Thursday, May 31, 2012


Boy admits Roma attack lie

Břeclav assault by Roma that angered city never happened


By Klára Jiřičná - Staff Writer

PHOTO    Zhyvachivski, 15, fell in an accident but said Roma attacked him. CTK Photo
An assault on a 15-year-old that stoked racial tensions and brought thousands to the streets of Břeclav, south Moravia, in April never happened, with the boy now admitting he concocted a story alleging he had been severely beaten by a group of Roma men.
As Petr Zhyvachivski faced a lie-detector test, he admitted the story was invented out of fear he would face discipline from his mother after he fell one story while playing on a handrail in a stairway. Zhyvachivski's resulting injuries placed him in intensive care and forced him to have a kidney removed.

While the tale is likely to spark a few smiles about youthful indiscretions, Břeclav's Roma community isn't laughing and neither are human rights activists, who say the public is too quick to blame minority groups for unsolved crimes. Roma leaders were calling for a public apology and possible legal action.

More than 2,000 people took to the Břeclav streets in late April to demonstrate against the fictitious attack, including members of the far-right Workers Party for Social Justice.
Oksana Zhyvachivska, Petr's mother, issued an apology on Czech Television May 24, saying it was a "terrible experience to learn the truth."

"I don't know whether to be happy that my son survived or whether to be angry that he not only deceived me, but the whole country," she said. "I would like to apologize to the Roma minority and all of the people in Břeclav and say that I only acted as a mother and meant no harm. I know my words raised a lot of hell, and I am sorry for what they caused."

Meanwhile, the Nationwide Association of Roma (CAR) sent officials to Břeclav to plan future steps, including criminal complaints that cite arousing racial hatred. The group later backtracked on those threats following Zhyvachivska's apology.

"We feel damaged as a minority," said Stanislav Daniel, a CAR vice chairman. "People quickly drew conclusions about us based on this case. It seems to be a trend to blame the Roma for everything. But this is something society cannot afford to do."

Anna Šabatová, chairwoman of the Czech Helsinki Committee, an NGO protecting equal rights, said politicians and media failed to directly face the hateful response that kept the police busy for weeks as local Roma were systematically interrogated.

"Politicians participated by automatically sympathizing with the mother of the boy, and talked about Roma assaults," she said. "Even if this [attack] had happened, you cannot automatically blame the whole community for the actions of an individual."

The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting has launched a project to monitor news reporting of criminal action related to the Roma minority on private broadcaster TV Nova during the first five months of 2012, with a focus on the Břeclav case. The investigation is based on suspicion of using stereotypes and prejudices when reporting on ethnic, religious or racial minorities. The results are expected in August.

CAR has sent a letter to Prime Minister Petr Nečas demanding the renewal of a Cabinet-level position related to minorities and human rights. Nečas abolished the post in September 2010 and downgraded the office to that of a commissioner rather than a minister.

In the letter, CAR also inquires why leading politicians have failed to comment on the Břeclav case, citing a dangerous atmosphere in the country and growing anti-Roma sentiment.

Břeclav Mayor Oldřich Ryšavý said he is pleased the situation now appears settled and that the unfounded allegations about Roma attackers proved false. He has backed efforts by Roma leaders to create a new community group designed to work with city leaders on minority issues.

The investigation of the fabricated assault has been closed by the south Moravian police as a Břeclav prosecutor now looks into whether Petr Zhyvachivski could face criminal charges for fabricating his story.

Roma leaders said they are awaiting a decision from prosecutors but add that they are not pushing for charges against the boy.
Klára Jiřičná can be reached at


The poet Roberto Malini at the International Poetry Festival of Genoa to commemorate the Holocaust of the Roma People

