WARSAW: Polish activists on Wednesday submitted a nationwide petition for the government to immediately expel the Israeli ambassador over war crimes in Gaza.

Protests against Israel’s bombardment of the Palestinian enclave have been a regular occurrence in Poland since the beginning of the onslaught in October.

One of the main groups organizing the rallies and meetings to extend political pressure, and bring Poles closer to Palestinian history and culture, is the initiative Wschod — a movement of young activists dedicated to social justice.

Wschod’s petition to expel the Israeli envoy, Yacov Livne, from Poland, was signed by 7,931 people as of Wednesday.

“I believe that the petition is an important signal to the Polish government from the Polish people,” Zofia Hecht, a member of Wschod, told Arab News as the activists submitted the petition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw.

“There is a large group of people who really do not agree with what Israel is doing to Palestinians, and that we do not agree to normalize relations with such a terrorist entity that is Israel.”

Poland recognizes Palestinian statehood and has voted in favor of the UN’s recent resolutions to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and to recognize backing Palestine’s bid for permanent membership status.

A close ally of the US, the Polish government has avoided vocal criticism of Tel Aviv and its war on Gaza, where Israeli forces have over the past seven months killed at least 35,000 people — a large majority women and children — and injured 80,000 more.

UN agencies and experts have repeatedly accused Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. The International Court of Justice in January also found it plausible that Tel Aviv’s actions in the enclave could amount to genocide.

“We think that the previous actions taken by the Polish government to prevent the Israeli genocide in Gaza were not sufficient,” said Emil Al-Khawaldeh, Wschod’s Palestine campaign coordinator.

“We expect the Polish government to at least respond to our petition signed by almost 8,000 people, and to meet our demands to expel the Israeli ambassador.”

The petition was created when Poles began to pay more attention to Gaza after the killing of a Polish national, Damian Sobol, who was one of the seven World Central Kitchen aid workers targeted and killed by Israeli troops in early April.

“In April, when Israel killed a Polish citizen, the Israeli ambassador took to Twitter to publish accusations of antisemitism,” Al-Khawaldeh said, citing Livne’s posts, which included labeling a Polish parliament deputy speaker as an “antisemite” for publicly charging Israel with war crimes.

“Until now, the Israeli ambassador has neither apologized for his own words nor, on behalf of the state of Israel, for murdering a Polish citizen,” he added.

Wschod’s petition to the government says that “there is no place” in Poland for an ambassador of a “state committing genocide” and demands that he be “immediately” expelled.

“It is absurd that in a country historically affected by genocide, hatred and hostility, we allow the holding of office by a person who represents the government of a country committing war crimes against innocent Palestinian civilians,” it reads.

About 6 million Polish citizens, including 3 million Polish Jews, were killed by German forces during the invasion and occupation of Poland in the Second World War. The occupation policies have been recognized in Europe as a genocide.

Eight decades later, as Poles unite and take to the streets to prevent a genocide of another people, Al-Khawaldeh, who is Polish Palestinian, and Hecht, who is Jewish, said that they have faced accusations of antisemitism.

The accusations regularly come from the Israeli ambassador, who, in a radio interview in November, went as far as to compare the Polish peace activists to Nazis.

“We’ve been holding peaceful marches in Warsaw and there’s been no single security incident. But in November, the Israeli ambassador compared the marches to Nazi rallies … he compared us with the Nazi Germany of the 1930s,” Al-Khawaldeh said.

“Polish Jews are also protesting with us. They are organizing protests in Poland, peaceful protests, they are also having wonderful speeches against Israeli war crimes, against Israeli genocide in Gaza. This accusation is absurd.”

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