international newsbrief

UKRAINE | Flier calling on Donetsk Jews to register now widely seen as fake

Source: Haaretz Friday, 18 April 2014, 13:38

Ukrainian city's separatist leader, whose alleged signature is on document, says he never signed it; ADL 'skeptical of fliers' authenticity.'

Part of the notice

Part of the notice as distributed on Twitter. Photo by Screenshot

The pro-Russian separatist leader of Donetsk, whose alleged signature is on the now notorious fliers calling on the eastern Ukrainian city's Jews to register on pain of deportation, said the documents were fakes, the ThinkProgress website reported Thursday.

“Some idiots yesterday were giving out these fliers in targeted areas,” said Denis Pushlin, head of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk, whose forces have taken over Ukrainian government buildings in the city. Pushlin said he didn't sign the documents and the People's Republic, whose name is stamped on the fliers, didn't produce them.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League said it was "skeptical about the … authenticity" of the fliers, which have been widely reported and accepted as authentic, including by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who denounced them as "grotesque."

Also, Julia Ioffe, who covers Russia for The New Republic, wrote: "The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed [the fliers] as 'a provocation,' which it clearly is. 'It's an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry,' says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. 'I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid — this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east.'"

According to the original report from Novosti Donbassa news agency, the fliers were handed out by three men wearing balaclavas and carrying Russian Federation flags on Monday, Passover eve, to Jews leaving synagogue in Donetsk.

The fliers order all Jews over the age of 16 to register at the government building, which has been occupied by pro-Russian insurgents in defiance of Kiev rule. Jews would also have to pay a registration fee of $50 before May 3 and list all real estate and vehicles owned.

The notice explained the measure as being due to the alleged support of Jewish leaders for the "nationalist junta of [Stepan] Bandera in Kiev" and their hostility "to the Orthodox Donetsk republic and its citizens."

Failure to register, the notice said, would result in people being "stripped of their citizenship and deported forcibly outside the country with confiscation of property."

Donetsk's Jewish population numbers upwards of 15,000.

FRANCE | France's Front National party leader 'opens arms' to UKIP

Source: BBC Thursday, 17 April 2014, 22:51

In a statement, UKIP said it was "not interested in any deal" with Ms Le Pen or her party because of "prejudice and anti-Semitism in particular" in the FN.

UKIP this week appeared to align itself with a French Eurosceptic party.

Speaking on Newsnight, Ms Le Pen insisted that Front National's campaign against the European Union was in line with UKIP's Eurosceptic policies.

She said her "arms will be open" to Mr Farage if he were willing to "join up in a common plan to fight the European Union."

"As long as it serves the interests of the European people" she added.

Ms Le Pen said that although there are "strategic or tactical differences" between the two parties, there were "obvious similarities in polices such as "refusal of massive immigration" and "peoples' freedom to decide for themselves".

"People have progressively realised the EU has brought them nothing but unhappiness, devastation, identity loss, and unprotected frontiers," she said.

"If he understood how serious the EU's situation is, he would support the reunion of all patriotic movements, and he would not use tactics and strategy," she told Newsnight.

UKIP said that despite "efforts that Ms Le Pen has made at modernisation" of the Front National, they were "not interested in any deal" because "in the parties DNA there is prejudice and anti-Semitism in particular".

On Tuesday, Mr Farage appear to find an allegiance with a fellow Eurosceptic party, Debout la Republique (DLR: Stand up, the Republic!) at a rally in Paris.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, right, cheers UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, left

Farage was greeted with sustained applause by French Eurosceptics at a rally in Paris

The party is the political vehicle of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a 52-year-old dissident Gaullist who feels the mainstream centre-right UMP party has sold out to Brussels. He received less than 2% at the last presidential vote.

"Nigel Farage appears to have chosen to campaign along with a candidate who reaches scores of 1% in France," Ms Le Pen said.

"I am still wondering why he made that choice, as Nicolas Dupont Aignan's political choices are very close to ours."

However, Ms Le Pen said that this would not stop her welcoming collaboration with Mr Farege and UKIP.

She said she would rise above "personal considerations" and added Mr Farage is "undoubtedly is a charismatic leader."

USA | The Kansas City killer and his mentor: A tale of two Nazis

Source: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 17:52


Source Flickr Author KOMUnews

Ever since a gunman claimed the lives of three people at a Kansas City-area Jewish center last Sunday, the question has been repeatedly asked, “Why?”

The answer seems simple enough: The assailant is an anti-Semite among anti-Semites. The man hates Jews with a virulent passion that he’s never concealed.

The shooter, who is 73-years-old, made a home for himself at Vanguard News Network under the screen-name “Rounder.” Most people have never heard of VNN. It is a discussion forum for neo-Nazis, one of the most rabid such forums on the internet. The ringleader is Alex Linder, one of America’s most active neo-Nazi agitators. Despite being almost three decades Miller’s junior, he has built an extensive resumé as an anti-Semitic rhetorician.

VNN’s influence on Rounder would be hard to overestimate. He logged over 12,000 posts in its various discussion rooms.

League of the South activist Hunter Wallace posted a VNN screen capture on his blog. It revealed that Rounder voted in support of Linder’s aim “to attack Christianity and … advocate exterminating all Jews.”

In a separate posts, Wallace, a strong opponent of white nationalism and neo-Nazism, noted that “Vanguardists” and “Vantards” often commit acts of extreme violence. He also wrote of their movement’s dead-end nature.

Patheos contributor Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor and counselor at Grove City College, revealed more of Miller’s VNN activities. Throckmorton published a screen capture of a December 2012 forum message from Rounder, who wrote that “(t)he word ‘advocate’ has always seemed a bit ambiguous” so he would “clarify [his] position to protect” himself.

The clarification revealed his “desire to press a button that’d make all kikes disappear from the earth” as well as “cheer and do cartwheels when Islamic victory over the jews comes, and muslim freedom fighters stuff all jews, unceremoniously, into red hot ovens.”

Rounder finished his rant by remarking that “(o)nly a fool or JOG” — likely an abbreviation of “Jewish Occupied Government” — “agent would encourage anyone on the internet to kill another person, even kike parasites. And I’ve never heard or read where Alex made any such encouragement.”

In a recent interview with documentary filmmaker Martin Himel, Linder claimed that Jews are “not just a problem in the U.S., they’re a problem across the entire West and they’re a problem because they dominate the country by controlling the money supply and also controlling the mass media.”

Linder claimed that, “the solution to the problem is ultimately to exterminate them … their behavior over 2000 years has shown that when you kick them out, they always wind up being let back in, basically by the Christians, and they cause the same problems. Well, call me a ‘racist’, ‘evil’, ‘Nazi’, ‘hater’, whatever, I want my kind of people to survive and prosper; people German-descended, blue eyes, good, solid people who built, you know, nice towns … I want them to prosper. I don’t want the Jews to prosper. They’re attacking me. I’m fighting back.”

Linder was not being facetious or hypothetical; his statements in a 2012 interview with hard-right Jim Giles of Radio Free Mississippi leave no wiggle room.

Linder first said that the Holocaust is “a big lie and … you don’t have to be an expert or even dig into it that far to see that it’s a big lie.” A few minutes later, he said “my view is that we’ve kicked [Jews] out of our countries 110 times, they continue to cause exactly the same problems … They intend our genocide, if I had the power, you better damn well believe I would exterminate all of them, and if you think I would joke about something like that, that would … make me a pretty silly person, I think. So, it’s not rhetorical at all”.

The reaction from Giles was intensely negative. After “Rounder’s” Kansas City rampage — which took only Christian lives — Giles made a statement on Wallace’s blog.

“Alex Linder murdered Reat Griffin Underwood, William Corporon and Terri LeManno,” he wrote. “The blood of the little boy, the grandfather and the mother is on Alex Linder and the ‘White Nationalist Movement,’ an anonymous group of Internet cowards and now accomplices to murder. If Linder doesn’t kill himself it’s a good sign he is in point of fact a police informant.”

In a Monday blog entry, Wallace theorized that Rounder’s “hero Alex Linder has consistently advocated his ‘principled solution’ of exterminating the Jews for 10 years now, so Glenn assumed that by acting to exterminate the Jews he would win the admiration of his peers at VNN Forum.”