Genoa, May 28, 2012.
Roberto Malini reads "Poems of the Holocaust" on the Shoah Memorial Day 2012 in Vercelli
Taken by Steed Gamero
In Genoa, on the evening of June 8th, 2012 (8 pm), at the Emanuele Luzzati Gardens, the poet and human rights defender Roberto Malini will read his poems dedicated to the condition of the Roma people in Italy.
The International Poetry Festival of Genoa is the biggest event dedicated to poetry in Italy.
The organizers have invited Malini on a symbolic date, the 74th anniversary of June 8th, 1938, when the Italian Ministry of Interior sent a circular to all the prefectures.
The document foresaw the establishment of concentration camps for persons deemed dangerous to public order. On the same day the round-ups and deportations of Roma families began.
On June 8th, 1930 the Porrajmos began in Italy.
Roberto Malini is the author - along with the American poet Paul Polansky - of the book of poetry "The Silence of the Violins" (published by Il Foglio, Piombino 2012, foreword by Ian Hancock), which recently won a Special Mention at the 2012 Literary Festival in Camaiore. The book is a collection of poems that relate true events: the tragedies that have hit the Roma people in Italy over recent years.
"I am proud to represent, through my poetry, the Roma people on this very significant day," says the poet. "Some Roma musicians will accompany my reading. I will read poems that speak of true heroes of our time: Alexandru and Mihai, elderly Porrajmos survivors, who are still being persecuted many years later in Italy.
Toma, the patriarch of the Roma of Pesaro, a city of evictions and persecution. Toma is currently being detained in prison.
We have applied for clemency to President Giorgio Napolitano, as the old man is innocent and seriously ill. A poem recounts the tragedy of Irina, the victim of a group of racist rapists.
Danciu is the protagonist of a gentle poem: he is a Roma artist who paints flowers in the makeshift shacks and under the bridges, to leave a trace of his passage.
I will be reading the story of Virgil, a child who never came into the world, because his young mother miscarried him during a terrible camp clearance, again in Pesaro.
The International Poetry Festival of Genoa is an ideal opportunity for this reading, because Genoa is a city of solidarity towards Roma and attentive to their ancient culture. This tolerance is a rare event in our country".
Roberto Malini is one of the founders of the international group of Roma artists, "Khetanes". He loves the interaction between the different art forms and has already worked with some of the best known Roma artists: Vadim Kolpakov (a musician who regularly collaborates with Madonna), Santino Spinelli, Jovica Jovic, the young painter Rebecca Covaciu and many others.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012




PHOTO  Roma family in Cserehat, Hungary

Many Roma continue to face discrimination and social exclusion across the EU, according to a new report published jointly by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The situation of Roma is on average worse than the situation of non-Roma living in close proximity. The report is based on two surveys on the socio-economic situation of Roma and non-Roma living nearby in 11 EU Member States and in neighbouring European countries.
These survey results paint a grim picture of the current situation of the Roma across the 11 EU Member States surveyed,” says FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. “Discrimination and anti-gypsyism persist. The results show that swift, effective action is needed, particularly to improve Roma education. This is key to unlock their future potential, and it will equip young Roma with the skills they need to escape the vicious cycle of discrimination, exclusion and poverty.
The report shows that in the 11 EU Member States surveyed, where the overwhelming majority of Roma EU citizens live, the situation of Roma in the areas of employment, education, housing and health is on average worse than the situation of non-Roma living close by. Roma continue to experience discrimination and are not sufficiently aware of their rights guaranteed by EU law.
Some key findings:
  • only 15 % of young Roma adults surveyed have completed upper-secondary general or vocational education, compared with more than 70 % of the majority population living nearby;
  • on average, less than 30 % of Roma surveyed are in paid employment;
  • about 45 % of the Roma surveyed live in households lacking at least one of the following: an indoor kitchen, toilet, shower or bath, or electricity;
  • on average, about 40 % of Roma surveyed live in households where somebody went to bed hungry at least once in the last month because they could not afford to buy food.
The partnership developed among four international organisations [FRA, UNDP, World Bank and European Commission] during the process of this research delivers a strong message: the challenges the Roma population faces are so grave that they require a concerted response. This publication is an example that such a united and coordinated approach is possible and that it delivers results,” says Andrey Ivanov, UNDP Senior Policy Advisor, Human Development and Roma inclusion.
The surveys have documented the situation on the ground. The results provide policy makers with the necessary evidence for designing effective policy responses to address the situation. The survey results have fed into the European Commission’s Roma Communication which will also be presented in Brussels on 23 May 2012.

