Friday, October 9, 2009

Dale and Kamenski

You can read my previous thoughts on the Michal Kamenski question here and here.

Iain Dale has now spoken with him for the Total Politics magazine; here is an extract from that interview, the piece that deals directly with his comments on the Jebwabne massacre:

ID: This all seems to stem from comments you made about the Jedwabne massacre in 1941,where you said that it was wrong for the Polish prime minister to apologise for the whole of the Polish nation for what happened. Do you understand why people might draw the conclusions that you have views that you say you don’t?

MK: They have to read the whole of the statements I made during this time. And actually there is a BBC report from Poland quoting me, a young member of the Polish parliament at the time, and the Polish prime minister at the time, Mr Buzek – who is now President of the European Parliament – he even said that he agreed with me. Because what I was saying from the beginning was that it was a terrible crime and I am ashamed that the Polish people were involved in this crime.

ID: If you’re ashamed of that, why can’t you agree that there should be an apology?

MK: Because my point is, I don’t want to put this single crime – however shameful – on the same level as the Nazi policy towards the Jews. You see the difference? We had our underground state, we were occupied by Germans, and what those bandits did at Jedwabne was totally against Polish law, Polish customs and Polish culture. What the Nazis did was according to the state policies of the Nazi government. Do you understand the difference? Because there is a difference. Let’s say that you can feel ashamed of British hooligans, but no one will require an apology from the whole British nation for the actions of a few hooligans.

ID: I’m not sure that’s true – I feel ashamed about British football hooligans when they go abroad and I do apologise for my country.

MK: But the difference is that it’s not about judging the crime. It was a position shared by many politicians in Poland: we condemned the crime but we didn’t want to be put on the same side as the Nazis
Which is basically repeating what he has been saying all along. Nobody sane would label the whole Polish nation as being on the side of the Nazis; however and nevertheless a heinous crime, similar to those carried out by the Nazis, was committed by Polish people against their fellow citizens who just happened to be of the Jewish faith.

Having said that, stating that you do not believe in the concept of collective responsibility of a nation (or of an ethnic or communal group) does not obviously automatically make you a racist, anti-semite, or to put it in a Northern Irish context, a sectarian bigot or a terrorist apologist. The fact that the Polish Chief Rabbi has (apparently) corrected the negative views on Kamenski previously posted in the British media should also carry some weight... but think I'd still like to see a full transcript of his orginal speech on the matter before coming to my own final conclusion about his motives and beliefs.


Two more articles on Kamenski, one from the Jewish Chronicle, the other The Spectator.


fair_deal said...

The key issue on the massacre is not what apology by whom to whom was appropriate but whether or not he did give the interview in which it is claimed he said Jews should apologise for their collaboration with the russians as equivalence (this was leading to very dodgy territory considering eastern european anti-semitism). He denies it but the journalist and editor of the far-right paper it appeared in says otherwise.

Kaminski also has form in that he denied things that he did do. He denied using derogatory terms about homosexuals up until video evidence was produced to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

More difficult for Mr Kaminski (and potentially Mr Cameron) is the suggestion that the Polish politician claimed no apology should be made until Jews apologised for alleged Jewish crimes of collaboration with the Soviet Union. His answer is ingenious. He says that asking the Poles as a whole to apologise for Jedwabne would make as much sense as asking the Jews to apologise for alleged Jewish involvement in Communist crimes.It is a theme to which he returns later in the interview: “My position is that there were acts of collaboration of the Jewish people with the Soviet army when the Soviet army came to Poland. It’s a fact. It’s a historical fact… If you are asking the Polish nation to apologise for the crime made in Jedwabne, you would require from the whole Jewish nation to apologise for what some Jewish Communists did in Eastern Poland.”

I ask him about an interview he gave to the ultra-nationalist Polish newspaper Nacza Polska at the time of the apology, when he is alleged to have said he would only apologise for Jedwabne when “someone from the Jewish side will apologise for what the Jews did during the Soviet occupation between 1939 and 1941, for the mass collaboration of the Jewish people with the Soviet occupier.” He claims he does not remember giving the interview. Does he recognise the words as his? “I absolutely do not recognise them. It was nine years ago.