NEWS - Archive November 2012

Headlines 30 November, 2012

AP decision to drop 'homophobia' misguided: critics

'It's a useful word and it captures something that is very meaningful and very real,' prof says 

29/11/2012- An Associated Press (AP) recommendation against using terms like homophobia, ethnic cleansing and Islamophobia is being criticized as wrongheaded and potentially fuelled by an ideological agenda. AP’s new style guide cautions reporters against using the terms in political or social contexts. The news agency’s deputy standards editor, Dave Minthorn, says, “Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark.” “It's ascribing a mental disability to someone and suggests a knowledge that we don't have. It seems inaccurate,” he explains. Minthorn suggests using “something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such. We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing."

Elise Chenier, an associate professor in Simon Fraser University’s department of history, finds AP’s new reluctance to use homophobia, ethnic cleansing and Islamophobia disturbing. The combined discouragement of all three terms is a “quite clear indication of an ideological project at work here.” She says it’s important to pay “very close attention” to the fact that the three are being linked together. “People are targeted because they belong to a particular group, and we have an established tradition in Canada of recognizing that through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that you cannot discriminate based on membership in a variety of different groups, including your sex, your religious practice and beliefs, ability and sexual orientation,” Chenier elaborates.

She says the legal protections are not only relevant for judicial redress but set a tone that’s taken up in our culture in a variety of different ways. The media play a key role in helping to shape that culture, she adds. “If the media is saying we’re shifting away from those kinds of values — the way they cover those stories is going to have a dramatic impact on the way people think about these issues.” What’s “especially concerning,” Chenier adds, is AP’s notion that there are terms that are more neutral. “If they said a term that was more precise, I might not be so concerned,” she says. “But the idea that one can be neutral in describing acts of hatred towards people simply because they belong to a group — I don’t think those things can be described in neutral terms.”

In a Nov 29 commentary on AP’s decision, Patrick Strudwick of The Guardian suggests the news agency’s argument that these terms are inaccurate isn't neutral or precise either. “It reveals a banquet of their own assumptions about what governs prejudice. It illustrates the chasm of understanding between an onlooker struggling to read a situation and a victim who, through jabbing repetition, comprehends it only too well.” Minthorn declined to comment and referred Xtra to media relations director Paul Colford. Colford did not return Xtra’s call before press time. In an email to the Poynter Institute of journalism, Minthorn elaborates on the rationale behind the guidelines. “We feel that ‘homophobia’ and ‘Islamophobia’ have two shortcomings: they are not specific, and can also imply a psychiatric condition,” he states. “We always owe it to readers to say exactly what we mean. Instead of terms that try to describe some general state of mind, we always prefer to say what a person’s position is or how he acts.”

In his own email to the Poynter Institute, Michael Triplett, president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, says AP's decision has sparked discussion among the organization's members, the consensus being that AP is “probably correct in terms of the literalism of the word homophobia.” The feeling was that homophobia may not be the most ideal term to characterize anti-gay actions or motivations. “Use ‘LGBT rights opponents’ or a similar phrase instead of ‘homophobes’ when describing people who disagree with LGBT rights activism,” he says. Chenier disagrees. Homophobia is “a useful word and it captures something that is very meaningful and very real,” she says, adding that the word refers to an act committed against someone simply because that person is gay. Still, she acknowledges there’s room to be critical of the limitations of the word. She wonders, for example, whether the usual definition of homophobia — a fear of homosexuality — accurately captures the motivation behind anti-gay actions. “Do we know it’s fear?” she asks. Look at gaybashers, she says. “Are they afraid of gay men? I don’t think so. Are they fearful that their own identity is undermined by the presence of gay men? Sure.”