Monday, May 28, 2012





The situation of Roma in Moscow and its suburbs is as diverse as the origins of the Roma we found there. Mundi Romani visits several families to get a taste of the richness of Romani culture and tradition in Moscow.

Tales of migration and successful family businesses, but also evictions and police brutality give a taste of extreme diversity of the lives of Roma in the region

This is a wonderful film on the Romani in Russia.
Please check it out.

Sunday, May 27, 2012



Victoria Grant explains why her homeland, Canada, and most of the world, is in debt. April 27, 2012 at the Public Banking in America Conference.

Oh my.  Young people like Victoria give me so much hope.  She's speaking of the banks in Canada but she could be addressing the manipulations in the United States or any of the Euro Zone banks.

If Victoria lived in Seattle WA, I would bet she attended Pinehurst School (formerly Alternative School #1).

You must listen to this video.


Friday, May 25, 2012




By Joe Fiorito City Columnist

PHOTO Gina Csanyi-Robah, director of the Roma Cultural Centre in Toronto. Csanyi-Robah went to Ottawa to speak to the Senate committee looking at this government’s immigration bill.

Gina Csanyi-Robah, a Roma, is safe. She cannot be kicked out of the country. Her health-care benefits will not be snatched away. She is not a refugee.

She was born here. She grew up here. She went to university here. She teaches here.
She is one of us.

She is also the director of the Roma Cultural Centre, and recently she went to Ottawa and spoke to the Senate committee looking at this government’s immigration bill. She spoke on behalf of the Roma refugees.

And on behalf of us.

Did she have any impact? I’m not sure. The bill remains mean and miserable; it will snatch health care from the vulnerable, it will put pregnant women at risk, it will jeopardize the health of children and the elderly.

It also means that we are on the verge of deporting thousands of Hungarian Roma back to a country where the dangers for them will be heightened.

What kind of bill is that? Oh, sorry, I forgot. It is a Canadian Conservative government bill.
I was curious about what Gina told the committee, and so I went to see her at the cultural centre in the west end of the city. I wanted to know a bit about her first. She said, “I’m a Canadian-born Roma. I’m 37. I’ve been dealing with racism all my life. My family came here in 1956.” In other words, during the upheaval of the revolution.

“My grandparents put my aunt in a suitcase and walked out. At the time, my grandmother was pregnant with my mother.”

Her aunt, in a suitcase? “One of those carry bags; my aunt was a baby at the time. My grandparents were musicians. I come from a family of five generations of violin players; my grandmother danced, and my grandfather played in the grand hotels of Szekesfehervar.”

The family landed in Nova Scotia and went to work on farms in the Niagara region; eventually, they moved to Hamilton. “My grandparents didn’t speak English, they never went to school; school is not where Roma had good experiences.

“When my mother was 7 years old, the Children’s Aid took the kids from my grandparents and put them in foster homes.” Why? “Because they weren’t in school. The result? “My grandfather began to drink when the children were taken away. He died as a result.”

But Gina is the best example of what ultimately happens to the children and grandchildren of all refugees — Roma and others — in Canada: she grew up bright, sensitive, and committed to making things better in the wider world. She is also the first person in her family to get past Grade 10. She has a double major in political science and sociology.

Why did she want to go to Ottawa? She said, “I’m Canadian before I’m anything; what I see in this bill is the opposite of everything I was taught.”

I was about to press her for specifics, but she wanted to give me as much background as she could, so that I would understand. “My grandmother’s sister was a Holocaust survivor. They did experiments on her reproductive system. Her first child was born deformed.”

That memory sharpened something inside her. “The odds are stacked against us. We have limited opportunities for inclusion. Our contact with the dominant society? People spit on you; a lot of Canadians don’t get that.”

And then she said something which I have always suspected: “There are Roma settlements that are more than 400 years old; we didn’t start out nomadic, and we don’t want to end nomadic.”
What did she tell the committee?

Wait for it.
Thank you Joe for this article.
It received some virulent, racist comments.

