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Christian News Today

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Hungarian 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 constitutionally permissible."

The legislation came after a series of so-called anti-Semitic incidents:

  • 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 added.

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 Austria.


Auberon Waugh once asked: What sort of truth requires these sanctions?
Website dossier on the origins of anti-Semitism

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