Despite all of this evidence, many media figures chose to blame a completely unrelated figure for Rounder’s madness.

The patsy is progressive journalist and bestselling author Max Blumenthal. He entered the spotlight because it was alleged that Rounder wrote favorably about Blumenthal’s Israel skepticism over 300 times. A Mondoweiss investigation revealed this to be untrue.

“Out of 12,683 forum posts attributed to [Rounder], one single post was found to have mentioned ‘Jew journalist Max Blumenthal.’ That single post contains a broken link to a page that once linked to a YouTube clip of a brief interview with Blumenthal,” reporters Alex Kane and Phan Nguyen stated. “In that interview, Blumenthal explained how neoconservative supporters of Netanyahu in D.C. were hoping to sway the 2012 presidential election in their favor.”

Why Linder has not received more press attention is a mystery. We can be certain, though, that even in the face of sheer savagery, some will try to score political points.

The Kansas City tragedy is a morbid reminder of anti-Semitism’s potency, even in twenty-first century America. Beyond this, though, few if any have recognized that it is also a gruesome example of how online chatter can lead to real-world carnage.

Let’s hope that the national mainstream will come to realize that the keyboard warriors of today may move past their computers tomorrow. While such a thing cannot be prevented in all cases, surely solutions can be found to stop an untold number from destroying the lives of others, along with their own.

A country of genuine social consciousness — where celebrity fundraisers don’t determine who lends a helping hand — would have been working on something to this effect long ago.

USA | White supremacist could face death penalty for Kansas killings

Source: NBC Thursday, 17 April 2014, 17:34

Kansas authorities charged Frazier Glenn Cross with capital murder on Tuesday, the early legal steps in what could culminate in the pursuit of the death penalty for the 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan leader who allegedly shot to death three people at Jewish centers.

Whether prosecutors seek to put Cross to death won't become clear for months, probably, as Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe discusses the case with his prosecutors and the victims' families."I don't plan on making a knee-jerk reaction," Howe said at a news conference announcing the charges. "I prefer to take my time to make my decision."

Cross, a Vietnam veteran and avowed white supremacist who has tangled for years with civil rights groups and authorities, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Johnson County District Court.

Looking slightly disheveled, he wore a sleeveless Kevlar smock and was taken via wheelchair to appear on a video feed before a judge.

When asked if he had an attorney, Cross replied, “I don’t have any money.” He was appointed a public defender.

His bail was set at $10 million, and his next hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. April 24.

He was taken into custody Sunday immediately after the shootings, which took place at two Jewish centers. At the first, he allegedly shot to death 14-year-old Eagle Scout Reat Underwood and his 69-year-old grandfather, William Corporon, at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City campus in Overland Park.

Then he allegedly drove to Village Shalom, a nearby retirement community, and gunned down Terri LaManno, a 53-year-old children's center worker.

Although Cross seemed to be motivated by his animosity toward Jews — federal authorities say they have enough evidence to charge him with hate crimes — none of the victims was Jewish.

Kansas authorities charged Cross with two crimes: capital murder, for the simultaneous killings of Underwood and Corporon, and premeditated murder, for the killing of LaManno.

The capital murder charge carries a minimum of life in prison without parole. The premeditated murder charge does not offer parole for 25 years.

Cross has not been charged with weapons offenses, despite the fact that as a convicted felon it is illegal for him to possess a gun.

Howe said he may add charges later.

ITALY | Grillo won't apologize for 'anti-Semitic' post

Source: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 19:36

Grillo won't apologize for 'anti-Semitic' post

The post was strongly condemned by Italy’s Jewish community. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Politician Beppe Grillo has refused to apologize to Italy’s Jewish community after the press dubbed him an anti-Semite for publishing an adapted version of Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s classic ‘If this is a man’.

Beppe Grillo, the founder of Italy’s third-largest party, the Five Star Movement (M5S), sparked an outcry on Monday morning when he published a blog post titled ‘If this is a country’, a play on the opening verses of Primo Levi’s book ‘If this is a man’, an account of his experiences at Auschwitz.

Under a doctored image of the entrance to Auschwitz with the slogan “P2 Macht Frei” superimposed on the gates, Grillo describes Italy as a country controlled by the mafia and the Propaganda Due (P2) masonic lodge. President Giorgio Napolitano is described as “a frightened old man” and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi a “buffoon from the provinces”.

The post was strongly condemned by Italy’s Jewish community with Renzo Gattegna, from the Union for Italian Jewish Communities describing the post as “an obscenity that cannot be ignored”.

Reacting to the criticism at a press conference on Tuesday, the comedian was quoted by news agency Ansa as saying: “I didn’t mean to be sarcastic or make jokes. I’m not apologizing to anyone because I don’t think I disrespected anyone".

"The Jewish community should change their stupid and ignorant spokesperson," he added.

“Thanks to the Italian media, I was dubbed a fuhrer by German papers,” the comedian continued, adding that “newspapers are living on borrowed time”.

During the press conference he also urged Italians to dodge taxes, pointing out that Berlusconi, who will spend the remainder of his four-year suspended sentence doing community service, dodged millions.

“I tell everyone: go ahead and dodge as much as you can, it’s a good investment,” he said.

GREECE | A rising antisemitic storm in Greece

Source: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 10:28

The so-called Affair Baltakos in Greece is one of those eye-opening moments that throws into sharp relief the problems posed by far-right extremist parties in Europe.

By Ronald S. Lauder

As I said in a press statement last week, the affair underscores that Europeans need to establish a common policy forbidding dealings with neo-Nazi, racist, and anti-Semitic elements, and create a clear “cordon sanitaire” vis-à-vis these parties.

Here’s what happened: Takis Baltakos, a top adviser to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, had to resign recently after Baltakos was caught on videotape discussing a government investigation of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party with a Golden Dawn official. In the apparently secretly recorded videotape, Baltakos seems to insinuate that the charges against Golden Dawn are politically motivated.

A virulently anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant group, Golden Dawn stands accused of major crimes. Police and magistrates are investigating charges that the party’s members and supporters were involved in a series of violent attacks, including the killing of a left-wing rapper in September.

Golden Dawn, unfortunately, is no fringe group. This party, which has capitalized on a wave of anger against harsh austerity measures Greece enacted because of the Eurozone crisis, has become the country’s third largest political force.

So I joined the Word Jewish Congress’ Greek affiliate, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), in voicing outrage that an aide to the Prime Minister had spoken with a neo-Nazi. KIS expressed its “strong resentment that a government official was in conversation” with the fellow, a member of Parliament named Ilias Kasidiaris.

KIS further stated that the Affair Baltakos shows that Greece and Europe have a “duty to isolate those who seek the return of Nazism, and those who disseminate racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideas, in order to safeguard democracy.”

Meanwhile, the crackdown on Golden Dawn continued last week when the Greek Parliament voted to strip legal immunities from Kasidiaris and four other Golden Dawn lawmakers, clearing the way for another round of criminal charges.

I have confidence in the legal process in Greece. If the charges are upheld in court and Golden Dawn is ruled a criminal organization, the full force of the law must be brought to bear on it, and I believe that this will be done.

Ronald S. Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress. This article comes from his blog at

GREECE | Suspected members of Golden Dawn jailed for killing Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 10:19

Two suspected members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn were sentenced Tuesday to life in prison over the fatal stabbing of a Pakistani immigrant last year, a judicial source said.

However, the Athens court judging the case threw out the prosecution´s argument that the murder of 27-year-old Shehzad Luqman in January 2013 was racially motivated.

Luqman´s killing – and that of Greek leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas a few months earlier – prompted Greek authorities to begin a crackdown on Golden Dawn that revealed the group´s violent paramilitary activities, according to investigators.

Several of the party´s senior members are now behind bars awaiting trial, with the Greek judiciary gathering evidence to show Golden Dawn operated as a criminal organisation.

Dionyssis Liakopoulos, 25, and Christos Steriopoulos, 29, were arrested a few hours after Luqman´s murder when a taxi driver who witnessed the attack reported their motorbike numberplate to police.

According to the driver, the pair drove up behind the victim and assaulted him as he was cycling in the Petralona neighbourhood near the Acropolis.

A search of Liakopoulos´s home found Golden Dawn leaflets in addition to knives and truncheons, although the two men have denied membership in the neo-Nazi party.