Thursday, May 24, 2012



Today is the annual festival to Sarah la Kali, the Gypsy Patron Saint.

Someday I hope to attend the festival near Arles in Southern France.

Please check out the posting on this blog for information on Sara

Wednesday, May 23, 2012




The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) is delighted to report that the Independent Reviewer of the ASA has today directed the Council of the ASA to reconsider their decision not to conduct a formal investigation into the 372 complaints made about Channel 4s highly controversial billboard campaign Bigger Fatter Gypsier.

David Enright (a partner with Howe & Co Solicitors who have been representing the ITMB and a number of individual Travellers and Gypsies) said:

This is a huge victory for the Traveller and Gypsy communities. Earlier this year, Channel 4 plastered the UK with their highly offensive billboard advertising campaign. The advertising campaign caused outrage. Hundreds of Travellers and Gypsies complained to the ASA about these adverts, which they saw as being racially demeaning and damaging to them, their communities and their children. Despite receiving hundreds of detailed complaints the ASA Council decided not to even bother investigating. Today the Independent Reviewer of the ASA, Sir Hayden Phillips, has taken the unusual step of directing the ASA to reconsider their decision not to conduct a formal investigation into this advertising campaign. Travellers and Gypsies now wait to see if the ASA Council considers that they are entitled to equal protection by the regulator.

Yvonne MacNamara (Director of the ITMB) said:
We and the people we represent were horrified by this giant billboard advertising campaign. Posters of dirty faced, violent looking Traveller children went up everywhere including outside schools. We know of a number of Traveller children who were bullied and ostracised by their school friends as a direct result of this truly offensive Ad campaign
We made a detailed complaint to the ASA pointing out the obvious breaches of the Broadcasting Code. We challenged the ASA to agree that it would never have permitted such an advertising campaign that bore the slogan Bigger Fatter Muslimer or Bigger Fatter Blacker or Bigger Fatter Jewier.

We were astonished when our complaint, alongside the complaints of hundreds of other Travellers and Gypsies, NGOs, friends and supporters were dismissed out of hand. We were shocked and dismayed when we later discovered that the ASA took the decision to not even bother investigating these serious complaints of racist denigration and characterisation.


At the beginning of 2012, Channel 4 launched a massive nationwide bill board advertising campaign in support of their forthcoming series Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. The advertising campaign consisted of huge bill board posters with pictures of very young Gypsy and Traveller children appearing dirty, out of control and violent, Traveller men looking menacing, young Traveller girls in Holy Communion dresses and Young Traveller women in revealing party clothes. All of the giant posters bore the slogan Bigger Fatter Gypsier.

The advertising campaign sparked outrage in the Traveller and Gypsy Communities, as well as amongst the settled community. The campaign was widely criticised and commented on right across the national media. The ASA received 372 complaints from individuals and representative groups, speaking on behalf of large groups, alleging that the advertisements were racist, racially denigrating and had the potential to incite racial hatred.

The ITMB made a detailed complaint to the ASA on the 15 February 2012, as did hundreds of other individuals and groups. On the 23 February the ASA issued a standard letter to all complainants dismissing their complaints. It later transpired that the ASA council decided to not even bother undertaking a formal investigation as a result of this avalanche of complaints.

The ITMB lodged an appeal with the Independent Reviewer of the ASA, Sir Hayden Phillips, on 1 May 2012. Today the Independent Reviewer Ruled:

I am now writing to let you know that, having considered the Grounds for Appeal sent to me by your solicitors, together with the other documents which they provided, and having considered all the papers on the ASA file in this case, I have decided to recommend to the ASA Council that they reconsider their decision not to conduct a formal investigation into the complaints you had made about the poster advertising by Channel Four.

I am minded to recommend that the Council should now conduct a formal investigation but I must emphasise that the Council is in no way bound by my recommendation.

Yvonne MacNamara said:

Travellers and Gypsies are the last ethnic minority group against whom it is still acceptable to make derogatory jokes and to malign and denigrate in the media, the last bastion of acceptable prejudice. That ends today. Travellers are one of Britains oldest ethnic minority groups, proud of their culture and heritage and will not allow their community to be abused anymore.

