Eunika Chojecka: Thank you for being with us. And we’re having a special guest. The founder and the president of From the Depths Foundation, Mr. Jonny Daniels is with us. Great to have you here.
Jonny Daniels: Thank you for having me.
E: Mr. Daniels, you are a special person in Poland. You are a Polish Jew. You were a parachutist in the Israeli army and an advisor of Israeli defence minister. And you were also an advisor of politicians from the USA, Israel, and Europe. You are the closest citizen of Israel to Donald Trump. Is that right?
J: Most of what you said is correct. I was an advisor to then deputy minister of defence Danny Danon. They’ve called me the closest Israeli to Donald Trump in the media, that is true. I’ve had the honour of knowing and having a relationship with president Trump for quite a few years already.
E: If there is enough time, we will talk about it, but firstly, we would like to talk about what happened in the last few days. You have a foundation which promotes building a better future for the Polish and Israeli nation. And that’s amazing. But some groups, circles, and media in Poland attach you continuously. For the past few weeks, in the social media, there has been some kind of a witch hunt against you. When you reported these attacks at the Warsaw police station, someone punctured the tires in your car. Could you tell us more about this situation?
J: First of all, to call these individuals and groups, who have been following me and writing crazy things in media, and give them such a title is ridiculous. These are nothing more than so-called lowlifes who have nothing better to do with their time.
You see, criticism is okay. It’s okay to ask questions and it’s okay to question and it’s okay to look into details and to ask ‘why?’. But, what’s unfortunate, these people started making up nonsense about myself and my children. This was a grotesque act of poor style and low-life activity. At the end of the day, this boils down to quite anti-Semitic and racist behaviour. Initially, I chose to ignore these attacks, because I don’t believe in negativity. I try to round myself and my life and my family with positive people and positive energy. I don’t want to waste my time, my God-given precious time on this Earth to spend discussing or dealing with negative people. However, the attack really became quite extreme. I receive the threats, I received all different kinds of horrible messages, anti-Semitic in nature. So I did go to the police and while I was being at the police station, my car was parked around the corner and my tires were punctured with a knife. And the police were wonderful. There’s a good system of law and rule of law here in Poland. And the police is doing a fantastic job in monitoring. Hopefully, soon I’ll be able to share more information about what happens to these people who were caught doing such an act.
Pastor Paweł Chojecki: The same kind of attacks is made against our church and television. What do you think is the aim of the people who make such things in Poland?
J: First, nice to hear you on the air, pastor. And to speak to you again. The aim of these organizations is nothing more than pure and simple hatred. When people do good things and when people do positive things, there are always negative forces that come into force. This is, unfortunately, the rule of the world and it happens wherever you are. This happens with baseless, ridiculous attacks against the president of the United States and it happened against prime minister Netanyahu, against the Israeli government. Whoever they are, there always are going to be those who attack, especially when you do something positive, those will attack you as well. There is no end of conspiracies and potential people who have a lot to gain out of Poland being viewed as an anti-Semitic country or Poles being viewed as anti-Semites. Which is also what makes it quite difficult. There are those on the extreme left, there are those on the extreme right. There’s political element involved in this as well. So at the moment, it’s very difficult for me to talk about this, because there are many things under investigation and being looked at. So, while it’s being looked at, I prefer to remain as quiet as possible.
E: As you mentioned, there are small groups in Poland, unfortunately, and they make a lot of anti-Semitic noise and make Polish people look anti-Semitic, which we are not. We think that these pro-Russian groups want to make Poland anti-Semitic. What do you think about it?
J: Absolutely, I think that it’s incredibly unfortunate that there are so many groups that have a lot to gain from Poland being viewed as anti-Semitic. But as a very proud and public Jew that has been living in Poland for almost five years now – this was the first a real anti-Semitic attack that I had on myself. I’ve never received anything, nothing was ever set on me in the street. Nothing like that has ever happened.
Poles of good will and good nature need to stand up more against these pro-Russian trolls and hate-mongers and this really is something that we’re seeing. It’s something that I’m really happy to see, amongst the attacks of the last few days and the visceral and disgusting nature of the twitter. It was really amazing to see the level of support from across the political spectrum. There were those in right-wing media and there were those in left-wing media who came out and called out these trolls and understood really what is happening here.
Whilst the aim is clearly for Poland to be viewed in a bad light, I think that Poland is doing a good job of standing up for making sure that isn’t heard. However, more does need to be done. The government, for example, should take a stronger role in terms of dealing with these trolls and not allow them to say whatever they want. Of course, there’s a freedom of speech and people should be allowed, as I said before, to criticise and ask questions. However, when it comes to flat, pure hate speech, this is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable in any country and in any nation. I’d be just as angry if this was a fringe right-wing or left-wing radio station in Israel, either attacking Jews or attacking Arabs. It’s incorrect and unfair. And we all need to fight against hate and hate speech, wherever it is. All of us were made in the image of God – Jews, Poles, Christians, Israelis, Brits, Americans. All of us were made in the image of God. And all of us need to treat each other with respect and decency.
E: I would like to ask you about the president Donald Trump. As you said, you are pro-Trump. Do you know president Trump personally? Could you tell the Poles what kind of a man Donald Trump is?