The pair said they got into an argument with the victim after he blocked their path with his bicycle.

Six of Golden Dawn´s 18 elected members of parliament are currently behind bars awaiting trial and a total of nine have been indicted on charges of belonging to, or running, a criminal organisation.

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic Golden Dawn has seen its popularity soar as it taps into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in debt-wracked Greece.

Critics say the conservative-led Greek government delayed in investigating Golden Dawn for fear of alienating hardliners within its own voter base ahead of local elections.

USA; | Man Kills 3 at Jewish Centres in Kansas City

Credit: NYT Monday, 14 April 2014, 08:43

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, where a gunman killed two people.CreditDave Kaup/Reuters

A man opened fire outside a Jewish Community Center and a nearby retirement community in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday afternoon, killing three people before he was taken into custody.

The man, who was identified as Frazier Glenn Cross of Aurora, Mo., in Johnson County booking records. He was charged with first-degree murder and was scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon.

The suspect, 73, is a former Ku Klux Klan leader with a history of anti-Semitism and racism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups. It identified him as Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, commonly known as Glenn Miller, and said he was the founder and grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The shootings took place in Overland Park, Kan., a major suburb located just across the state line from Kansas City, Mo. Overland Park is the second-biggest city in Kansas and has a population of about 170,000.

A doctor and his 14-year-old grandson were killed in the parking lot at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and a woman was killed a short time later in a parking lot at Village Shalom, a senior living community about a mile away, the police said.

Mr. Miller was taken into custody on Sunday afternoon at a local elementary school near Village Shalom, the police said. In video taken by KMBC, a local television station, the suspect yelled “Heil Hitler!” while sitting in a police car.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said it sued Mr. Miller in the 1980s for intimidating African-Americans, and he has had several run-ins with the law since then. He served six months in prison after he was held in criminal contempt for violating the terms of the court order that settled that lawsuit. He also served three years in federal prison for weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of the center’s founder, Morris Dees. As part of his plea bargain, he testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 trial.

The police said it was too early in the investigation to determine whether the attacks were a hate crime.

Mr. Miller made several unsuccessful runs for public office, including a bid for the Senate in 2010. He kept a website where he espoused views of white supremacy and eschewed racial mixing. He was a fan of David Duke, a white nationalist and a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Louis Farrakhan, the former leader of the Nation of Islam who blamed Jews for slavery in America.

In a 2010 interview with Howard Stern, the radio shock jock, who is Jewish, Mr. Miller was asked who he hated more, Jews or African-Americans. Mr. Miller answered “Jews. A thousand times more. Compared to our Jewish problem, all other problems are mere distractions.”

Prodded to explain, he said Jews controlled the federal government, mass media and the Federal Reserve Bank. “And with those powers, they’re committing genocide against the white race,” he said.

In the same interview, Mr. Miller said he had “a great deal of respect for Muslim people” and called Adolf Hitler “the greatest man who ever walked the earth.”

Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said she spoke with Mr. Miller’s wife, Marge, on Sunday and Ms. Miller said that the police told her that her husband had been arrested as the gunman.

Ms. Miller, who has no apparent ties to the white supremacist community, according to Ms. Beirich, told her that she last saw her husband at about 3 p.m. on Saturday, when he left to go to a casino. He called her at about 10:30 on Sunday morning to say that his winnings were up, Ms. Beirich said, and that was the last Ms. Miller heard of him. At a news conference several hours after the shootings, the Overland Park police chief, John Douglass, said that the suspect was not a local resident and was not known to the Police Department before Sunday’s attacks.

“Today is a very sad and tragic day,” Chief Douglass said. “There are no words to express the senselessness of what happened this afternoon.”

When asked at a news conference whether Mr. Miller had yelled “Heil Hitler!” as he was arrested, Chief Douglass said it was too early to discuss what the suspect did or did not say.

Two of the victims were identified on Sunday night as Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood. Reat was a freshman at Blue Valley High School and an Eagle Scout, according to a statement from their family. Dr. Corporon was a “well-loved physician in the Johnson County community,” and he and his wife had been married for almost 50 years. Both victims were members of the nearby United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

President Obama released a statement on Sunday evening, saying he offered his thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims.

“I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation,” he said. “While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking.”

The Anti-Defamation League called the attacks a “cowardly, unspeakable and heinous act of violence.”

“While it is too early to label these shootings as a hate crime, the fact that two Jewish institutions were targeted by the same individual just prior to the start of the Passover holiday is deeply troubling and certainly gives us pause,” Karen Aroesty, the group’s St. Louis regional director, said in a statement.

The attacks came during an unusually busy day at the Jewish Community Center, because first-round auditions were planned for the afternoon for a singing competition called KC SuperStar. When the shooting was reported around 1 p.m., more than 100 people fled into a hall inside the center, where they were held for about an hour and a half.

A high school student, Sophia Porter, arrived at the center for her singing audition only five minutes after the shooting. Sophia, 17, said she saw police cars arriving before she was ushered into the lockdown area with dozens of adults and children.

“I was definitely shellshocked when I heard what had happened,” she said. “It was horrifying to think of the person who would be responsible for that.”

The Jewish Community Center is the main hub for about 20,000 Jewish people living in the Kansas City metropolitan area, said Herbert Mandl, a retired rabbi and a local police chaplain.

“It’s a very trying time for the community,” he said. “We’ll pull together. We’ll survive.”

The attacks started at a parking lot in the back of the sprawling community center near a theater, the police said. The suspect fired several shots and left. Several minutes later, an emergency call came from the retirement community reporting shots fired.

Images from local television stations showed a heavyset, bearded man wearing glasses being led away in handcuffs by police officers.

Mr. Mandl said he thought it was “suspicious” that both of the targets were places used mostly by the Jewish community, but said he understood that officials were being cautious in determining a motive.

Village Shalom representatives said Sunday evening that they had few details about what had happened. The retirement community was established in 1912 by a benevolent society of Orthodox Jews in Kansas City, according to their website. The campus has a cafe with kosher food, a dental clinic, a day spa and a library.

At the Jewish Community Center, the back doors had substantial damage from gunfire, the police said. The center released a statement on Sunday evening saying it would be closed on Monday.

“Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered loss on this tragic day,” the statement read. “Our heartfelt gratitude as well to all those in Kansas City and around the world who have expressed sympathy, concern and support.”

FRANCE | National Front councillor Eric Assad is revealed as killer

Source: Independent Saturday, 12 April 2014, 11:54

A National Front councillor elected in the central French city of Clermont-Ferrand last month is a killer who spent seven years in psychiatric institutions, it has emerged.

The revelation of the dark past of Eric Assad, 59, is a deep embarrassment for Marine Le Pen, who claims to have professionalised and cleaned up the far-right party since she replaced her father as its president three years ago.

Mr Assad was elected in third place on the NF ticket in Clermont-Ferrand as part of a nationwide surge of support for the anti-immigrant, anti-European party in municipal elections last month.

The local newspaper La Montagne revealed that he shot dead a student and wounded two other people in a random series of attacks in Belle-Île, an island off the south coast of Brittany, in December 1979.

Mr Assad was accused of murder and attempted murder but was never tried because a court decided in 1980 that he was in a “state of dementia” at the time of the attacks. Medical reports said he was “not responsible for his actions” because he was enraged by a failed love affair.

He spent seven years in mental institutions, at one time escaping for a year.

The NF said that Mr Assad had never revealed his past to the party and had no formal criminal record. “If we had known, we would have suggested that he remain in the shadows,” said the party’s former deputy leader, Bruno Gollnisch.

Local party officials said that Mr Assad had offered to resign and they would consider what action to take. Initially, Cllr Assad claimed to be the victim of mistaken identity. It was pointed out that, just like the Eric Assad who rampaged through Belle-Île in 1979, he was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam in 1955.

The revelation is one of a series of embarrassments for the NF since it won control of a dozen small and medium-sized towns in the second round of municipal elections on 30 March. Despite insisting during the campaign that the party would run town halls pragmatically and “non-ideologically”, Ms Le Pen announced this week that all NF towns would restore pork to school menus where the meat had been banned for “religious reasons”. It later emerged that no town in France had ever introduced such a ban.

The newly elected NF mayor of the depressed northern town of Hénin-Beaumont, Steeve Briois, also announced this week that he was ejecting the local office of the League of Human Rights from a council-owned building.

