Clinton: Walesa’s Reaction to Anti-semitism Was Too Slow

In a letter to the World Jewish Congress, President Clinton has berated Polish President Lech Walesa for taking too long to condemn anti-Semitism following offensive remarks made by his Catholic priest.

“I find Father [Henryk] Jankowski’s words to be vile and deplorable,” he president wrote to Edgar Bronfman, WJC president. “I was disheartened by the length of time it took President Walesa to issue a reaction condemning anti- Semitism.”

In a June sermon that Walesa attended, Jankowski blamed the Jews for starting World War II and equated the Jewish Star of David with the Nazi swastika and the Communist hammer and sickle.

Jankowski later said, “Like all other people, Jews happen to do unbecoming things in public life just as they happen to do very noble things indeed. I am talking chiefly about banking and finance circles.”

After a week of silence, public pressure both at home and abroad forced Walesa to issue a statement saying that “anti-Semitism [is] despicable” and that he would not tolerate it.

In his statement, Walesa reiterated his respect for Jews and distanced himself from his former Solidarity union ally. But he fell short of satisfying his critics by not condemning Jankowski directly.

Clinton’s letter was a response to a June 22 letter from Bronfman urging the president to speak out on the issue at a June 26 meeting with Walesa in San Francisco.

Clinton did raise the issue of anti-Semitism at the California meeting. In his July 5 letter to Bronfman, the president said, “I stressed that anti-Semitism has no place in the civilized community and that I looked to him [Walesa] to set an example.”

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