J: I’ve had an opportunity to spend quite a lot of time, one-on-one, with president Trump. I spent the time with him when he was just known as ‘Mr. Trump’, before he even really considered running to be president. I met and understood and became close to a man who was, firstly, deeply concerned with the security and safety in Israel and in the Middle East. It was something that really impressed me. When I met and spent time with Mr. Trump, it was when a lot of the time was around when the Iran deal was going on. Many issues were being discussed and dealt with. The questions which Mr. Trump was asking me were really deep and important. That, first of all, it was really impressive. Then, on another level, his general appreciation of people is also something that needs to be understood. He is a good man. With a big heart. Yes, a lot of the things that people say, are true. His attention span isn’t remarkable. And he is quick to think and quick to act. But this is also what the people of the United States voted for. This is who they wanted as a president, commander-in-chief. He’s someone who’s doing a good job as president. I, of course, think there are things he could do better. And I think he’d probably tell you that as well. So this is, really, my feeling of the man who is president Trump and his history and what he is today.
P: Let’s talk a little bit about the future. What are your plans for making the relationship between Poles and Israeli people better and what can we, Poles, do to make this relationship better?
J: My foundation is as active as ever. These petty attacks have done nothing more but have fueled me and have given me the intention and the will to work harder and to do more. I believe that Polish-Israeli relations and Polish-Jewish relations are getting better and will continue to get better. We’re seeing it. Just last summer, we saw 200,000 Israelis visiting Poland. This was the largest amount of tourists from Israel to come to Poland. These tourists were coming and visiting Poland. As I said, it was tourists. They were coming to see Poland, to shop in Poland, to enjoy themselves, to take part in the culture. I think this is one thing that often isn’t reported enough in the media. That the average citizen of Israel has good feelings towards Poland. And the average Polish citizen has good feelings towards Israel. It’s not by mistake that there are more flights from Poland to Israel than almost any other destination. Israelis are travelling to Poland, Poles and travelling to Israel. I think that we’re seeing these relationships getting closer.
We also have to talk honestly and openly from a historical perspective. We have to talk more and do more to honour and remember the righteous. But we have to be honest and truthful to the bad times as well. I think that the more time is going on, the more that we’re understanding and these relations are growing. Time is healing these relations. And the effort that organizations like mine and churches like yours and the important work that you’re doing give an understanding for both nations. And really, they get closer.
E: But do you think that the bill of Polish IPN – National History Institute – didn’t destroy the Polish-Israeli relations?
J: The IPN law was incredibly harmful to Polish-Israeli relations. This was truly horrendous and harmful. I think that this is what caused and created this wave that we’re seeing now of anti-Semitism what we haven’t seen. It also caused and created the amount of anti-Polonism that we saw as well. A massive amount of hatred that we saw from the Israeli and Jewish side that was really shocking and surprising to myself. This is something that we’re seeing a lot of now, as a result of this law which was not a good idea, which was pressed. I don’t want to speculate, why and how all of this happened, but it clearly was not a good thing for Poland, it was not a good thing for Israel, it was not a good thing for our relations, it was not a good thing for Polish international relations. It was just bad and not smart.
E: You said that it was a mistake of minister Partyk Jaki. He was behind this law.
J: Absolutely. The timing was horrendous, the fact that it wasn’t understood was horrendous. At the end of the day, there is truth behind what he was trying to do. There are too many people who mistakenly call the concentration camps Polish. These were not Polish by any means. The only connection to Poland was the fact that they were built on the occupied Polish land. These were German Nazi camps. We all should now that and we should all say it. However, there’s a way to explain that as well. And by placing a law that isn’t necessarily isn’t understood internationally, which it wasn’t. Without any international explanation, it brings a situation, where people truly just don’t understand. This is literally what happened here. It was most definitely the mistake of deputy minister Jaki. Whoever advised him to do so was unadvised. The whole thing was poorly managed.
E: Let’s go back to your foundation. It’s very interesting and very impressive what you’re doing to promote Poland as a friendly country for other nations, for Jews. Why did you found the foundation From the Depths? Why do you promote Poland and why are you so devoted to this project?
J: Because I believe this is a right thing to do. It’s not much more complicated than that. I came to Poland for the first time like most other Jews with a deep mistrust and no stronger liking of Poland. But the more time I spend here and the more people I meet, the more I know how Polish people are, how open and decent their society is. And how much history we share. This really gave me the opportunity to understand and to see that this is a misunderstood country, these are the misunderstood people. And the relations between Poles and Jews are misunderstood as well. Again, of course, there were bad times and we have to talk about them. But, you know, the majority focuses mainly on the bad. There is also good to be focused on as well. And really this is what spurred me to do this and to step forward and take more of an active role in Polish-Jewish relations. Also, to be frank, there was no one else from all the political camp who was bothered by this. Polish-Jewish relations was the monopoly of the left wing, who had their aims and their goals, from the Jewish side and from the Polish side. From the right wing, it was just never dealt with. Poland is the friend of the state of Israel. The Polish people and the Polish governments, whether it be Platforma or PiS, have been a constant supporter of the state of Israel, have stood beside the state of Israel in the United Nations and the EU. This is why these relations are so important for both of us.
E: I remember we were talking in the Go Against the Tide TV about you about a year ago when you were in Hollywood. We were talking about some films which reveal true Polish history of Poles who helped Jewish people during the World War II. We just want to thank you for what you’re doing in Poland and all over the world.
P: And we are waiting for another film, not about this dark period of the World War II, but from our Golden Age when the Polish and Jewish people lived in our Republic in peace and prosperity.
J: Absolutely. At the end of the day, people often ask me what’s the best way to promote Poland. And the truth is, the best way to promote Poland is by bringing people here. Because you have a beautiful country. Poland is a beautiful country with beautiful people, with a beautiful culture, so much to show and so much to do from the mountains in the South to the lakes in the North. There’s so much to be done here, in Poland – to see and to visit and to do.
Again, thank you for having me. Hopefully, we can do this more often.
God bless you.
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See an interview with Jonny Daniels on Go Against the Tide TV (Telewizja Go Pod Prąd), 18/09/2018