Some political commentators in France have predicted that the NF’s local election successes would explode in the face of Ms Le Pen’s cleaned-up party. The veneer of professionalism and moderation, applied by Ms Le Pen since 2011, had already began to peel off during the campaign, they said.

Ms Le Pen has assembled an impressive coterie of intelligent young men as her praetorian guard, but the party’s pool of talent – or even potential grass-roots candidates – remains very shallow. Several local candidates were revealed during the campaign to have extreme racist views, contradicting Ms Le Pen’s claim to run a nationalist but non-racist party. One elderly candidate in the greater Paris area turned out to be dead.

Like the NF as a whole, Mr Assad campaigned last month on – among other issues – allegations that the Hollande administration and the political establishment generally were “soft” on crime. He also campaigned for the restoration of the death penalty and the mass dismissal of a political class whom he described as voyoux apatrides, or stateless thugs.

Under French law, Mr Assad’s criminal record was wiped clean on his release from psychiatric care in 1987. He therefore had a perfect legal right to stand for election.

The NF’s lawyer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, said: “There is nothing dishonourable about this case, but he really ought to have told us about it.”

GREECE | Golden Dawn Mob Threatens NGO for Treating Migrants in Perama Clinic

Source: IBT Saturday, 12 April 2014, 10:30

Golden Dawn Members

Golden Dawn members/Reuters

A neo-Nazi mob affiliated to the Greek Golden Dawn party has intimidated a polyclinic of the human rights organisation Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) because it was providing healthcare services and medication to immigrants.

The gang of around 30 people, dressed in the far-right party's uniforms, shouted "Blood, honour, Golden Dawn" and "Foreigners get out" outside the polyclinic in the Athens suburb of Perama, even though the facility also treats Greek patients.

At the time of the threats, around 40 Greek and foreign patients, including many children, were inside the clinic.

MdM secretary Nikitas Kanakis said that 90% of the patients were Greeks, adding that "they will not scare us, medicine does not discriminate."

It it is not the first time that the Perama branch of Medecins du Monde has been intimidated by Golden Dawn. The organisation provides free primary health care to people who cannot afford those services in Greece, and its patient roster has been growing steadily since the financial crisis struck.

In February 2013, patients and staff at the clinic were targeted by Golden Dawn members, who shouted racist slogans.

Medecins du Monde released a statement in the aftermath of the attack, saying:

We declare that we refuse to "take fright" and we will staunchly continue to defend the right to healthcare wherever there are people.

We deem that Golden Dawn bears moral responsibility for any potential attacks our clinics may be subjected to in the future and for this reason the relevant authorities will be notified accordingly.

We call upon the Greeks who share the same solidarity principles with us to support our efforts with even greater determination.

Last year, members of the neo-Nazi party clashed with a group of Roma in a raid on Kalamata Hospital in southern Peloponnese.

GREECE | Neo-Nazi MP sold hygiene products to NGO backed by refugee fund

Source: Saturday, 12 April 2014, 08:54

A firm owned by Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayiotaros sold 25,000 euros’ worth of hygiene products to the nongovernmental organization Doctors of the World and received part of its payment from the European Refugee Fund, it was revealed in Parliament on Friday.

Deputy Labor Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou said that the sale had been discovered during checks on the company’s invoices. The matter has now been referred to the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) and a prosecutor as Panayiotaros’s firm did not have authorization from tax authorities to sell these goods. His company, Falanga, owns a store in Athens that sells clothes to members of the neo-Nazi party.

“Apart from being a criminal organization, they are also a business,” Kegeroglou said of the far-right party.

The revelation about the July 2012 deal, shortly after Golden Dawn entered Parliament for the first time, prompted the NGO to make a statement admitting it had made a mistake when choosing a supplier.

“The choice was based solely on the which of the offers submitted was the lowest,” the group, also known as Medecins du Monde, said. “We admit that, unfortunately, we did not match up the offer in question with the supplier.”

The NGO said it remains committed to opposing fascism and racism and pointed out that one of its clinics, in Perama near Piraeus, was attacked by Golden Dawn members.

FRANCE | No halal meat in town canteens: far-right mayor

Source: Friday, 11 April 2014, 09:10

A newly elected far-right mayor in a town in southern France has vowed that no municipally-run cafeterias will serve halal meals, adding fuel to a growing controversy in the wake of the National Front's success in last month's local elections.

One of the far-right mayors who swept into power two weeks ago after historic local elections has wasted no time in stoking controversy by stating that no halal meals will be served in municipal cafeterias in his town of Béziers. The mayor Robert Ménard, whose campaign was backed by Marine Le Pen and her National Front party told RTL radio any town establishments that serve halal will cease to do so immediately. “You must always give people the choice to avoid eating foods that they don’t want to or cannot eat due to their religious convictions.

That said, there will be no halal meals in municipal cafeterias,” Ménard said. RTL noted that there is no official data available on which schools in Beziers, if any, serve halal meat to students who dine in the cafeterias.

Ménard's comments come just days after National Front party leader Marine Le Pen told RTL radio the nearly dozen French cities captured by her party would not allow “religious requirements” to dictate the composition of school lunches. Le Pen told a French radio station that in towns won by the party's candidates school cafeterias will no longer serve non-pork substitution meals, which generally go to Muslim and Jewish children.

School meals is the first issue the National Front has flexed its newly strengthened political muscles on since winning a record number of town council seats and mayorships in March's local elections. 

The issue of halal meat is often a controversial topic in France where those against it justify their opposition by pointing to France's historic principle of laïcité - a separation of religion from all matters of the state. The question around halal meat has been used as a political football, especially when elections approach.

Marine Le Pen launched a fierce row before 2012’s presidential elections when she claimed all meat from abatoirs in the Paris region was prepared using Islamic halal traditions and non-Muslim consumers in the capital were being misled.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy then waded into the row suggesting that meat should be labelled to tell consumers how the animal was slaughtered, which Jews and Muslims reject because they fear it will lead to them being stigmatized. 

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) hit back, slamming what it said was the use of Muslims as "scapegoats" in the election campaign.

HUNGARY | With Jobbik gains, Hungary's far-right now strongest in EU

Source: Haaretz Friday, 11 April 2014, 09:02

Hungarians handed their maverick Prime Minister Viktor Orban another four years in power in a parliamentary election on Sunday, while about one in every five voters backed a far-right opposition party accused of anti-Semitism.

Orban has clashed repeatedly with the European Union and foreign investors over his unorthodox policies, and after Sunday's win, big businesses were bracing for another term of unpredictable and, for some of them, hostile measures.

But many Hungarians see Orban, a 50-year-old former dissident against Communist rule, as a champion of national interests. They also like the fact that under his government personal income tax and household power bills have fallen.

After 89.2 percent of the ballots were counted, election officials projected Orban's Fidesz party would win 132 of the 199 seats in parliament - hovering one seat below the two-thirds threshold needed for his party to change the constitution.

The same projection gave the Socialist-led leftist alliance 38 seats, while Jobbik would take 24 seats. "We have scored ... a comprehensive victory, the significance of which we cannot yet fully grasp tonight," Orban told a jubilant crowd at his party's election headquarters.

Far-right harbinger

Jobbik's performance is being watched closely for clues about how other nationalist right-wing parties, such as France's Front National and the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, will perform in European Parliament elections next month. In terms of its share of the national vote on party lists, Jobbik won 20.86 percent, up from 15.86 percent of all votes four years ago.

Its showing based on the incomplete results on Sunday was the strongest of any far-right party in the EU in the past few years, according to Cas Mudde, Assistant Professor at the School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia in the United States. He said the previous strongest result for a far-right group was the 20.5 percent won by Austria's Freedom Party last year. "There is no doubt that Jobbik will be among the strongest far-right parties in Europe, which is particularly striking because it is also one of the most extreme of Europe's far-right parties," Mudde told Reuters.

Jobbik has pledged to create jobs, be tough on crime, renegotiate state debt and hold a referendum on EU membership. While it denies being racist, it provides a lightning rod for suspicion among some Hungarians towards the Roma and Jews.