Channel 4 needs to wake up and smell the coffee. This is 2012 not 1912
We will be fighting hard to force the ASA to stand up for Travellers and to perform their proper regulatory duty, by not allowing this public vilification of Travellers and Gypsies to go unpunished anymore.

Yvonne MacNamara Director ITMB 0207 6072002 07961432074
David Enright Howe & Co Solicitors 0208 840 4688 0798 4465923
Mike Doherty ITMB Communications Officer or Matthew Bindley Policy and Research Officer 0207 6072002


Today I received this message from a member of the Burton Community Church.  It is a statement made by the pastor in response to homophobia in many of the Christian/Baptist Churches.
I've never been trusing of organized religion, but my experience with the Burton Community Church (Vashon Island, WA) has been amazing. 
I lived across the street from the church for many years.  These are a loving accepting group of people who have consistently amazed me.  I think if  more "Christians" showed this loving and accepting attitude, it would be a reassurance to many vulnerable people.
Thank you Bruce for this statement.  And thank you Burton Community Church for the kindness you have shown me.
Burton Community Church on Vashon Island

"As many of you are likely aware, in light of the recent vote on marriage equality in North Carolina and President Obama's statement on marriage equality, the level of rhetoric has increased dramatically.

Of special concern to me as a Christian, as a Baptist, and as a pastor, is the violence of some of the speech coming from pulpits around the nation. Especially troubling were the Rev. Sean Harris giving his congregation "permission" to "beat the gay out of their sons and the butch out of their daughters" and, more recently, the Rev. Charles Worley telling his congregation that gays and lesbians should be put in concentration camps and allowed to "die out as they could not have more children." While the sheer ignorance of these statements is mind boggling, they were said from the pulpit in Baptist churches. I cringe to think of what it must of felt like to be a glbt youth sitting in the pews of one of those churches.
As a Baptist, I want another voice heard, another voice to go viral - a voice of love and inclusion.

I currently serve on the board of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. AWAB has been the voice calling for welcome, love, and inclusion into the Baptist community for nearly 30 years. Our executive director, the Rev. Robin Lunn, has been tirelessly traveling the country, being that voice of love and inclusion.

At this critical juncture in life of our nation and our faith communities, I am asking that you would make a donation to the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists to help us continue this vital work. You can do this at If you would like to make a donation on behalf of the Rev. Sean Harris or the Rev. Charles Worley, we will be sending a postcard of thanks to them (your name will not be mentioned on the postcard.) You can do this by adding a note in the message line on the donation page.
For those of you who have other denominational affiliations, please make a donation to your denominational voice for full LGBT inclusion. For those of you with no denominational affiliations, please give to organizations within your state working for equality.

Blessings on all of you. I am who I am today, because of the impact that you have had on my life."
Grace and Peace,


Rev. Bruce Chittick
2005 S. Pearl Street
Seattle, WA 98108

206-353-5758 (C)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012







The United States announced earlier this year that it would become an official observer to the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015. This is an international initiative that gathers governments and international and nongovernmental organizations into a concerted effort to improve the well-being of one of Europe’s most vulnerable minorities—the Roma, or gypsies—who have for centuries endured racism, discrimination, alienation, slavery, and sterilization efforts as well as a Nazi extermination campaign during World War II.

Washington’s decision to join the Decade of Roma comes at a crucial moment. While the Decade of Roma Inclusion has done much to initiate reform in European countries, it has little time left to meet its declared goals.

More than 10 million Roma live in Europe and I am one of them. My people still languish at the bottom of Europe’s social pecking order. They continue to suffer abysmal poverty rates as well as official and institutional discrimination in the areas of education, health, and housing. Roma joblessness is about eight times higher than that for people who are not Roma.

Violent attacks on Roma individuals, including murders and fire-bombings by neo-Nazis and others, have taken place in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and other countries. Most violence against the Roma, however, goes unreported due to the fear and mistrust Roma have for the justice systems in the countries where they reside.