The meaning of words changes all the time, she observes. But inadequacies of the term homophobia aside, “when we say it, we know what we mean.” Keep homophobia, she suggests, but develop a more elaborate language that captures the more complex ways in which acts of hatred, acts of violence and acts of exclusion play out. The Baltimore Sun’s language expert John E McIntyre describes AP’s logic for the change as “reasoned, principled and wrongheaded.” He says he understands AP’s reasons for discouraging use of the word, noting that it’s similar to words like racism or sexism or misogyny, which can be used casually and personally about people when it’s not possible to say with assurance that they hold those views. But he says they are all real things. "We see the evidence of them and it’s a useful term.”

Homophobia isn’t a term that implies only mental illness, he adds. He, too, notes that words evolve over time. He says one of his readers pointed out that a phobia can be a mental disorder or indicate a strong aversion. “For those reasons, I think it is a word that ought to be deployed with some caution, but to discourage it altogether is merely misguided.” Strudwick says terms like homophobia are often the best we have. And while fear may not be the only motivation behind such attitudes, he says, it is “invariably a chief component.” “I can report with a certainty rarely enjoyed by straight journalists that being anti-gay is, without exception, at least partly fuelled by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of unwanted sexual attention, fear of gender roles being flouted, fear of humanity being wiped out by widespread bumming, fear of a plague of homosexuals dismantling marriage, the family, the church and any other institution held vaguely dear,” he writes. “And, of course, never forget: fear of what lurks repressed and unacknowledged in the homophobe. Irrational fear,” he says.

He says that to ban reporters from describing the Ugandan MP David Bahati, who included the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” in an anti-homosexuality bill, as homophobic, for example, doesn’t censor just journalists. “It blinds and deafens everyone else to what is really going on.”
© Xtra

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45% of survey respondents experience racist discrimination (Ireland)

28/11/2012- The fact that almost one in every two people surveyed about racism in Cork had experienced discrimination is very disappointing, according to an immigrant support group. Fiona Finn, chief executive of Nasc, the Irish immigrant support centre in Cork, said the results of a survey it had commissioned were a cause for concern. Some 45 per cent of those surveyed reported experiencing discrimination in at least one area of their everyday life. The survey of 171 people, comprising 60 per cent immigrants and 40 per cent Irish people, also found that 55 per cent of respondents believed racism was an issue in Cork. Ms Finn said: “We’re most particularly concerned about the black African community – their perceptions and experience of racism come out much higher than the other migrant communities. “And one of the most striking things is that eight out of 10 people who have experienced racist incidents haven’t reported [them] and that points to a systemic failure within the system.
“I think it shows there’s an issue [with] how people in the ethnic communities interact with law enforcement – very often their only interaction with the Garda is in an immigration context.”
© The Irish Times.

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Right-wing extremism – and even terrorism – can exist and flourish without political participation and the success of radical right-wing parties, yet it cannot exist without the unchallenged xenophobic and populist sentiments of the public.
By Vladimir Ninković

27/11/2012- For two consecutive days, public opinion in Serbia was stirred by the decisions of two very different courts. First, on 15th November, the Constitutional Court in Belgrade rejected a request to ban two far right-wing organizations – Srpski Narodni Pokret (SNP) 1389 and Nasi. The following day, the Hague acquitted Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač for alleged war crimes committed during Operation Flash and Operation Storm in 1995, which triggered a mass exodus of Serbs from Krajina and ethnic engineering of the Croatian state. With the exception of a short ‘honeymoon’ after 5th of October 2000, Serbian public opinion has been increasingly hostile towards the ‘West’ since 1999, additionally fuelled by the recognition of Kosovo’s independence in 2008. The Hague Tribunal has contributed to ever growing hostility through its acquittal of war crimes committed by non-Serbs. In particular, anti-Western sentiments – as well as conservative, radical and extreme-right ideas – are considerably strong among the sizeable number of Serbian refugees from Croatia and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo.

