by Father John Pawlikowski, OSM
The presenter was a Polish sociologist named Rafael Pankowski who heads the NEVER AGAIN Organization in Poland. Since the webinar took place the day after the Polish Presidential election Pankowski's remarks were focused to a significant degree on that event as were the questions from the participants. I would like to offer a brief indication of his comments re: the recent election in which the PIS Party candidate Duda emerged victorious by a very thin margin over the Civic Platform Candidate, the Mayor of Warsaw.
1) After attacking LGBTQ+ people in the first part of the campaign Duda and his party turned to a hate attack on the Jews and their claims for restitution. Controlled Polish media attacked the Jews and their claims unceasingly. Some broadcasters on Polish State radio/television the Jews would turn non-Jewish citizens in Poland into slaves in their own country.
2) The Catholic Church largely remained silent in the face of these attacks. In fact, Radio Marya, which is technically independent of church control but supported by many bishops and clergy, was used to broadcast some of the PIS denunciations. I should note that Radio Marya has an office in the Archdiocese of Chicago and is listed in the Official Catholic Directory under the entry for the Archdiocese of. The Chicago-based outlet broadcasts some of RM's programs here in the United States. There remain some Catholic voices who are more critical voices around Karkow and Lodz, but they are low key these days.
3) The attacks against Jews by the PIS political leadership marks the first time these leaders of PIS at the highest level have gone public with such comments. Previously such statements were made at a lower level by some in the PIS coalition.
4) The hate-filled denunciation of gay people and the Jews must be seen in the context of nationalism arising in many parts of Europe. The Sputnik program of the Russian government aimed at destabilization in some thirty one countries had a minor role in the election attacks since Polish nationalists are split on their fundamental reaction to Russia.
5) There is some hope that critiques of the election may come from various European bodies although their impact will be slight. If the U.S. government would raise its voice on the situation it might have some positive effect. But that is highly unlikely given Pres. Trump's embrace at Pres. Duda at the White House.
6) FACEBOOK is a major player in this situation. It has invested heavily in Poland and young right wing Poles, especially males, use it to denounce minorities, including Jews.
7) The American Jewish Committee has submitted two official complaints against media hatred against the Jews with the Chief Rabbi Sudrich being one of the signatories.