Popularly, Roma are still reviled as thieves and burglars and used as scapegoats in the press and by right-wing political leaders seeking votes. Just a few weeks ago, for example, a right-wing Swiss magazine saw fit to splash across its cover the photo of a five-year-old Roma boy pointing a gun point blank at the reader; the headline read “The Roma Are Coming,” and the story discussed “crime tourism.”

The European Union has made a political commitment to support social inclusion of Roma. Last year, Brussels called upon European Union member-states to submit national strategies to further integration of the Roma into society. But European Union taxpayers are supposed to pay for the components of these strategies geared toward improving the Roma’s socio-economic position. Obtaining the necessary funding will require political leaders to look racism in the face and do the right thing.

Unfortunately, the economic crisis has been accompanied by unchallenged and racially motivated expressions of hatred that have spread from the extremes of political discourse and into the mainstream. The politics of hatred that promotes exclusion has been legitimized through democratic elections in some European countries and now has the potential to affect policy.

Neither the European Union nor the governments of its individual member-states have dared to address this issue in any meaningful way. Intergovernmental agencies, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe lack sufficient leverage to press the European Union governments to meet the challenge on a scale that would provide the Roma with a sense of security.

For this reason, Washington should not merely act as a passive observer of the Decade of Roma Inclusion’s efforts. It should act as a catalyst for advancing the work of the initiative’s member states and organizations and for encouraging more organizations and countries—especially, Germany, France, and Italy—to join.

In its bilateral diplomatic dealings, Washington should press the governments of the European countries, and especially the European Union countries, to take legislative, policy, and judicial steps to ensure respect for the rights of the Roma people.

The United States should raise the issue of the security of the Roma minority with the European Union as a whole and with European Union member-states bilaterally and it should support human rights organizations in ways that will give them a stronger voice in pressing for respect for the rights of the Roma. The United States should also establish direct, regular communication links with Roma civic and political leaders and cooperate with them about racially motivated killings, violence, discrimination and police misconduct.

The United States should encourage the European Union to make development of a Roma-integration strategy a prerequisite for Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey, and other European Union candidate-member countries.

The United States was the deciding factor in achieving Kosovo’s independence and in ending Serb oppression of its Albanian majority. But Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkelije, and Egyptian and other non-Serb minorities have been left out of talks about the country’s future. The United States should press the government of Kosovo to work together with representatives of the Roma, Egyptian, and Ashkelije, and other minorities in establishing and meeting benchmarks on reintegration, property rights, and education and employment opportunities.

Finally, the United States should encourage governments to undertake consistent and robust legal action against the perpetrators of acts of discrimination and violence. Combating racist attacks on the Roma should be a matter of expressed government policy.

To this end, the Department of State should appoint a special envoy on combating racism and discrimination against Europe’s Roma–just as the Department has appointed the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

A special envoy would work closely with the Roma community—which includes doctors, lawyers, journalists, civic and political leaders— who have made great contributions to communities across Europe.

Racism against the Roma people is one of the key challenges in Europe today. It erodes the notion of democracy that ensures universal values of humanity, peace, and prosperity for all. The United States role in the Decade of Roma raises hope of all of us that it will, in the words of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, “address the plight of Roma on behalf of a freer, fairer and more inclusive Europe.”

Zeljko Jovanovic is director of Roma Initiatives at the Open Society Foundations.


Monday, May 21, 2012


I received a message today which I need to post.

A phren from the We Call Ourselves Romani site saw this comment on

She (and I) want the world to see it.

“bring back hitler. british tax payers paying for THIS??? FFS”

As she said, 'racism is real'.

This is why we must all confront racism and the despicable use of stereotypes to exploit people.

The damage this show can, did, and does do to the Romani People is deep and widespread.

Consider the political climate and pograms against Romani in present day Europe, including England where this show originates.  (before emigrating to the US)

I'm just saying......

To visit WE CALL OUR SELVES ROMANI see the sidebar of this blog under internet connections.  It's the first one.

