Last week, just before the end of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, the Jewish family foundation that has done more than any in putting the issue of disability awareness in the communal spotlight decided to change the subject to “Polish concentration camps.” In a half-baked overreaction to the much discussed new Polish Holocaust memory law, the Ruderman Family Foundation posted a video calling for the United States to sever relations with Poland.
The law, which criminalizes claims of Poland’s culpability during the Holocaust, has been criticized by Jewish organizations, Israel, the U.S. Department of State and the French Foreign Ministry. In this space, we argued that the law goes far beyond a legitimate claim of Polish victim- hood in World War II. But practically no one has called on the United States to break relations with Poland, a stalwart NATO ally.
Until the Ruderman video. It shows men, women and children saying, “Polish Holocaust,” which is supposed to be in defiance of the law. In one scene a man stands in a bar holding a beverage while saying, “I wonder if they have beer in Polish prison.” The people filmed then say that “after 3.5 million Jews were murdered in Poland, including hundreds of thousands of children, the Poles have passed a new law.” They add, “I will go to jail,” and, “Repeal this disgraceful law now.”
The video refers to a website with a one-sentence petition in English and Hebrew that reads: “In the name of 6 million Jews, the United States must suspend relations with Poland now!”
As propaganda, the video is flatfooted. As a message of Jewish defiance, it does nothing more than shoot the Jewish people in the foot. The video falsely implies that 3.5 million Jews in Poland were murdered by the Poles. By doing so, the video is guilty of exactly what the Polish ultranationalists who passed the controversial law say they need to guard against.
The video was heavily criticized in Poland, including by Polish Jewish leaders, and was the lead story in the Polish media. In this country, David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, which has an office in Warsaw, called the video “deeply troubling and misguided.”
Fortunately, the video was removed less than a day after it was posted. But, rather than admit it had made a mistake, the Ruderman foundation touted its “hugely successful campaign that went viral internationally and among American Jews and Israelis who have signed the petition.”
We don’t know how many people signed the petition and doubt that we ever will. But as we see it, the Ruderman foundation, which has been so successful in promoting the cause of disability awareness, has demonstrated that it has little awareness or understanding of the complex enterprise of international relations.