Since the start of the economic crisis, far right movements and parties have been getting increasingly popular in almost all liberal democracies across Europe. In Serbia, aside from blunt nationalism and occasional chauvinism, those organizations have the image of having “clean hands” and independent from much-maligned ‘tycoons’ and foreign influences. As Wilhelm Heitmeyer argued, right-wing extremism is more likely to flourish and pose a threat to those societies that are going through a period of ‘transition’ and/or societies possessing a “basic stock of equipment” in the form of conspiracy theories, a weapons scene, religious groups plying their views and social deprivation. One of the theses has been that the West is waging an incessant psychological war against Serbia, for which one of the proofs were the sentences and perceived bias of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

At the last elections, there were some radical changes with the Serbian far right scene. The relative electoral success of Dveri – which secured 4.34% of the vote in its first elections - was based upon the fight against ‘tycoons’ and unfair privatization (which Dveri asserting itself as a clean pair of hands), as well as a pro-Russian (equalling anti-EU) and pro-clerical stance. The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) – following its split that led to the establishment of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), now Serbia’s largest political party – stuck to their secularist nationalism and anti-globalism; yet for the first time in their history didn’t pass the threshold to enter parliament. ‘Naši’, meanwhile, participated at the local elections and were reasonably successful; they now form part of a governing coalition in the municipality of Arandjelovac. A little more than a week ago they published a list of NGOs and other actors perceived as traitors and puppets of the West, requesting that the Constitutional Court ban these organizations.

Soon afterwards, the State Prosecutor’s Office submitted a request for Naši and SNP 1389 to be banned, which the Constitutional Court rejected on 15th November. Even though these organizations can undoubtedly be classified as far-right, the Court’s decision is sensible and can be beneficial. From the liberal point of view, banning radical organizations is unjustified, and fighting extremism with extremism (i.e. bans and censorship) should be discouraged whenever possible. Although these movements have in their programs many questionable, and arguably wrong, illiberal and detrimental ideas and attitudes, there is a clear distinction between them and organized violent Neo Nazi groups such as Nacionalni Stroj, Blood and Honour etc. Far-right does not equal Nazi, especially in countries like Serbia, where extremist ideas have a somewhat different genesis.

Studies have shown that violence by extreme right-wing groups is more likely when there are no representatives of such political options at the ballot box - or in other channelling mechanisms - on a state, regional or local level. Right-wing extremism – and even terrorism – can exist and flourish without political participation and the success of radical right-wing parties and movements, but it cannot exist without the xenophobic and populist sentiments of the general public. Political marginalization of the radical right gives very unpredictable results. Often, it can lead to the further radicalization, which can be manifested in acts such as threats and assassination attempts.

On the other hand, the ICTY’s controversial decision might play into the hands of extreme nationalists in both Serbia and Croatia. The expected acquittal of Ramus Haradinaj will bring only more headaches to Serbia’s leaders. Anti-EU opinion can be expected to grow in the short to medium term, whilst relations between Serbia and Croatia are likely to deteriorate. The explosion of nationalist pride and triumphalism in Croatia triggered by the acquittal of the Generals did not bypass even that strata of Croatian society – politicians, NGO activists, writers and intellectuals – who were perceived to be strictly fenced-off from the politics of the Tudjman regime in the nineties; including Ivo Josipovic, Croatia’s president, Vesna Pusic, the foreign minister, and Vedrana Rudan, a feminist writer, to mention but a few. It is hard to imagine that any serious inquiries into war crimes and ethnic cleansing committed by Croatia during the war will now follow.

However, it seems that the newly-elected conservative government has enough nationalistic credit to entice most of the rightist sentiments, without allowing extremist groups to achieve additional popularity. A bunker mentality and the idea of isolationism may become more prominent in political life, but it seems unlikely that the acquittal will cause violence, or at least not increase its frequency. However, ideas and discourses deeply-entrenched in romantic traditionalism, clericalism, conspiracy theories, anti-modern and anti-Western sentiments may further enter the political mainstream.

