Polish rallygoer who led chants about hanging ‘Zionists’ sentenced to 1 year in jail, an unusually stiff punishment


(JTA) — Two ultranationalists in Poland were sentenced to prison in connection with a 2016 rally that featured chants about hanging “Zionists.”

One of the participants at the rally in Bialystok was given a 12-month term — an unusually stiff punishment for such an offense in Poland — by the Criminal Tribunal in Warsaw on Wednesday, Onet reported Thursday. The court imposed a six-month suspended sentence on the other rallygoer. The defendants were not named in the Polish media.

The defendant who received the harsher sentence had led chants about how “Zionists will hang from the trees instead of leaves” at the rally, which also featured anti-Muslim chants, the court said. The chants were considered racist incitement to violence.

The court also acquitted five others charged in connection with the rally organized by the ultranationalist group ONR.

In recent years, disputes over World War II history and Holocaust restitution have soured relations between Israel and Poland, as well as Poland’s relations with Jewish groups and even the United States.

In 2018, Poland’s right-wing government passed controversial legislation that outlawed blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes, triggering a diplomatic crisis with Israel, which protested the law as limiting free speech and Holocaust research on Polish complicity.

Demands by Jewish groups that Poland offer compensation for all Jewish-owned property that was confiscated after the Holocaust further strained relations, leading to the passing of a bill last week that makes most such claims inadmissible.

That issue has fueled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric and actions in Poland in recent years.

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