WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based Jewish rights group, has called on Poland's new prime minister to reconsider the appointment of the country's new defense minister unless he publicly recants an anti-Jewish remark from 13 years ago.
The defense minister-designate, Antoni Macierewicz, said through a spokesman that his remarks were misinterpreted and that he condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms.
The ADL's director, Jonathan Greenblatt, wrote earlier this week to Beata Szydlo, who will be sworn in as prime minister on Monday, to protest the 2002 remark.
Macierewicz was asked in 2002 in an interview with the Catholic station Radio Maryja about his views on the "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an anti-Semitic text which purports to be a Jewish plan for world domination but which has been proven to be a fabrication by Russia's czarist police.
Macierewicz responded: "I want to say that I am not a specialist on this, and so I can't resolve this, but experience, Polish experience, especially in recent years, shows that there are such groups in Jewish circles who think in a cunning way and act deliberately to the detriment of, for example, Poland. I have no doubt there."
The quote comes from a transcript of the interview provided to the AP by the Polish anti-racism watchdog Never Again.
A spokesman for Macierewicz, Bartlomiej Misiewicz, issued a statement saying Macierewicz referred only to "some Jewish groups were attacking Poland at the time."
"Minister Antoni Macierewicz clearly condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms," he added.
The Anti-Defamation League said Macierewicz was unfit to be in government.
"While the statement was made many years ago, it indicates profound and virulent anti-Semitism," Greenblatt said in the letter, which was made available to The Associated Press on Friday.
However, Anna Chipczynska, president of Warsaw's Jewish community, said "the latest statement by Mr. Macierewicz denouncing all forms of anti-Semitism could be a positive signal that the new Polish government will stand strongly against manifestations of hatred toward Jews."
Macierewicz is perhaps the most controversial member of the new government. He is a leading proponent of claims that the plane crash in Russia in 2010 that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski was an assassination. Polish and Russian state investigations have both determined it was an accident.