The role of the media cannot be underestimated in this regard, as they hold the key to confronting extremist and populist sentiments. Unfortunately, the most popular outlets have often been too emotional; only serving to deepen the current indignation. Each new tabloid that appears carries more desperate and negative views of the situation in the country – as well as Serbia’s position in the world – expressed in a language that occasionally constitutes hate speech. Instances of hate speech, conspiracy theories, racism and anti-Semitism in the media, as well as a lack of accountability for spreading false rumours, should be condemned in every possible way, as they provide one of the most damaging sources of extremist sentiment in Serbia.
Learn more about TransConflict’s project, ‘Understanding and combating extremism in Serbia’!

Vladimir Ninković is a project officer for security at TransConflict Serbia.
© TransConflict

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Polish court approves same-sex couple inheritance

Poland's Supreme Court said Wednesday that a same-sex partner can inherit the right to a deceased's rented apartment.

28/11/2012- The decision extends a right that so far was granted only to spouses, children, grandchildren or unmarried heterosexual partners of tenants who had died. The court said that the right applies equally to a cohabiting same-sex partner if he, or she, had been in an "emotional and physical" relationship with the deceased. It was a response to the case of a gay man, identified only as Adam K., who sued Warsaw city authorities for denying him the right to stay in the city-owned apartment his partner had rented. The suit was rejected by the lowest court and the man appealed. The court considering the appellation was not sure if the right applied and sought the interpretation from the Supreme Court, which pointed to the Constitution which guarantees equal rights to all.

In denying the apartment to the man, Warsaw authorities argued that it understood relationships to be between heterosexual couples. Poland, which joined the European Union in 2004 does not allow gay marriage, but Prime Minister Donald Tusk, and some other officials before him, have said that inheritance or social security could be secured to same-sex partners through lawfully registered agreements between them. In a similar case of another Polish gay man in 2010, the European Human Rights Tribunal said that Poland had violated European Union regulations when it did not allow the man to inherit a rented apartment.
© The Associated Press

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Fundamental Rights Agency: Hate crimes a reality in the EU

27/11/2012- Hate crime is a daily reality throughout the European Union (EU), two new reports by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) confirm. Violence and offenses motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, or by a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity are all examples of hate crime, which harm not only those targeted but also strike at the heart of EU commitments to democracy and the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination.
To combat hate crime, the EU and its Member States need to make these crimes more visible and hold perpetrators to account. Greater political will is needed on the part of decision makers to counter pervasive prejudice against certain groups and compensate for the damage. Victims and witnesses should therefore be encouraged to report such crimes, and legislation should be adopted at the EU and national levels obliging Member States to collect and publish hate-crime data. This would serve to acknowledge victims of hate crime, in line with requirements stemming from the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. To hold perpetrators better to account, legislators should also consider enhanced penalties for hate crimes to stress the severity of these offenses, while courts rendering judgments should address bias motivations publicly, making it clear that they lead to harsher sentences.

“Hate crimes create an ‘us and them’ mentality that does tremendous psychological damage”, says FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. “They undermine the basic democratic tenets of equality and non-discrimination. Hate crimes thus harm not only the victim, but also other people belonging to the same group – many of whom are terrified that they will become the next target – and society as a whole. To counter this, the EU and its Member States need to ensure both that such crimes are made visible, and that offenders are made to answer for the damage they have done”.

A new FRA report entitled Making hate crime visible in the European Union: acknowledging victims’ rights  outlines a fundamental rights approach to hate crime and offers a comparative analysis of official data collection mechanisms on hate crime in the EU Member States. It highlights challenges inherent in recording hate crime and considers how the scope of official data collection can be broadened to enable Member States to meet obligations toward victims of hate crime. The second report, EU-MIDIS Data in Focus 6: Minorities as Victims of Crime, presents data on respondents’ experiences of victimization across five types of crime, from theft to serious harassment. One section of the report looks specifically at minorities as victims of racist crime. The report shows that every fourth person (24 %) of the 23,500 respondents to the EU-MIDIS survey – the first EU-wide survey to specifically sample ethnic minority and immigrant groups on their perception of racially or ethnically motivated crime – said they had been a victim of crime at least once in the 12 months preceding the survey. On average, 18% of all Roma and 18% of all sub-Saharan African respondents in the survey indicated that they had experienced at least one racially motivated crime in the last 12 months.
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency

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Neo-Nazi Hungarian Deputy Calls for Resignation of 'Israeli' MP

Outrage over anti-Semitic remarks in Hungarian parliament continued unabated, with Jobbik deputy calling for resignation of 'Israeli' MP. 

30/11/2012- Outrage over apparent anti-Semitic remarks in the Hungarian parliament continued unabated Thursday, as a far-right deputy called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship. At a press conference, deputy Elod Novak of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party, which has long been accused of espousing blatantly anti-Jewish sentiments, called for the resignation of Katalin Ertsey, of the small opposition party LMP, saying that it was unacceptable that she had kept her dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship secret. He later told news portal Index, "Israel has more deputies in the Hungarian parliament than they have in the Israeli Knesset." He said this explains why the Hungarian parliament made so many decisions that were favorable to Israel, without providing any examples, AFP reported.

Novak's comments came in the wake of remarks by fellow Jobbik deputy Marton Gyongyosi who, during a parliamentary debate on Monday on the recent conflict in Gaza, proposed drawing up a list of people in the country "to see how many are of Jewish origin and present a certain national security risk to Hungary." He later apologized to his "Jewish compatriots," saying he meant only those holding dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship. Novak then sent an email to all deputies Wednesday requesting they make any dual citizenship public, in the public interest. Ertsey replied that she was an Israeli citizen and had bought her Hungarian citizenship, prompting Novak's call for her resignation, according to AFP. Ertsey later said she was in fact a Hungarian citizen but that her response had been an effort to elucidate the absurdity of Novak's question.

According to Attila Peterfalvi, president of the National Data Protection and Freedom of Information Authority, while an MP's dual citizenship is in the public domain, his or her nationality is not. Having to declare that would be a "violation of human dignity," he said. Gyongyosi's remarks Monday were met with widespread condemnation from politicians, with one prominent Jewish organization saying it would file charges against the anti-Semitic lawmaker. The government was criticized for its slow response but issued a statement the next day condemning "all forms or expressions of extremism, racist or anti-Semitic." Jewish organizations have organized a mass protest against Nazism outside parliament on Sunday with politicians from across the political spectrum, including the ruling Fidesz party, expected to speak.

Jobbik responded in a statement Thursday that it found it "pathetic" that "the government parties have bowed to pressure and are taking part in a united grand coalition of the left-wing."
© Arutz Sheva

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Concern at rise of Hungarian far right

30/11/2012- When one foreign businessman took his family to the annual fair in Pomaz, a prosperous dormitory town north of Budapest, in September, he did not expect to be confronted with the harsh reality of Hungarian politics. “Bands were playing, kids were dancing, surrounded by stalls selling assorted handicrafts, home-made jams and the like,” he says. Yet among the stalls were not only mainstream political parties but one for Jobbik, the far-right Hungarian party. “It was shocking to see 15 to 20 jackbooted, black-uniformed paramilitary types lounging around the Jobbik stand, which seemed to have secured the prime spot,” says the British-born businessman and long-time Hungary resident, who asked not to be named. “I thought this uniformed organisation was banned,” he says.

But both Jobbik and the uniformed, unofficial “Hungarian Guard” with which it is closely associated are very much present. This week Marton Gyongyosi, an articulate, multilingual Jobbik parliamentarian, caused outrage when he called for a “list” of Jews “living here, and especially in parliament and government, who represent a threat to national security”. Although the proposal was vociferously condemned by governing Fidesz and other opposition MPs, it renewed fears about the strength of Hungary’s radical rightwing. Sensitivity is strong since nearly 600,000 Jews, plus several thousand Roma, from Hungarian territories were Holocaust victims.