Its leader, Gabor Vona, often works shifts in minimum wage jobs - a waiter, a construction worker - to show he is in touch with ordinary peoples' concerns. A senior party figure in 2012 proposed drawing up lists of Jews in parliament, though he later apologised and said he was misunderstood. "Jobbik is continuously ... increasing its popularity," Vona told party supporters late on Sunday. "And ahead of the European Parliament elections it is important to make clear that today in the EU Jobbik is the strongest national radical party."

Investors wary

In the past four years, Orban's policies have included a nationalisation of private pension funds, swingeing "crisis taxes" on big business, and a relief scheme for mortgage holders for which the banks, mostly foreign-owned, had to pay. Orban has pledged more of the same if re-elected, and the business community expects him in particular to press ahead with a plan to transfer big chunks of the banking sector into Hungarian hands, and impose more levies on foreign power firms.

More unpredictable policies could weigh on Hungary's forint currency, especially if the central bank - led by a close ally of Orban's - cuts interest rates further from record lows, against a backdrop of jittery sentiment in global markets. His policies have played well with voters and helped Hungary emerge from recession, but some economists say that by hurting foreign investors, Orban may have scared off the kind of investment Hungary needs for long-term growth.

"Big business do not want the frequent changes of policy, particularly in terms of taxes, which were characteristic of Orban's last term," said Timothy Ash of Standard Bank.

The election was a new low point for the leftists, who were ousted in 2010 after racking up huge amounts of public debt, and after their leader four years earlier was caught on tape admitting his government was lying to the public.

Some Hungarians worry that, without a credible challenge to his dominance, Orban has accumulated too much power. Socialist leader Attila Mesterhazy acknowledged defeat but declined to congratulate Orban, saying the prime minister had won unfairly by changing the election system to Fidesz's advantage and compromising media freedom - allegations the government denies.

Mesterhazy also lamented the strong performance by the Jobbik, calling it a party that "is poisoning the whole of Hungarian society."

NETHERLANDS | Far right provincial councillor claims cash but fails to turn up

Source: The Dutch News Friday, 11 April 2014, 08:55

A Noord-Holland provincial councillor who has not attended any meeting in two years has been urged by the province’s senior official to step down. Monica Nunes, first elected on behalf of Geert Wilders’ PVV, attended three meetings in 2012 and none since then but is still paid €1,150 a month, Nos television says. Nunes left the PVV in early 2012 after a string of conflicts and continued as an independent under the Forza Noord-Holland flag.

No powers

The queen’s commissioner in Noord Holland, Johan Remkes, has now written to Nunes urging her to resign. However, the province has no powers to sack her or stop her salary, Nos says. Parliament is working on plans to make it easier to get rid of councillors who fail to turn up to meetings, Remkes said. Elsevier points out that in 2011, Nunes hit the headlines after it emerged she was both provincial councillor and a party worker. She is also said to have been a frequent visitor and contributor to neo-nazi website Stormfront.

POLAND/HUNGARY | Special Report: From Hungary, far-right party spreads ideology, tactics

Source: Reuters Friday, 11 April 2014, 08:39

In a rented public hall not far from Poland's parliament, about 150 people gathered one afternoon late last year to hear speeches by a collection of far-right leaders from around Europe.

The event was organized by Ruch Narodowy, or National Movement, a Polish organization that opposes foreign influences, views homosexuality as an illness and believes Poland is threatened by a leftist revolution hatched in Brussels. Chief attraction was Marton Gyongyosi, one of the leaders of Hungarian far-right party Jobbik.

It is a familiar rallying cry. Far-right groups have emerged or grown stronger across Europe in the wake of the financial crisis, and they are increasingly sharing ideas and tactics. Reuters has found ties between at least half a dozen of the groups in Europe's ex-Communist east. At the network's heart, officials from those groups say, sits Jobbik.

The party won 20.54 percent of the vote in Hungary's parliamentary election on April 6, up from the 15.86 percent it won in 2010, cementing its status as by far the largest far-right group in Eastern Europe. From its strong base at home, Jobbik has stepped up efforts to export its ideology and methods to the wider region, encouraging far-right parties to run in next month's European parliamentary elections, and propagating a brand of nationalist ideology which is so hardline and so tinged with anti-Semitism, that some rightist groups in Western Europe have distanced themselves from the Hungarians.

The spread of Jobbik's ideology has alarmed anti-racism campaigners, gay rights activists, and Jewish groups. They believe it could fuel a rise in racially-motivated, anti-Semitic or homophobic street attacks. Longer-term, they say, it could help the far-right gain more political power. In a statement sent to Reuters, Jobbik said that it hoped the people of central and eastern Europe would unite in an "alliance that spreads from the Adriatic to the Baltic Sea," to counter what it called Euro-Atlantic suppression. Jobbik rejected any link between the growing strength of radical nationalists and violence. "Jobbik condemns violence, and its members cannot be linked to such acts either," it said.

Spreading Ideology

The day after Gyongyosi's speech last November, Jobbik's leader, Gabor Vona, addressed another rally in a Warsaw park. "The path to final victory involves a million small steps," he told the crowd, through a translator. "You should take up this challenge. Take part in the European elections." The crowd chanted: "Poland and Hungary are brothers!"

As they marched through the city earlier that day, some of the Polish participants fought pitched battles with police and set fire to a rainbow sculpture erected as a symbol of diversity. Poland is not the only example of Jobbik's regional outreach. Far-right groups in Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, and Bulgaria told Reuters they have ties with fellow parties in several countries in the region. Jobbik sat at the center of that web, the only one with contacts with all the parties.

Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP), one of the few far right parties in Western Europe with close relations with Jobbik, said the Hungarian party is the driving force behind efforts to forge a far-right coalition. Other groups say they admire the party because of its success in Hungary and its organizational muscle. Jobbik appears to operate on a shoestring.

It has an annual budget of $2.34 million, according to the Hungarian state audit office, most of it from a state allowance to parties in parliament. Jobbik denies giving financial aid to other groups, but it can afford its own staff, travel, and facilities - all factors that enhance its influence. "Jobbik is a market leader of sorts," Gyongyosi said. "There are shared values, and the way Jobbik grew big, why could the same thing not happen elsewhere?"

"Against the Dictates of Brussels"

Broadly speaking those shared values include a strong opposition to Brussels, a dislike of immigrants, and a suspicion of Jews and of the Roma, an ethnic minority who number about 10 million in Eastern Europe and who have faced centuries of discrimination. Hromoslav Skrabak, leader of 19-year-old Slovakian group Slovenska Pospolitost, has argued for racial segregation and "humanitarian" methods to reduce Roma fertility. Skrabak said his group cooperates with far-right groups in Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Serbia to jointly fight "against the dictate of Brussels," and to spread the idea of pan-Slavism, a union of ethnic Slavs.

Frano Cirko, a member of the Croatian Pure Party of Rights, said cooperation between far-right groups helped take on "neo-liberal" capitalism, which he said threatened national values in Europe and made it too easy for foreign firms to buy Croatian companies.

Angel Dzhambazki, deputy leader of Bulgaria's VMRO, a movement that has its roots in the late 19th century and was revived in 1990, said its "close cooperation" with Jobbik and a Croatian group had helped it grow. "We invite them to participate in our meetings, and at the same time we take part in events organized by them."

VRMO is in the process of forming a coalition with a new populist party called Bulgaria Without Censorship. A poll by Bulgaria's Institute of Modern Politics showed that, together, the parties would have 5.6 percent support for the European Parliament election, putting them third and giving them a chance of winning one of Bulgaria's allocation of 17 seats. The elections for the European Parliament take place on May 22-25 in all 28 member states of the bloc.

Western Front

Jobbik has had less success in Western Europe, where more established nationalist parties reject its anti-Semitic views. In 2012, Jobbik's Gyongyosi told the Hungarian parliament that Jews were a threat to national security and should be registered on lists. He later apologized and said he had been misunderstood.

But parties such as the Dutch Party of Freedom, which is staunchly pro-Israel, and France's National Front, which has sought to move away from its anti-Semitic past, are both wary of the Hungarian group. Jobbik's principal ally in Western Europe is the British National Party. Griffin, its leader, said the BNP and Jobbik were working together on building a functioning bloc of nationalists within the European Parliament.

"I would say probably I do more of the work in eastern and southern Europe than they (Jobbik) do, whereas they tend to concentrate on the center and the east," Griffin said in a telephone interview. Opinion polls in Britain suggest the BNP will lose the two seats it currently holds in the European parliament.

