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Polish Senate backs controversial Holocaust speech law; Israel, US irked

The bill calls for up to three years in prison for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or people

AP | PTI  |  Warsaw 

Andrzej Duda, Poland
Andrzej Duda, President of Poland

Poland's has backed legislation regulating Holocaust speech, a move that has already strained relations with both and the

The bill proposed by Poland's ruling and voted for early Thursday calls for up to three years in prison for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi to the Polish state or people.

Though the bill exempts artistic and research work, it has raised concerns that the Polish state will decide itself what it considers to be facts. The vote has already sparked a diplomatic dispute with and drawn calls from the for a reconsideration.

Senators voted 57 to 23 in favor of the bill with two abstentions. To become law, the bill requires approval from , who supports it.

Though suggested had been consulted on the bill and voiced no objections, many in Israel have argued that the move is an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during War II.

Halina Birenbaum, a Holocaust survivor and acclaimed Israeli author, called the new law "madness," telling Israel's it was "ludicrous and disproportionate to what actually happened to Jews there."

Birenbaum, a member of the Auschwitz Committee, said she was concerned the "might arrest me there for what I'm saying now."

And Israeli said the law constituted "a denial of Poland's part in the Holocaust of the Jews." He called on to immediately recall Israel's to for consultation.

"In the balance between diplomatic considerations and moral considerations, there must be a clear decision: perpetuating the memory of the victims of the Holocaust above any other consideration."

Working groups in and Israel are to start discussing the issue this week, although it was not clear what effect it could have on the bill.

Just hours before the Senate's vote, the U.S. asked to rethink the proposed legislation saying it could "undermine free speech and academic discourse."

State Department voiced concern about the "repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland's strategic interests and relationships including with the and Israel.

First Published: Thu, February 01 2018. 15:40 IST