/5/2006- Poland’s president today assured the Israeli ambassador that anti-Semitism has “no chance” in Poland, responding to Jewish anxieties over a new coalition that includes a nationalist party with a far-right youth wing, the presidential office said. President Lech Kaczynski met with Israeli Ambassador David Peleg this afternoon to address concerns over the coalition with the League of Polish Families, a nationalist and Catholic party with the radical, right-wing All-Polish Youth group. “Mr Kaczynski guaranteed that there is no space for anti-Semitism in Poland,” Andrzej Krawczyk, the president’s under-secretary of state, said. All-Polish Youth members have been known to make Nazi salutes and chant “Sieg Heil” during street protests. The group also has attacked gay and women’s rights marches in past years. Kaczynski assured Peleg that he, his office and his governing Law and Justice party were guarantees that “anti-Semitism in Poland has no chance,” the presidential office said in a statement. Law and Justice sealed a coalition May 5 with the League, and another small party, Self-Defence, that gives it a majority in parliament.
Ireland on-line



Israeli Foreign Ministry weighing individual boycott on Roman Giertych, a Polish anti-Semite nationalist who was appointed Poland's vice premier and education minister; Giertych to be responsible for Holocaust awareness, fighting anti-Semitism

17/5/2006- The Israeli Foreign Ministry is considering imposing an individual boycott on Roman Giertych, a Polish anti-Semite nationalist who was appointed Poland's vice premier and Education Minister. Recently the Polish Families League party, headed by Giertych joined the Polish coalition. As Education Minister, Giertych will be responsible for increasing awareness of the Holocaust, fighting anti-Semitism and making arrangements for visits by Israeli students to Nazi death camps in Poland. The Polish Families League (PFL) is a marginal Catholic-nationalist party that presents itself as the political and ideological heir of the large anti-Jewish party that operated in Poland between the two world wars. The Polish gay and lesbian community will also face a tough battle as a result of the new coalition with the PFL. An official in Poland said in response to the appointment, "Poland is a very friendly country, but Israel can not remain indifferent."
Ynet News


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