One far-right party that polls predict will win seats in Brussels is Greece's Golden Dawn, which says it wants to rid the country of the "stench" of immigrants. But Jobbik told Reuters Golden Dawn was "unfit" for the Hungarian party to cooperate with. Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris said there was no official cooperation with Jobbik.

Cas Mudde, assistant professor at the School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia in the United States, said that Jobbik is driven in part to look for allies "to show that it is not some kind of marginal phenomenon. There are two ways to do that: You can do it nationally, which is very hard, or you can do it internationally by saying: 'Look, we have friends all over the place.'"

"This is Dangerous"

Last May, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) urged European governments to consider banning neo-Nazi parties that threatened democracy and minority rights. The WJC met in the Hungarian capital Budapest to underscore its concerns about Jobbik.

Rafal Pankowski from Never Again, a Polish anti-racist association that tracks cases of racially motivated violence, said he feared that Jobbik's efforts to spread its tactics and ideology could lead to more violence against minorities.

"This is dangerous," he said of Jobbik's international influence. "If similar groups in other countries copy this model ... then the situation might worsen." Robert Biedron, a gay member of the Polish parliament, said Polish far-right activists ran a website called Red Watch where they posted pictures and personal details of people they described as "queers and deviants," as well as lists of left-wing activists and Jewish academics.

Biedron reported to police that he was beaten up in Warsaw at the end of February in what he believes was a homophobic attack. Biedron said he did not expect Ruch Narodowy to win seats in this year's European election, but the Polish party's support was rising, and it had a chance in next year's Polish parliamentary polls.

If that happens, he said, it will use parliament to promote its rhetoric "based on hate for others." Jobbik's network-building has been most successful in Poland in part because Poland and Hungary have no historical claims on each other's territory, an issue that has often hindered cooperation between Jobbik and nationalists from other neighbors.


On a sandy riverbank in the shadow of a bridge over the river Vistula, members of the paramilitary arm of Ruch Narodowy rehearsed for their role as stewards before November's rally in Warsaw. Some looked like the stereotype of far-right skinheads. Others were middle-class professionals. One showed up in an Audi saloon, another in an expensive sports utility vehicle.

The unit's leader, Przemyslaw Czyzewski, said several members were lawyers. A diagram of the organization's structure showed it had a military-style hierarchy, and units called "choragiew", a word which was used in the past to describe Polish cavalry formations. Explaining why he decided to join the unit, one man said he wanted to defend Polish values under threat from foreign influences.

"I finally had to do something," said the man, in his thirties, who did not give his name. The group denies it takes its inspiration from Hungary, but it has striking similarities with Jobbik's paramilitary wing, called "Magyar Garda," or Hungarian Guard. In 2008 a court ruled that Magyar Garda threatened the dignity of Roma and Jewish people. The group disbanded but was quickly replaced by a similar organization.

Robert Winnicki, the bookish, bespectacled 28-year-old leader of Ruch Narodowy, has described homosexuality as "a plague" and talked of creating a "new type of Pole" disciplined enough to take on the country's enemies. He told Reuters that the aim of his movement's contacts with foreign peers was to "exchange experiences, learn from each other."

Winnicki traveled to Hungary in March last year to address a rally of Jobbik activists. "Inspired by your example, we are organizing a national movement today in Poland," he told his Hungarian hosts, according to a published transcript. "An army is quickly growing in Poland which soon, on its section of the front, will join the battle that you are conducting. And together we will march to victory."

LITHUANIA | Roma: Presumption of Guilt

Source; Tuesday, 8 April 2014, 17:01

By Vilma Fiokla Kiure

Vilma Fiokla Kiure (photo: Benediktas Januševičius)

The first international congress of Roma was held on April 8, 1971 in Oprington, England. In 1990, the date was designated International Roma Day.

On this day Roma celebrate and hold concerts, but also remember the most tragic eras in the history of the Roma: persecution by the Nazis and their collaborators in World War II and the resulting genocide of the Roma people. On this day the Vilnius Roma community floats wreaths of flowers on the Neris River in remembrance of their compatriots.

Roma who survived the Second World War, ethnic cleansing and genocide remember that the Nazi soldiers and their local police collaborators used simple external recognition to persecute the Roma.

At that time the Roma were still wanderers, and it was a rare member of the community who had identification documents. Few had relationships with sedentary residents, making physical resemblance to the typical Roma the main indicator of ethnicity, in many cases guaranteeing death.

We visited recently with an elderly Roma woman in Parubanka (the Roma name for the Kirtimai camp on the outskirts of Vilnius). We drank tea and chatted, and after we had talked for a while this unusually beautiful woman ran her hand across her skin, as if she wanted to wipe something off, and with great shame mentioned that she didn’t like her dark skin, that she felt unbeautiful.

If she had been fairer everything would have been different and she would have been happier. She is a child of the post-war period, but, as she said, because of her skin color, her dark skin, she had suffered all her life. She had suffered and felt inadequate. It was horrifying to hear this.

Usually the dimensions of spreading racism and xenophobia, the statistical data, reach us as abstract figures or as historical facts, but when you see in front of you a person, a woman who hates her skin color, and when you understand that this is a consequence of life in our society, one becomes ashamed of and horrified by something in the country in which one lives.

Speaking of appearance and its influence on social life, I told a female friend the story of the blonde Roma Maria from the Farsala camp whom Greek officials took from her adoptive Roma parents only because she didn’t look like her fellow Roma. My friend was shocked.

Then I told her that fair hair and skin are not always the salvation of a Roma. It is horrible to think what that small girl ripped from the environment to which she was accustomed experienced, to try to imagine what Roma who have “suspiciously” fair children feel.

Actually I myself was frightened to think the psychosis which had arisen in Greece over “children stolen by the Gypsies” might appear here in Lithuania as well. There are blond, blue-eyed Roma at the Kirtimai camp, and there are some green-eyed red-haired children as well, who in no way resemble the stereotypical image of Roma.

That’s why I believe hatred of Roma is more than simply racism. It includes hatred of all that is connected with the Roma way of life: disobedience of rules imposed, refusal to submit to oppression, a thirst for independence and freedom.

That Roma live according to their own values and that they have been unbreakable and impossible to enslave for centuries now, that is what most enrages the sector of society which tends toward nationalism. Driven out of cities and countries, physically destroyed, slandered and persecuted, and yet the Roma continue to survive and live their own distinct life.

Later, after the visit to the camp, after talking to my female Roma friend, I realized how hard it can be even for some people of some Roma heritage, even for non-Roma people who work to help Roma, to understand what it means to be Roma. It doesn’t matter if I know a lot about Roma culture and traditions.

Nor is it important that I am friends with Roma and we speak often. I cannot say anything significant about them or learn anything important without experiencing what they experience. To live and survive in a world where you are always guilty, simply by virtue of being a Roma, is very complicated.

Those who claim discrimination against the Roma has only intensified in the last few decades are only partially correct. Lithuania has had xenophobia issues from ancient times. This is amply demonstrated by the sayings and sentences about Gypsies which have come down to us from the hoary past: “Gypsy or mischief-maker, same thing”; “The Gypsy mystifies even the Devil, even in church”; ”Have anything to do with a Gypsy, and you end up in jail”; “Can a dog not bark? How will a Gypsy live if he doesn’t steal?” “Soap will not begin to clean a Gypsy”.

In the past and today, Roma are associated with filth, evil and crime in Lithuania. The Lithuanian media, an active participant in forming public opinion, if they write about Roma at all, then they feel compelled to mention ethnicity in the headline: “Police Unmask ‘Professional’ Roma Thieves,” “Troškūnai Resident Hurt by Men of Gypsy Ethnicity,” “Woman of Roma Ethnicity Found with Heroin by Police,” “Police Use Fines to Drive Out Roma Occupying Scenic Banks of Kaunas Lagoon.” The Roma as an ethnic group are consistently associated with criminal acts, dirtiness and even fatal diseases. “Viral Hepatitis Quickly Spreading from Gypsy Camp; Vilnius Children’s Home Shut Down;” “Dirty Hands Spread Disease at Roma Camp.”

