Archive/File: walesa-raps-antisemitism (c) Reuter, June 20, 1995 Poland's Walesa raps anti-Semitism in priest row By Anthony Barker WARSAW, June 20 (Reuter) - Polish President Lech Walesa, reacting to a growing outcry over remarks about Jews in a sermon by his parish priest, said on Tuesday that anti-Semitism was despicable and he would never tolerate it. "I am convinced that all manifestations of anti-Semitism, both in Poland and around the world, should be met with general contempt and condemnation," Walesa said in a statement issued by his press office. PAP news agency reported that Walesa also assured Israel parliament Speaker Shevach Weiss, who telephoned him over the issue, that "so long as I am president I will not allow manifestations of anti-Semitism in Poland." At a Mass attended by Walesa earlier this month, Catholic priest Henryk Jankowski equated the Jewish star of David symbol with the Nazi swastika and the Communist hammer and sickle. Jankowski also urged Poles to keep people who secretly owe allegiance to Israel or Russia out of their governments -- apparently echoing a view held by some extreme right-wingers that Jews exert a sinister influence on Polish administrations. Spokesmen of Poland's few thousand Jews expressed concern when Walesa did not quickly distance himself from the remarks. The sermon unleashed a wave of criticism from other public figures and senior churchmen, including the priest's superior, Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski of Gdansk. Walesa initially declined to comment, then appeared to defend the controversial priest, once his close ally in the Solidarity movement's pre-1989 battle against communist rule. "I have known Father Henryk Jankowski for a long time, I consider him my friend and I know one thing: he is no anti-Semite," Walesa told state television at the weekend, adding that the sermon may have been misinterpreted. In his Tuesday statement, however, Walesa said the sermon had aroused public unease over Polish-Jewish relations and a clear statement of Poland's views was needed. He said he had worked to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust and promote good relations with Jews and with Israel. Most of Poland's three million Jews were murdered by Nazi occupation forces during World War Two and thousands of survivors left during an anti-Jewish campaign mounted by a nationalist faction of the ruling Communist Party in 1968. "The memory lives of the terrible crime to which, during the Second World War, millions of sons and daughters of the Jewish nation fell victim," Walesa said. "As a Pole and a Christian I regard the Star of David as a great symbol of faith and the Jewish community, which should be surrounded by respect," Walesa's statement said. A Jewish Student Union in the city of Wroclaw plans to take Jankowski to court and the justice ministry has said such offences should be punished. Jankowski has remained unrepentant. On Sunday, he told his congregation that many Jews acted as if they were above criticism and labelled all critics as anti-Semites. He has also issued a statement saying the greed of some Jewish financiers had been responsible for much human misery and had led to the growth of communism and World War Two. PAP said Israel had on Tuesday forwarded a protest to Walesa through its embassy over the lack of official action.
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