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2018 Annual Assessment

In reaction to far-right factions joining governments across Europe (Hungary, Austria, Holland, Italy and Germany), the State of Israel issues unequivocal principled declarations but does not back those declarations with concrete diplomatic steps. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who has used anti-Semitic language more than once, was even invited to Israel, much to the dismay of the Hungarian Jewish community. For local Jewish communities, the absence of a harsh Israeli condemnation sends a message that the State of Israel cares more about its political interests than the legacy of the Holocaust or the distress of local communities.

It should be noted that ultimately, the controversial article in the legislative language of the Polish law was repealed in July 2018 under pressure from the international community. Its cancellation involved a joint declaration by the governments of Israel and Poland and a partial acceptance of the Polish narrative by Israel. As the deeper factors leading to this legislation, as described above, have yet to be resolved, it is entirely likely that similar laws will be proposed in neighboring countries. (Hungary has already witnessed major controversy over prominent Holocaust memorials, such as the moving Rakpart depiction of abandoned shoes along the Pest side of the Danube, that attributes to the Nazis atrocities committed by Hungarian fascists.)

A possible direction to formulate an alternative national narrative that could unite the citizens of the post-Communist countries without the negation of Jewish suffering would be to abandon the competition over victimhood status by declaring that both nations – the Jewish and Polish – suffered at the hands of the Nazi past. Eight decades later, it is desirable that both nations open a new chapter in their relations, one of mutual respect and cultural and economic cooperation.