Lithuanian-Roma relations are extremely complicated and don’t lend much hope for future dialogue. There is either a disproportionate demonization or extreme romanticization.

Romanticization quickly turns to hate when the figure romanticized doesn’t conform to the expectations implied by the image created by the collective imagination. People tend to simply quarantine those whom they fear or fail to understand, and that is most easily accomplished by calling them dangerous sorcerers, unpredictable criminals and filthy carriers of disease and pestilence.

At the same time those around me think I’m a Roma, since I traveled together with a female friend from the camp on the bus, and intentionally wore a colorful scarf. As soon as we got on the bus, our fellow passengers swarmed away from us, as if from lepers, elderly ladies began hiding their purses, and everyone around began looking askance. It was so uncomfortable I wanted to jump off the bus. God, I thought, and my friend has to go through this every day.

The Roma were among the first whom the Nazis went after. And I fear that the same people who went after the Roma yesterday will soon be knocking on my door as well.

Original article here:

HUNGARY | Is Hungary far-right's electoral success a hint of things to come?

Source: Japan Times Tuesday, 8 April 2014, 16:17

Gabor Vona | AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Viktor Orban easily trounced his rivals to once again become Hungary’s undisputed leader, but the strong showing of the country’s far-right Jobbik party has left Jewish leaders and others worried.

Jobbik’s politicians are known for anti-Semitic and anti-Roma statements, but finished third in Sunday’s poll. The party toned down its rhetoric for the contest and focused on mainstream issues like the economy.

Analysts said Monday that Jobbik’s popularity remained strong in Hungary’s northeast, a region shackled with high unemployment and conflicts with the Roma, also known as Gypsies.

But it added voters in other areas, including the richer, western half of Hungary and the districts surrounding the capital, Budapest, winning 20.5 percent of the votes, up from 16.7 percent in 2010. Jobbik leader Gabor Vona was pleased with the vote and claimed it showed his broadening base in Hungary, despite his disappointment that the party did not win the elections.

“Jobbik’s support has not only strengthened, but it also has become more balanced,” Vona said on state television. “It seems the split between east and west has ceased.”

Jobbik’s gains are seen as a warning ahead of May’s European Parliament elections, when extremist parties across the continent could attract more voters.

The European Jewish Congress, a relentless Jobbik critic, called the party’s electoral success a “dark day for Hungary” and a source of grave concern for Europe.

“Once again in Europe we are witnessing democracy being appropriated by those (who) are the enemies of democracy,” said European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor. “It is the duty of both European leaders and voters to ensure that a strong message is delivered by supporters of democracy throughout Europe to show these racists and xenophobes that hate has no place on our continent.”

Jobbik has steadily improved its showing in every election since 2009, when it won 14.8 of the votes in the previous European Parliament elections and could serve as an example to other extremist parties in the region — if not in the rest of Europe.

However, there is a sharp divide between the extreme right in Eastern and Western Europe, said Zoltan Miklosi, associate professor of political science at Central European University.

“The extreme right in the West is anti-immigration, anti-Muslim and sometimes even pro-Israel,” Miklosi said. “That would be unimaginable for a far-right party in Eastern Europe.”

Jobbik accuses Israeli investors of trying to buy up Hungarian properties, wants to drive multinational corporations out of the country, and targets its most vicious remarks not at immigrants, but against the local Roma, who are blamed for petty crimes and are seen as taking unfair advantage of social welfare programs.

Those contrasts did not prevent Jobbik and several far-right parties across Europe, including Sweden, Italy, Britain and Portugal, from forming the Alliance of European National Movements in 2009. Some of its members, however, like France’s National Front, later left the group in efforts to improve their image.

National Front chief Marie Le Pen has since said that the excessively extreme positions of Jobbik and Greece’s Golden Dawn make them unacceptable partners.

In light of Sunday’s results in Hungary, Vona claimed Jobbik was “Europe’s strongest EU-skeptic party,” an attitude reflected by their treatment of the EU flag — party officials burned one at a rally in 2012, while another threw the banner from a window of the Hungarian parliament in February.

Jobbik’s popularity in the polls rose markedly over the past few months, which Miklosi said pointed toward fresh support from voters disillusioned with Hungary’s mainstream groups, the lack of options on the left and the blurring of Jobbik’s extremist image.

Vona and other Jobbik candidates released photos posing with cats and puppies and appeared with their kids in women’s magazines.

GERMANY | Cookie Monster puts down the cookie jar and picks up the neo-Nazi propaganda

Source: Guardian Tuesday, 8 April 2014, 16:02

Cookie Monster

Cookie Monster: the "fun and rebellious" face of neo-Nazism. Photograph: Richard Termine

In 1990, Richard Darman, director of the US Office of Management and Budget, described the Cookie Monster as the "quintessential consumer", and in the past he has been forced to adjust his "more is more" approach to snacking as part of a campaign to curb childhood obesity. But now the Sesame Street character has suffered serious damage to his reputation: as the Mail Online reports, he is being used as a neo-Nazi recruiting tool.

The "how" is clear from recent German news reports: at the end of March a known far-right activist, 31-year-old Steffen Lange, was arrested for walking into a Brandenburg school dressed as the Cookie Monster and distributing neo-Nazi leaflets to children. Police subsequently searched his home and that of an accomplice, and found more Cookie Monster-themed propaganda.

The "why" is much less obvious. The Cookie Monster is not known to hold far-right views. He possesses no Aryan traits (his fur may be blue, but his eyes are googly, and he lives in the friendly, multicultural environs of Sesamstrasse). It's also unclear what use a bunch of Cookie Monster-loving schoolkids would be to the far-right movement. Among the propaganda referred to in the Mail article is an image of the Cookie Monster standing with Adolf Hitler, with the caption, "Who ate my biscuit?" Presumably the answer is meant to be "immigrants", but this juxtaposition is poorly thought-through and has no logic at all. Setting aside the fact that Hitler and the Cookie Monster never met, I think we've all seen enough episodes of Sesame Street to know exactly who ate the cookie.

A police spokesman described the use of the Cookie Monster's image as an attempt to make neo-Nazism seem "harmless and everyday and perhaps something a bit fun and a bit rebellious". It's more likely that the neo-Nazi in question just happened to have the costume lying around already.

There is no easier way to damage someone's public reputation than by dressing up as him and being objectionable. Times Square in New York recently suffered a spate of people dressed as the Cookie Monster, Elmo and other characters harassing tourists, pandering for cash and assaulting children.

Remember, kids: if he's doing anything other than shouting and eating cookies, it's probably not the real Cookie Monster.

AUSTRIA | Moelzer no longer top Freedom Party candidate for Europe

Source: Tuesday, 8 April 2014, 13:33

FPOe politician Andreas Moelzer is no longer his party's top candidate for the European Parliament elections. The news comes after his controversial remarks about race in the European Union led to senior Austrian politicians calling for him to withdraw.

Moelzer decided to step down from the top candidacy position for the elections in May, citing "evident loss of confidence in my party" as the reason for his withdrawal. The politician who is currently an MEP has not withdrawn from the general FPOe candidate list.

The move from Moelzer follows comments from President Heinz Fischer who said the views of Moelzer that EU was becoming a "conglomerate of negroes" and that its regulations made Hitler's Third Reich looked "possibly...liberal", were "out of place in the European Parliament".

FPOe party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has also distanced himself from Moezler's remarks by saying "Andreas Moelzer is not the party's chief ideologue".

Strache said he was planning to speak personally to Moezler this week about the controversial remarks. Criticisms have come from other populist parties that have been building alliances with the FPOe, as well as from a leader of Austria's Jewish community.

The MEP politician insisted to media that he did not decide to withdraw because of pressure from the "far-left" or the "hypocritical political establishment" or "politically correct media" many of whom have criticised his recent remarks.

HUNGARY | Fidesz wins Hungarian election by a landslide

Source: Sunday, 6 April 2014, 22:25

Turnout at Hungary’s parliamentary election on Sunday was below the turnout in 2010 and the elections before that, two exit polls already indicate the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition will keep its supermajority in the new 199-member Parliament. The other three parties that apparently reached the 5% threshold are the left-wing alliance, far-right extremist party Jobbik and green party LMP.

