Israel says 'regrets' Polish burning of Judas effigy

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Israel on Wednesday said it regretted the "anti-Semitic" burning of an effigy of Judas in a Polish town last week, but expressed appreciation for authorities' reaction.

Polish media reports showed photos and video footage of residents, including children, of the southeastern town of Pruchnik using sticks to beat an effigy of Judas on Good Friday.

The figure, which had sidelocks and a large nose, was then beheaded, set on fire and tossed into a river, according to the reports.

"We regret the anti-Semitic incident in the village of Pruchnik during the festival of Easter, but are encouraged by the firm reaction by the Polish church, authorities and senior officials in Poland's government," a statement from Israel's foreign ministry said.

The World Jewish Congress has also condemned the Polish town's burning of the effigy it said was "made to look like a stereotypical Jew".

Polish police have looked into the incident while Polish home affairs minister Joachim Brudzinski and the Polish Catholic Church have condemned it.

The Easter ritual known as "Judgment over Judas" dates back to the 18th century and continued to be regularly performed until the Second World War.

The tradition had been largely abandoned, with only a couple of villages continuing it.

Anti-Semitic concerns regarding Poland have recently resurfaced.

Last year, Warsaw passed a law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German war crimes.

The move sparked an outcry from Israel, which saw it as an attempt to ban testimonials on Polish crimes against Jews. In response, Warsaw amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.

In February, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz drew Poland's ire by quoting late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir saying "Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk".