UKMW prompts Indy to correct Robert Fisk’s claim on Nazi-confiscated Jewish properties in Poland

Robert Fisk’s June 14th column at the Independent (“I spoke to Palestinians who still hold the keys to homes they fled decades ago – many are still determined to return”) includes the following claim:

“Polish law gives former Jewish citizens the right to take back Nazi-confiscated property.”

The claim is important, because it’s meant to contrast this alleged Jewish ‘right’ with the failure of Israel to grant similar rights to Palestinians who lost property during the 1948 War.

However, Fisk is wrong. 

The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), a group which “negotiates with national governments in Eastern and Central Europe for the return of Jewish communal property and heirless private property and the payment of full compensation in cases where restitution is not possible”, writes the following about Poland:

Poland is the only major country in the former Soviet bloc that has taken no action to return private property confiscated by the Nazis or nationalized by the Communist regime.”

Further, a recent New York Times article highlights how attempts by heirs of confiscated Jewish property, through private lawsuits in Polish courts, to get financial restitution take years and have proven largely unsuccessful.  The article notes that Poland is currently considering restitution legislation but, even if passed, would only allow for financial compensation, and would include onerous requirements to prove eligibility – like proof of Polish citizenship. Such requirements, said the chairman of the WJRO, would “exclude virtually all Holocaust survivors.” 

There’s no proposal being considered which would allow Jews to actually reclaim or “take back Nazi-confiscated property.”

We contacted Indy editors regarding the claim, and, after two weeks, they eventually upheld our complaint and revised the sentence to more accurately note that though Jewish citizens of Poland may “seek” restitution for Nazi-confiscated property in the courts, they do not have the right to take back the actual property, as Fisk claims.

Here’s the revised sentence: 

Polish law gives former Jewish citizens the right to seek restitution for Nazi-confiscated property.

Though the correction is a substantive one, we should note that it’s still a bit misleading, as it implies that Jews have a special “right” to seek restitution. They do not. Their right to sue is the same right granted to all Polish citizens.

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9 replies »

  1. Moreover, when it comes to Fisk’s column, reader comments are always disabled. Fisk does not like to be fisked.

  2. The correction would have been even more accurate had it characterized the “right of restitution” as being “limited”. That said, to compare the situation of Jews deprived of their property in the Holocaust to that of the Palestinian Arabs is historically illiterate and morally obtuse. A better comparison would be between Jews losing property during the Holocaust and Jews losing property as a result of discriminatory laws passed in Arab countries that sought to steal their property and force them out after Israel’s establishment. Even then, the comparison is a bit of a stretch given the singularity of the Holocaust. It is, nonetheless, closer to the mark.

  3. “Polish law gives former Jewish citizens the right to seek restitution for Nazi-confiscated property.”

    And Israel extended 3 peace offers between the years 2000-2008 so that the Palestinians can achieve their own autonomy.

    I’m not sure what Fisk’s problem is here other than what it always is: Judaic autonomy. It seems Fisk is one of those fellows who think that Jews don’t deserve peace on this planet because, well, Yasser was such a loveable goof, I guess.

  4. Palestinians don’t understand what is peace. They will never agree to peace. They teach their children that death is more then life. Their ultimate goal is to die for the course. They live a lie and die for a lie. They live to destroy Israel but in the end they will destroy themselves .

    The sad truth is that Arafat like his corrupt terrorist successor Abbas have never been interested in presiding over the 23rd Arab state, so much as destroying the only Jewish one.
    Let them rot in their cesspool of hate, mediocrity and misogyny.

    Fatah hosts pathetic rally in Ramallah against peace deal

  5. How Fisk made up the Jenin massacre hoax in 2002.

    Of course, corrections and clarifications have never been a feature of Fisk’s reporting on Israel. Most notoriously, he has never properly repudiated the false claims made in his April 2002 articles on the Battle of Jenin in which, despite being in California at the time, he described the “stench of death wafting out from the Palestinian city” and accused “Israel’s undisciplined soldiery” of “running amok,” massacring “hundreds” and concealing the evidence from the world.

    Fisk, at first, defended himself by claiming that he never actually described Jenin as a ‘massacre’ and, to be fair to him, this was true. But in writing of “the evidence of mass killings,” the “hundreds of corpses — some of which disappeared, some of which appear to have been secretly buried” and of an Israeli army “that has not yet finished filling the mass graves of Jenin,” he left no room for doubt as to the impression of events that he wanted to leave.

    He then attempted to shift to blame for the ‘massacre’ rumour onto Israel, asserting that it was IDF officer, Ron Kitrey, who first spoke of “apparently hundreds” of dead, conveniently ignoring the fact that Kitrey quickly clarified that he was referring to “casualties – those killed or wounded” rather than solely to the number of dead. Today, Fisk defends his second-hand story by arguing that the 52 Palestinian deaths (38 of them terrorist combatants) actually constituted a massacre.

    Fisk’s unwillingness to acknowledge his errors is unfortunate given the frequency with which what he calls the “old Fisk prediction machine” gets things so wrong.