Key details

  • As of 17.30 local time, 56.77% of around 8 million eligible voters cast their ballot, which is 2.5 percentage points lower than in 2010
  • Due to a barrage of domestic absentee voting, i.e. the change of the polling district by voters, polls remain open in some places even after 8 P.M.
  • Pollster Nézőpont and an estimate by online news portal Index both found Fidesz-KNDP might just score two-thirds legislative majority again
  • And also that the left-wing opposition coalition, far-right radical party Jobbik and LMP also made it to Parliament.

Turnout 60.48% - 22:30

By 7 P.M. the National Election Office recorded a 60.48% turnout, which compares with 64.38% in 2010.

55% of votes processed - 22:17

According to information provided by the National Election Office, 55.57% of the votes have been processed, which would give us the following composition of parties in Parliament.

Fidesz could already have supermajority - 22:04

With 47.16% of the votes processed, Fidesz could have 134 seats in the 199-seat Parliament. For a two-thirds majority it would need 133 mandates.

There are a few polling districts where the leaf of the left-wing coalition is a few ten votes. Apparently, the repeated supermajority of the ruling Fidesz party may be thwarted only if green party LMP reaches the 5% threshold and gains seats in Parliament.

This is how the "horse shoe" in Parliament looks like (individual candidates) - 22:00

With 41.54% of votes processed, Fidesz-KDNP has 96 of the 106 single member constituencies, whereas the left-wing coalition won 10 individual mandates.

This also suggests that Fidesz might barely have the two-thirds legislative majority. At this point we would wager it will have it - if only by a hair.

Klikk a képre! Click to enlarge

Turnout: 60.09% - 21:51

Turnout was just over 60%, lower than expected, in the 2014 election.

Apparently "business as usual" - 21:45

Data from the larger Budapest polling districts are received at a slower pace, as usual therefore as data processing is going forward, the database is being filled with these votes. As a result the ratio of votes for Fidesz is dropping slightly, whereas the left-wing opposition is gaining some, which allowed the latter to increase its lead over the far-right Jobbik party. We bet that blood pressures are the highest at green-party LMP, now that the party is approaching the 5% parliamentary threshold. It will need very good figures from the capital city to make it.

At a 35.92% processing of data:

Fidesz: 46.87%

Left-wing opposition coalition: 23.15%

Jobbik: 21.53%

LMP: 4.45%

Századvég has poll results too - 20:03

According to an analysis by Századvég Foundation, the Fidesz-KDNP coalition had 47-51% of the votes, followed by the left-wing coalition (19-23%), Jobbik party (18-22%) and LMP (3-7%). The pollster asked 1,000 people on the phone between 8 A.M. and 6 P.M. today. It expects turnout around 60-62%.

Mandate estimates - 19:55

If’s mandate estimate proved to be correct, this is how parliamentary mandates would look like.

Index estimates that Fidesz-KDNP will have 133 seats in Parliament (the threshold of supermajority), with the left-wing alliance securing 40 seats, Jobbik 21 and LMP 5.

After a telephone survey Nézőpont calculates 48% of the votes for Fidesz-KDNP and 27% of the left-wing opposition coalition, identical with’s estimates. The institution expects Jobbik to have collected 18% of the votes and LMP to have 6% of the votes on the national list.

Fidesz "regretfully" rejects media from party event

Having confirmed their registration Fidesz has notified several local media that "due to a large number of foreign media registrations" and lack of space they will not be allowed to report from the scene of the party’s evening event where the top brass of the party awaits the official results of today’s election. Reporters from Hír24, Cink, 444 and Magyar Narancs will not be allowed inside.

Index reporters agreed that this kind of restriction of the media by the parties is baffling and unacceptable. Therefore, although they will be present at the events, they will not enter areas requiring registration., Origo and Népszabadság online all joined Index’s initiative.

The Democratic Coalition, helmed by former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány rejected the registration for its own event of public television MTV and Fidesz-partisan HírTV. Gyurcsány explained their boycott by writing on his Facebook page that he "does not regard either public television or Hír TV as press. In my opinion, they are both the bludgeon of one party, Fidesz."

"They lie, they falsify and prevaricate reality according to the interests of a single party. [...] The trouble is not with criticism. Far from it. [The trouble is] with the barefaced contortion of news, the barrage of lies and the servitude to a party. [...]," he added.

Responding to the boycott of both Fidesz and DC events by the aforementioned media, Gyurcsány noted: "Of course, I may be wrong. The boycott is a strong warning to rethink our stance we had so far. We will do so."

HUNGARY | Jobbik expected to make gains in Hungary vote

Source: AP Sunday, 6 April 2014, 19:54

Jobbik party supporters burning an EU flag at a rally in Budapest in 2012. (photo credit: screen capture/YouTube video uploaded by Euronews)

Jobbik party supporters burning an EU flag at a rally in Budapest in 2012. (photo credit: screen capture/YouTube video uploaded by Euronews)

Hungary’s governing party is tipped to win parliamentary elections Sunday, while the far-right Jobbik party is expected to make further gains, according to polls.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party and its small ally, the Christian Democrats, are expected to win easily and they may even retain the two-thirds majority in the legislature gained in 2010 which allowed them to pass a new constitution, adopt unconventional economic policies, centralize power and grow the state’s influence at the expense of the private sector.

Polls predict Fidesz will win around 45-50 percent of the votes, with a close race for second between a coalition of five left-wing groups led by Attila Mesterhazy and the Socialist Party — seen getting 25 percent — and the surging far-right Jobbik party which could receive up to 20 percent.

As Fidesz reminds voters every chance it gets, the Socialists are struggling to shake off their legacy as successors of the communist party, which ran Hungary with Soviet support until 1990, and their calamitous rule between 2002 and 2010 that took the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

In 2010, Jobbik got 16.7 percent of the ballots by appealing mainly to rural voters facing high unemployment and conflicts with their Roma neighbors — the country’s largest and generally poorest minority. Now, Gabor Vona’s party, which would prefer to see Hungary leave the European Union it joined in 2004, has toned down its anti-Roma and anti-Semitic statements, released photos of its politicians posing with pets and is trying to attract Hungarians fed up with the corruption and aloofness associated with the mainstream parties.

Fidesz has introduced a new electoral system which cuts the number of lawmakers from 386 to 199, has no runoff votes and extends voting rights to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Hungarians with dual citizenship living in neighboring countries. At the same time, it tilts results toward the leading candidates — which could allow Fidesz to keep its two-thirds majority with less than 50 percent of the votes — restricts parties’ political ads but does not limit government propaganda, while a much-needed reshaping of voting districts because of population shifts has been used by Fidesz for gerrymandering.

The Orban government compared Hungary’s financial vulnerability in 2010 to the crisis in Greece. Still, it decided to forego a new deal with the International Monetary Fund — which led a bailout of 20 billion euros (then $26 billion) in 2008 — so it could nationalize $14 billion in assets administered by private pension funds, impose windfall taxes on banks, numerous industries and services and enforce utility cuts for all households.

Other policies include a flat income tax rate of 16 percent, tax benefits for families and a public works program which has been crucial in lowering the unemployment rate to 8.6 percent in February from 11.3 percent in mid-2010.

Low domestic demand and the utility cuts have helped cut inflation to just 1.7 percent in 2013 from 4.9 percent in 2010.

The state budget deficit has been kept below EU standards, while Hungary’s debt level is down from 82 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 78 percent last year. But growth is middling and investments are often being delayed, partly because of the high taxes on businesses and the lack of predictable and sustainable economic policies.

Fidesz has defended companies owned by government cronies which have reaped generous state contracts and the two-thirds majority has given Orban a free hand and an iron fist to place close allies at institutions which oversee everything from Hungary’s media to its judicial system.

Parliament has also overruled the Constitutional Court on several issues, including homeless policies, the campaign ad restrictions, the recognition of churches and education reforms.

Orban’s plea for four more years appeals to many voters, like retiree Zsolt Papp.

“Should we go back to the starting line? We should not,” Papp said. “We should continue and go on.”

Analysts, however, warn about the potential hazards posed by a third Orban term, especially if Fidesz retains its super majority.

“Its economic policies will remain highly unpredictable and hurt investment sentiment,” said Blanka Kolenikova of HIS Country Risk in London. “A simple majority would be perhaps more beneficial — assuring overall government stability with a larger opposition providing a stronger democratic balance to Fidesz-imposed laws.”