Thursday, December 25, 2003
President Refuses to Sign Legislation Outlawing
Criticism of Jews
by Jeff Hook
RECENTLY, Jews living in Hungary
were able to push through a law, adopted earlier
this month by parliament, stipulating that any
person who publicly expresses hatred toward Jews
could face three years in prison.
And, someone who publicly insults a Jew could be
found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to up
to two years of imprisonment.
The Jews were very disappointed that the law was
accepted by only a slim majority of just four votes
with 184 parliamentarians saying yes, while 180
said no. Now, in a surprise development, President
Ferenc Madl said he refuses to sign the hate
speech legislation because the bill could "restrict
freedom to a greater extent than is
The legislation came after a series of so-called
- Last month an appeals cou! rt overturned an
18-month prison sentence against Lorant
Hegedus, a former vice president of the
Nationalist Hungarian-Justice Party,
MIÉP. In an article published last year
he had urged Hungarian society to "segregate
Jews before they segregate you."
- Earlier this year a prominent lawyer
representing White racialists in a trial asked
the presiding judge whether she was Jewish.
- And in Budapest, a soccer team owned by a
Jewish businessman heard rival fans chant, "The
train is leaving for Auschwitz." Fans shouted
other anti-Jewish slogans as well, and verbally
assaulted journalists and television crews whom
they accused of being Jews.
The foreign relations director of the Federation
of Jewish Communities in Hungary, Ernö
Lazarovits, said he was "shocked about the
president's decision." "I am very very
disappointed! I will tell you, very frankly. I hope
that people who practice and promote anti-Semitism
will not only be told: 'don't do that in the
future,' but that they wil! l be put in jail,"
Lazarovits argues that hate speech only takes
away freedom. He hopes that people responsible for
"hate crimes" will be punished as in other
countries such as Germany. But many politicians of
the governing and opposition parties have voiced
support for the president's decision.
They say they are concerned that the legislation
could undermine freedom of expression in a country
where, for years under Jewish communism, there was
no free speech at all. In 1999, the Jews attempted
to pass legislation that made it a crime to suggest
that fewer than six million of them were gassed in
"Nazi death camps."
Hungary's justice minister, Ibolya David,
rejected the legislation saying: "Such a law would
be unconstitutional." The Federation of Hungarian
Jewish Communities submitted the legislation after
numerous books appeared dismissing the Holocaust as
a huge exaggeration.
Jewish leaders say the number of stores selling
"anti-Semitic" literature and videotapes has
increased significantly since they first requested
the law. They cite the example of Aron
Monus, who lives in southern Hungary without
ever facing questioning for his widely publicized
book, "The World Jewish conspiracy."
Despite the set-backs, the Jewish community has
vowed to press ahead with its goals for strict laws
against all political opposition, similar to the
ones already on the books in Germany, France and
Waugh once asked: What sort of truth requires
dossier on the origins of