Founded in 2002 as a youth movement (its name derives from “rightwing youth community”), which became a party in 2003, Jobbik claims not to be racist but a “radically patriotic Christian party” which protects Hungarian values and interests. By the 2010 elections it had gained 16 per cent of the vote and has 44 seats in the 386-seat Hungarian parliament, dominated by the two-thirds majority of Viktor Orbán’s centre-right Fidesz party. But opponents warn Jobbik’s influence weighs heavily in parliament and society. “Hungary is being dragged along by a fascist-like undercurrent,” says Attila Mesterhazy, the Socialist leader, this week. “Jobbik’s ideology is not espoused by the average Hungarian, but talk like this is poisoning society. The fact that anti-Semitic and anti-Roma speech can be heard in parliament . . . makes it acceptable to the public.”

Jobbik’s leadership is far from the stereotype of ill-informed, political thug. Mr Gyongyosi is a well-travelled graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, who previously worked as a tax adviser with KPMG in Ireland. “While most of their support is provincial, they have an intellectual, elite base, although this has been a characteristic of all far-right parties historically in the region,” says Csaba Toth of the Republikon Institute, a liberal-leaning think-tank. Jobbik insists it is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Roma. “This is a false accusation; Jobbik is a pro-Hungary party,” Gabor Vona, Jobbik president, previously told the Financial Times. But Mr Toth says this is untenable. “Jobbik introduced the term ‘gypsy crime’” to refer to petty crime by Roma, he says. He adds that Jobbik supports the Hungarian Guard, or Garda, who make provocative marches through Roma settlements.

The Garda was banned as a legal entity in 2009. But a “new” Guard emerged in a different legal form and carries out many of the same activities. While a Jobbik leader “was made to resign” this year after it was discovered he had Jewish ancestry, says Mr Toth, the party’s main support comes from anti-Roma prejudice rather than anti-Semitic sentiment. Jobbik’s support has slipped since the 2010 election to 15 per cent, however a Republikon Institute survey found it was favoured by one in three voters in the 18-29 age group. With Fidesz’s support also down, some analysts fear Jobbik could gain ground among undecided voters before the 2014 election. Yet this week’s outburst has seemingly resulted in rare cross-party unity. At an anti-neo-Nazi rally planned for Sunday, Antal Rogan, a prominent Fidesz MP, will share the stage with Mr Mesterhazy and Gordon Bajnai, technocrat prime minister in Hungary’s 2009-10 Socialist government.

However, critics charge that even Mr Rogan’s appearance is merely a continuation of a game of doublespeak by Fidesz to woo the far-right vote. “I’ve not heard Mr Orbán condemn Mr Gyongyosi’s words. When the prime minister goes abroad, yes, he says this is unacceptable. But at home he’s silent, and in this context, silence speaks very loudly,” Agnes Vadai, an MP for the Democratic Coalition, a centre-left party, told the FT. She says European politicians should press the Orbán government to curb radical right elements in Hungary. “Western leaders should put Viktor Orbán into quarantine and make it clear that he has to speak out against the far right in Hungary. If not, [the west] is also to be blamed for its growth,” Ms Vadai says.
© The Financial Times.

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Hungary Leader Demand List of 'Risk' Jews

In Echo of Nazis, Far Rightist Says Jews Undermine State

27/11/2012- A Hungarian far-right politician urged the government to draw up lists of Jews who pose a “national security risk”, stirring outrage among Jewish leaders who saw echoes of fascist policies that led to the Holocaust. Marton Gyongyosi, leader of Hungary’s third-strongest political party Jobbik, said the list was necessary because of heightened tensions following the brief conflict in Gaza and should include members of parliament. Opponents have condemned frequent anti-Semitic slurs and tough rhetoric against the Roma minority by Gyongyosi’s party as populist point scoring ahead of elections in 2014. But Jobbik has never called publicly for lists of Jews. “I am a Holocaust survivor,” said Gusztav Zoltai, executive director of the Hungarian Jewish Congregations’ Association. “For people like me this generates raw fear, even though it is clear that this only serves political ends. This is the shame of Europe, the shame of the world.”

