By Stefan J. Bos, Vatican News Correspondent
WARSAW/BUDAPEST - Israel has condemned a vote by Polish legislators to regulate Holocaust speech. The announcement came after Poland's Senate backed controversial legislation about the mass killings of millions of Jews, and others the Nazi's didn't like, during the Second World War.
But the measure sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel and demands from the United States for a reconsideration of the bill because it allegedly threatens freedom of speech.
The law proposed by Poland's ruling conservative party calls for up to three years imprisonment for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or people.
It exempts artistic and research work.
Saying "the bill defends Poland's good name", Polish Senators voted early Thursday 57 to 23 to back the bill with two abstentions.
It was already approved by the lower house last week.
President backs law
The bill still requires approval from President Andrzej Duda, who supports it. Israel's Foreign Ministry has warned that Israel "opposes categorically" the vote in the Polish Senate and that it views "with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth."
No law, it added, "will change the facts." Israel claims the move is an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.
Several rights activists and historians also worry that it could be used to stifle research and debate.
Supporters of the bill say the legislation is in response to cases in recent years of foreign media using the expression “Polish death camps” to describe Auschwitz and other Nazi-run camps.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama used the phrase in 2012, prompting outrage in Poland.