Poland’s President Andrzej Duda approved a law on Saturday, August 14, that will effectively prevent future restitution to the heirs of property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust, defying strong opposition from Israel and the United States.
The law sets a 30-year time limit on challenges to property confiscations, which would mean that pending proceedings involving Communist-era property seizures would be discontinued and dismissed. It affects Polish, Jewish and other property claims that contest earlier rulings by Polish courts.
On Sunday, Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) equated the new Polish restitution law to Israel’s Anti-Palestinian Absentee Property Law. “The Polish Robbery Law is a racist and abominable law, just like the Absentee Property Law that legalizes the theft of Palestinian property by Jews. The just and human thing to do is to throw these two laws in the dustbin of history and strive for recognition and compensation,” Cassif wrote in a tweet.
In 1950, the Knesset passed the “Absentees Property Law,” which declared that any property situated within the post-war boundaries of Israel and owned by an Arab who had left the country between November 29, 1947 and May 19, 1948, or by a Palestinian who went abroad or to an area of Palestine held by hostile forces up to September 1, 1948, lost all rights to that property.
The law appointed a Custodianship Council for Absentees’ Property, whose president was to be known as the custodian of absentees’ property. It then declared that “every right an absentee had in any property shall pass automatically to the custodian at the time of the vesting of the property; and the status of the custodian shall be the same as was that of the owner of the property.” In other words, the law stated that all property belonging to “absentee” owners was irretrievably lost to them.
Cassif was deeply involved in occupied Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood struggle in occupied East Jerusalem and regularly protested against the government’s intention to evict its Palestinian residents. Because of Israeli legislation, the Jewish landowners could recover their land once East Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, but the Palestinian landowners could not do the same in West Jerusalem, making the law blatantly discriminatory.