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, according to the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Budapest. According to some accounts, one in three Jews killed in Auschwitz were Hungarian nationals. Gyongyosi’s call came after Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said Budapest favoured a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as benefiting both Israelis with Hungarian ancestry, Hungarian Jews and Palestinians in Hungary. Gyongyosi told Parliament: “I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel, and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary,” according to a video posted on Jobbik’s website late on Monday. “I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.”

Apology
The government released a terse condemnation of the remarks. “The government strictly rejects extremist, racist, anti-Semitic voices of any kind and does everything to suppress such voices,” the government spokesman’s office said. Gyongyosi sought to play down his comments on Tuesday, saying he was referring to citizens with dual Israeli-Hungarian citizenship. “I apologise to my Jewish compatriots for my declarations that could be misunderstood,” he said on Jobbik’s website. Jobbik’s anti-Semitic discourse often evokes a centuries-old blood libel - the accusation that Jews used Christians’ blood in religious rituals. “Jobbik has moved from representing medieval superstition (of the blood libel) to openly Nazi ideologies,” wrote Slomo Koves, chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation.

Jobbik registered as a political party in 2003, and gained increasing influence as it radicalized gradually, vilifying Jews and the country’s 700,000 Roma. The group gained notoriety after founding the Hungarian Guard, an unarmed vigilante group reminiscent of World War Two-era far-right groups. It entered Parliament at the 2010 elections and holds 44 of 386 seats. Hungary has been among European states worst hit by the recent economic crisis and the centre-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has struggled to exit recession.
© Reuters

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Belarus concerned about resurgence of fascist ideology

27/11/2012- The Third Committee of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly has passed a Russian-backed resolution to condemn the glorification of Nazism. In particular, the resolution condemns certain practices that foster the escalation of modern forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The resolution had been co-authored by Belarus, the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry told BelTA. During the session the Belarusian delegation thanked the Russian Federation delegation for submitting the resolution for consideration of the Third Committee. It was noted that the victory over Nazism was a turning point in the history of the mankind and led to the creation of the United Nations Organization. The Belarusian delegation expressed concern about the governments of individual countries being blinded by the freedom of expression and turning a blind eye towards the use of Nazi symbols, towards the glorification of Nazism and thus, their condoning of the revival of the fascist ideology, fomentation of racism and xenophobia. The Belarusian delegation stated that the counteraction of the attempts to revive the ideology of Nazism should be an important priority for nations, the civil society, and the special rapporteur on modern forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.
© Belarusian Telegraph Agency

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When ignorance was bliss: Domestic extremism in Europe

While governments spend more time and funding on countering Islamic extremism, Europe faces an increasing threat from domestic extremist groups that has a growing potential to distort mainstream politics on the continent, says Tamás Berecz.
Tamás Berecz is a senior analyst of the Athena Institute, a Budapest-based independent research organisation.

27/11/2012- "After the 9/11 attacks, international terrorism became the bogeyman of the West, something that lurks in the dark and only waits for the right time to strike. This fear was not unfounded. The first decade of the 21st century was dominated by Jihadi terrorism: Kuta, New York, Madrid, London. Islamist terror groups became the first priority to secret services and other authorities. The aforementioned attacks shocked the West and thus started an avalanche of counter-terrorist legislation, not to mention two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whilst one cannot argue that international state-funded terrorism is not a threat anymore, the awesome amount of resources, expertise and money that have gone into the War on Terror was fairly successful. Since the 2005 London bombings, no large-scale Islamist terrorist incident has been carried out on Western soil. Nevertheless, international terrorism is still on the top of the threat-pyramid while a chain of recent events and new research indicates that this attitude towards far right and far left extremist groups must change.