PHOTO: JOBBIK taken in 2011

Friday, May 18, 2012


Gypsy orchestra treats plane full of stranded passengers to an impromptu hoedown in economy class (...and the video goes viral)
PHOTO Trombone:
Passengers were enthusiastic and perplexed by the Lemon Bucket Orkestra's impromptu concert on their delayed flight



Passengers on a delayed Air Canada flight from Toronto to Frankfurt were treated to an impromptu performance on Wednesday when gypsy band the Lemon Bucket Orkestra pulled out their array of instruments to entertain the anxious crowd.

But it's not just those on board who embraced the jovial music.
The Canadian fourteen-piece's economy class hoedown has gone viral on YouTube, amassing more than 100,000 views in the past 24 hours.

'Our plane got delayed 20 minutes so we got out the instruments,' the band wrote on its YouTube page.

The band played four songs on the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Toronto for stranded passengers on flight AC 876.

Its energetic music was met with enthusiasm from the crowd, with most people clapping and some even dancing in the aisles.

Others were clearly confused that what seemed like a bunch of college students was in fact a fully fledged orchestra.

Green-mohawked violinist, Mark Marczyk, said the impromptu concert was designed to 'lighten the mood' of passengers who were growing more anxious that their plane had not taken off.

'The in-flight performance was not a planned stunt. We were getting a little anxious about waiting on the tarmac, and so were the other passengers. Call it ‘lightening the mood.’ It’s the kind of thing we do all the time.'

Billed as 'Toronto's only Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy_Party_pun Super-Band', the Lemon Bucket Orkestra was en route to Bucharest to share the stage with the world’s foremost Romani band, Taraf de Haidouks.

'As a Canadian band, it’s a real honour to be invited to perform in one of the places where our music comes from,' Mr Marczyk said.

The sold-out show was the first of a thirteen-date promotional tour across Romania organized by the International Romani Art Festival.

The band regularly busks on the streets of Toronto. It has used the opportune delay and surprise performance to rally more fans, releasing a list of tour dates in a press release about the video's success on YouTube.

To see the Youtube video:

oh PS.  this is a great comment:

Only in Canada
Haha, in the US they would all be arrested

Thursday, May 17, 2012




The ties that bind: common belonging and equal citizenship

BY Bernard Rorke


PHOTO Miodrag Ignjatovic/Chachipe Youth Photo Contest

One key theme of UNDP’s 2003 report, Avoiding the Dependency Trap, was that legal frameworks for rights protection are a necessary but insufficient precondition for sustainable integration, and that there must be complementarity with an approach that focuses more broadly on development opportunities for Roma.

The impact of this paradigm was reflected in the priorities of the Decade of Roma Inclusion in 2005, and more recently in the European Union (EU) Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, but since then the complementarity has disappeared and emphasis appears to have shifted from issues of racism and discrimination to the EU’s somewhat softer concept of social inclusion and societal cohesion.

Left unchecked and unchallenged, anti-Roma prejudice threatens to derail progress to the extent that it presents a fundamental threat to the entire Framework for National Roma Integration.

Integration versus assimilation

While the European Commission mulls over submissions by member states in response to the call for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS), there has been little discussion about what is meant by ‘integration’.

Assimilation of minority populations is deemed to be neither politically credible nor ethically sound, and a multitude of models of integration abound. When probed deeper some models of integration are barely distinguishable from assimilation.

In France, for example, the Commission of Nationality argued that integration involves ‘affirming the essential and indivisible values that found French society and determine its identity’.

In Germany, integration is taken to involve not ‘mere adjustment’ to German society but ‘inner affirmation of its values’ and ‘internalization of common goods’.

Following the attacks on multiculturalism emanating from the mainstream right, and the electoral successes of far-right populist parties across democracies old and new, perceptions of integration are increasingly being driven by an assimilationist rationale.

In many nations, the notion of integration has become less hospitably pluralist than before with the onus being placed on the minorities to make the adjustments and accommodations deemed necessary for social cohesion.

This shift in the political mainstream has been accompanied by increasingly virulent and frequently violent attacks on marginalized minorities by extremist groupings. And across the EU Roma populations are bearing the brunt of populist hostility.

Despite last year’s unprecedented moves to promote social inclusion under the aegis of the framework, European Roma continued to be vilified and persecuted. