A 65-year-old Israeli man has been arrested for allegedly spitting at the Polish ambassador, police said Wednesday, adding to tensions between the two countries.
Israel’s envoy to Poland Anna Azari was summoned to the Polish foreign ministry in Warsaw over the incident, Polish foreign ministry spokeswoman Ewa Suwara said.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called it a “xenophobic act of aggression” while President Andrzej Duda said it appeared to be an “anti-Polish act of hatred”.
Polish ambassador Marek Magierowski was sitting in his car on Tuesday when a man approached and “spat at him”, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Police arrested a 65-year-old from Herzliya, a city north of Tel Aviv, on Tuesday, Rosenfeld said. The suspect appeared before the Tel Aviv magistrates’ court on Wednesday, where he was ordered to remain under house arrest for another day, Rosenfeld said.
He was also banned from approaching the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv for 30 days. The alleged incident came a day after Poland canceled a visit by Israeli officials over their intention to raise the issue of the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, a matter Warsaw insists is closed.
The Polish premier condemned the “racist attack”. “Violence against diplomats or any other citizens should never be tolerated,” Morawiecki tweeted on Wednesday.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon expressed “our fullest sympathy to the ambassador and our shock at the attack.” The World Jewish Congress (WJC) called the attack “appalling” in a Tuesday statement on its website.
“This incident underscores the need for bridge-building between Jews and Poles,” WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in the statement.
According to Israel’s Yediot Aharonot daily, Magierowski was also verbally accosted by the suspect in Hebrew but did not understand anything except for the word “Pole” directed at him.
Anti-Semitic concerns regarding Poland have recently resurfaced. Last year, Warsaw passed a law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German war crimes.
The move sparked an outcry from Israel, which saw it as an attempt to ban testimonials on Polish crimes against Jews. In response, Warsaw amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.
In February, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz drew Poland’s ire by quoting late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir saying “Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk”.
In April, the World Jewish Congress condemned a Polish town after reports that residents burnt an effigy “made to look like a stereotypical Jew” in a revival of an old Easter tradition.