There have been several strong signs in the past few years that show that fighting domestic extremism should be a top priority in Europe. The so-called Malmö sniper targeted members of ethnic communities, killing one person and wounding several others. A German extremist cell operated for more than a decade killing nine immigrants and a policewoman. The Roma serial killers in Hungary killed six people in 2008 and 2009 keeping the whole Hungarian Roma community in terror for a year. Anders Breivik's case is well known, while most recently Polish authorities foiled a plot aimed at killing the country's prime minister and blowing up the Sejm. Far-left extremist activity is also on the rise, especially in Southern-European countries. After these incidents, this year, the Athena Institute identified more than 100 far-left or far-right, high-risk extremist groups currently active in thirteen European countries. Half of these groups are involved in inciting racial hatred and carry out permanent hostile propaganda campaigns against at-risk communities.

The other half use violence, weapons and even kill their supposed enemies. There are no countries without organised extremist groups among the thirteen scrutinised. At the same time, due to the nature of extremist groups, many politicians in the mainstream political arena assume that the threat is not too serious. The membership numbers of the groups are fairly low, their activity is mostly about spreading hate speech on the internet and organising small protests. They are also poorly funded and mostly loosely organised. These factors prompt people to believe that domestic extremist groups are simply incapable to do serious harm or affect society and mainstream politics in a substantial way. However, the aforementioned examples have proven the contrary. What is even more important: with the immense changes in mass communication it has become much easier to deliver messages on the “dangers” of immigration, Islamisation, homosexuality, criminality to large audiences.

Extremist groups utilise these opportunities to the fullest and seems to be quite capable of reifying and redefining socioeconomic and cultural issues that necessarily emerge from modern multicultural/multi-ethnic/poly-religious societies as racial issues that “threaten the majority”. This way these organisations are able to distort the mainstream political process. These processes can lead to new standpoints, such as Angela Merkel’s speech about the failure of multiculturalism, that was followed by other leaders like David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy; or policies that are clearly anti-democratic, such as the banning of the burqa in public places in France, Switzerland banning the construction of new minarets, or the policies in Hungary, where the government handles many socioeconomic issues surrounding the Roma community as an issue of policing.

However, there is a much more direct way through which extremists affect mainstream politics, and that is their stronger or looser ties to political parties, some of which have MPs or even MEPs. In Hungary for example, the far-right anti-Roma, anti-Semitic Jobbik party has the third biggest parliamentary faction. This party founded the Hungarian Guard extremist group that regularly launch intimidating campaigns against the Roma community. In Greece, the Golden Dawn (GD) is the fifth biggest party in Parliament with close ties to several far-right extremist groups whose sympathisers regularly harass and intimidate immigrants. The Greek government’s reaction to the growing popularity of GD was a large scale crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Europe as a whole is now looking at the writing on the wall. The continent has a flourishing extremist subculture that is slowly but steadily crawling out into the mainstream. Organised extremist groups learned to use the new technologies in mass communication as well as the ways they can abuse democratic processes. They also reacted to the activities of authorities by creating leaderless resistance movements to avoid infiltration, arrests and paralysis after bigger crackdowns. However, the most worrying aspect of modern domestic extremism, besides the serious deathly attacks, is their obvious capability to distort mainstream politics. Whilst Europe is preoccupied with other security issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme, and the sombre economic situation of the eurozone and the whole EU in general, extremist groups grow more and more popular and far-right and far-left parties keep channelling their ideas into the democratic political arena (Syriza, Golden Dawn, Jobbik, FPÖ, Sweden Democrats, etc.). If such groups and parties go on to push the centre towards the extremes by forcing them to compete for the same electorate, and if they continue to block sensible immigration policies, integration programmes and economic policies, Europe, as we know it right now, will be destroyed."
© EurActiv

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