Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Just how bad are things getting for minorities in Poland?

MinorThe Daily Telegraph has a rather alarming quote today by Mark Edelman, 87, the oldest surviving member of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto uprising of 1943. Commenting on what he sees as the proto-fascist government coalition led by Law and Justice (PiS), he warned, ominously:

“If we want to save Poland, my advice would be to take up the knife and hit them where it hurts."

A rather silly thing to say – but it shows how bad things have got in some people’s eyes.

The remark comes after revelations in the Polish press that the new, government appointed vice chairman of public television, TVP, had once published a magazine (pictured - at the bottom you can see the name of the editor) calling for the expulsion of Jews from Poland. A photo was also published of Piotr Farfal, a former skinhead, giving a Nazi salute.

He claims that he was only waving at someone he was saying hello to. In one article he wrote, aged 18: "We won't tolerate cowards, traitors and jews.".

He obviously had a troubled youth. Now he is a lawyer. Maybe he grew up a little?


Poland a proto-fascist state? Poland’s chief rabbi, Micheal Schudrich, - who was attacked in the street when Pope Benedict was visiting Poland in May - doesn’t think so. After the New York Times wrote an article under the headline Poland's Bigoted Government Schudrich ran to the government’s rescue and fired off an email to the NYT editors:

‘President Kaczynski invited me to the Presidential Palace, where he reiterated his condemnation of anti-Semitism and the important place that the re-emerging Jewish community of Poland has in today's society.

Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga sent me a letter vowing actively to fight anti-Semitism. The mayor of Lodz, Jerzy Kropiwnicki, called me with the same sense of outrage.

There are many challenges facing Poland's new coalition. In this instance, it is not the case that "the rest of the government's actions give a wink to official bigotry."

But, crucially, Schudrich goes on:

‘Tellingly, there was no response from the League of Polish Families [the deputy chairman of TVP's party], the ultranationalist anti-Semitic party recently invited into the governing coalition. ‘

We have a government coalition made up of traditional conservatives. Some of them are very dodgy indeed. But likening Poland to a 1930s proto-fascist state, as Edelman seems to, misses the point that it is not the 1930s any longer. It’s a different world now and age of dictatorships and all that accompanies them has ended.

What is worrying, however, is the number of young people who are leaving and going to live in the UK, Ireland...anywhere. These are progressively minded people, almost by definition. That further weakens an already weak and ineffective liberal opposition.

So no fascist state, but I’m afraid the coalition government has been giving more than just a wink to bigotry.ities disagree among themselves.

Was blackmail involved in the dismissal of the Polish Minister of Finance?

Warsaw, Poland June 25, 2006 - This past week in Poland saw the dismissal of the Minister of Finance, Zyta Gilowska, as a result of charges being lodged against her with the vetting court. Gilowska has taken the offensive on this matter and said that she will not let this lay. She has gone public with her case and is getting a great deal of attention in Poland.

Currently there are many claims and counterclaims being made and the facts are not yet firm. But there is enough information out there to start getting a sense of what is going on. What follows is an attempt to lay out the current status as best as possible.

On its face the case seems very simple. She is accused of lying on a vetting statement. Background information can be seen at this link called Gilowska Dismissed.

But as Gilowska presents the case, she claims that there was political blackmail involved. And she claims that it may be due to her attempts to close some loopholes in the tax law that allow for money laundering and other illegal activities. In short, she says that she crossed the fuel Mafia and that they are probably involved in her dismissal.

Her dismissal is based on some reports in her file that was kept by the Polish secret services. The reports were filed by the husband of her neighbor "Ula". Sources say that these reports do not contain to signature of Zyta Gilowska.

Gilowska says that in January, 2006, apparently as part of the vetting process prior to her appointment as Minister of Finance, she met with the vetting spokesman and he questioned her about her activities in 1987 to 1989 time period which were covered by the reports. At that time he did not indicate that he had any reports on her.

Her comments about this discussion raise a few questions.

Why did the vetting spokesman question her about her activities in 1987 to 1989? Did he have the reports in his possession at that time?

If he had the reports in his possession at that time, did he tell anyone about them? Did he tell the Prime Minister? Did he tell the Leader of the Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski?

If he did not tell either the Prime Minister or Jaroslaw Kaczynski, why did he not tell them?

If the reports were not important enough to follow up on then, what made them so important to be followed up on months after Zyta Gilowska was in office?

Did the reports actually exist at that time? Were the records created after the January interview and inserted in Zyta Gilowska ' s file?

If the reports actually existed and he did not know of them ,how did he find them later?

Did Gilowska's neighbor's husband actually write the reports or did someone write them in his name and insert them in the file?

After her appointment as Minister of Finance Zyta Gilowska aggressively attempted to reform the tax system. She feels that her attempts at the reform of the tax system prompted people to move against her and that these charges are part of a plan to have her resign from office.

According to Gilowska, chief first heard of the vetting problem from the Prime Minister who told her that the vetting spokesman had said there was something amiss with her vetting statement. Through a series of communications and conversations with the vetting spokesman she says she attempted to get information about the charges against her and copies of the evidence against her.

She claimed that during this time there was blackmail involved in an attempt to get her to resign. She claims that each day the charges were threatened to be filed against her but they were delayed as part of the process of attempting to force her to resign. But she said that she would not resign because he did not want to give in to their pressure.

It is currently unclear as to exactly what the black male was and how it was presented to her.

She claims that she asked to be able to see the evidence but the prosecutors said that she could see it in court and only if the court allowed her to. It may be that the court would not even allow her to see the evidence against. So currently she has no idea about what is contained in the documents filed by a Secret Service agent and which documents she never signed.

Gilowska has found out that the source of the documents is a friend whose husband was a Secret Service agent. On public television Gilowska said, "Ula! What is your husband doing to me? "

Gilowska's public questioning of "Ula" is sure to bring severe pressure upon "Ula" and her husband. Now that he has been revealed as a Secret Service agent there are liable to be repercussions from neighbors, employers. The are sure to get a large number of phone calls from reporters who are interested in getting background information. Maybe the pressure will result in more information coming out.

Civic Platform opposition leader Donald Tusk has said that this is part of the political drama that has become a routine under the current government. He does not se

em to discount the involvement of the ruling government party Law and Justice or members of that party.

Gilowska has asked for the assistance of the Polish media to get this case to move forward. Her fear is that if the media does not push it the case will lay in the courts for years and she will not be able to clear her name until long after people have forgotten the issue.

The government has said that it will look into the claims of blackmail.