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HomeNewsWorld NewsFar-right Polish lawmaker stokes outrage for blasting menorah with fire extinguisher: 'absolutely...

Far-right Polish lawmaker stokes outrage for blasting menorah with fire extinguisher: ‘absolutely scandalous’

A far-right lawmaker in Poland ignited outrage among all major political forces Tuesday after blasting a lighted menorah with a fire extinguisher.

Grzegorz Braun, one of Poland’s most controversial lawmakers in parliament, can be seen extinguishing the candles on a menorah in the parliament building as a new pro-EU government was beginning its work. A cloud of smoke, haze and white powder filled the area.

Lawmakers were quick to denounce Braun’s actions, saying there would be no tolerance for antisemitic behavior in the parliament.

The speaker of the parliament, Szymon Holownia, called the act “absolutely scandalous” and excluded Braun from the day’s parliamentary session, expressing hopes that “he will not return soon.” He said he was reporting him to prosecutors.

The parliament also slapped the highest possible financial penalty on Braun, forcing him to lose half of three months of his salary and per diems for half a year.

“Poland is home to all religions,” Holownia said.

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The incident disrupted an important day in Poland’s parliament, when the newly elected Prime Minister Donald Tusk gave his inaugural speech. Tusk strongly condemned Braun’s actions, calling them “unacceptable.”

“[T]his must never happen again. This is a disgrace,” he said.

The incident delayed a vote of confidence in his government, and even the parliamentary group of Braun’s party condemned his behavior.

U.S. Ambassador Mark Brzezinski tweeted: “I am outraged by the nasty anti-Semitic act committed today by one of the Polish members of parliament.”

The incident was also denounced by Poland’s Catholic Church.

“I am ashamed and I apologize to the whole Jewish community in Poland,” tweeted Cardinal Grzegorz Rys, the who leads a committee for dialogue with Judaism.

Braun, a pro-Russian member of the Confederation party, has in the past falsely claimed that there is a plot to turn Poland into a “Jewish state” and has called for homosexuality to be criminalized.

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Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler, who led the Hanukkah ceremony, told The Associated Press the celebration took place peacefully and had just ended when suddenly chaos broke out.

People begged Braun to stop and a woman, a member of the Jewish community, tried to stop him. Kickback smoke from the extinguisher went into her face and she needed medical attention afterward. 

Stambler, a rabbi for the Chabad community, said that it felt like Braun wanted to disrupt a day when many people were happy after Tusk was elected.

“Somebody was trying to destroy it,” Stambler said. “And I think the impact is the opposite. Now there will be even more awareness of how much tolerance is needed, how it is important.”

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