The Power Of A President’s Words, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  May 30 2012 @ 12:22pm

Frum flinches:

The U.S. has had such a comparatively happy history that it's hard to think of a domestic analogy that would capture what Poles feel when the worst crimes of their worst oppressors are attributed—not to the authors—but to them. "The Hawaiian sneak attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor" is a pathetically inadequate approximation, but at least it gets the grammar of the insult.

Tomasky nods, labelling it "the first time [Obama]'s ever embarrassed me as president." Ari Kohen pushes back:

Approximately 3 million Polish Jews — roughly 90% of the country’s Jewish population — were murdered by the Nazis. The Nazi killing machine was the most effective in Poland of all the occupied countries and it’s pretty clear that the anti-Semitism behind the mass extermination of Jews wasn’t limited to the occupying forces. Here’s just one quick example, from an article published in 2008

Gross suggests that being a direct witness to Nazi atrocities — Jews from all over Europe were herded to concentration camps in Poland — unleashed a brutal anti-semitism in the country that had for almost nine centuries been home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities. Gross provides extensive evidence of how many Poles chased away or killed Jewish Holocaust survivors, often out of fear that returning Jews would reclaim their property that had, during the occupation, been taken over by other Poles.

I’m sure that the Polish people have thought at great length about these matters in the years since the article was written and I’m sure they’ve confronted the legacy of anti-Semitism in their country. If not, it would be really irresponsible for the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to suggest, as they seem to be doing here, that the killing of Jews in Poland had nothing whatsoever to do with Poles.