(JTA) — A Polish right-wing lawmaker defended his meeting in Lebanon with leaders of Hezbollah, who gave him a medal.
Paweł Skutecki of the anti-establishment Kukiz’15 party met on Monday with Mohammad Raad, the head of the parliamentary faction representing the Shiite militia in the Lebanese lower house.
Dismissing critics who said Hezbollah was a terrorist group with an anti-Semitic agenda, Skutecki said of Raad, “He is a respected lawmaker, head of the Hezbollah group, with whom the world’s most important leaders meet.” Skutecki said the critics were “puppets of puppets operated by puppeteers.”
Klaudia Klimek, a political activist and president of the Krakow branch of the TSKZ Jewish cultural group, suggested that Skutecki’s party, which the Austrian Der Standard newspaper has called “radical nationalist,” was a provocation aimed at Israel and Jews in the debate about rhetoric on the Holocaust in Poland.
“I cannot imagine that this visit and a photo with a comment was an act of lack of knowledge or stupidity,” she told JTA. Skutecki’s party was a “very strong voice,” she added, supporting the passing last month of a law criminalizing blaming Poland for Nazi crimes.
The law triggered a diplomatic row with Israel amid allegations by Jewish groups and politicians that the legislation is designed to whitewash the actions of thousands of Poles who betrayed Jews to the Nazis.
Skutecki and other politicians, Klimek said, are using the law to worsen Polish-Jewish and Polish-Ukrainian relations.
On Facebook, Skutecki described his meeting with Raad and other Hezbollah leaders as “extremely positive” and an opportunity to “confront myths with reality.” The exchange featured “a lot of concrete declarations, a lot of good chemistry.” The post included a photo of three men and of Skutecki standing next to Raad, who is holding a medal before giving it to Skutecki.
In 2011, Raad called Jeffrey David Feltman, a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, who is Jewish, a “spy.” In 2001, Hezbollah’s supreme leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said during a speech: “If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
Hezbollah is blacklisted as a terrorist entity by the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and several other countries. The European Union considers only its military wing to be a terrorist group.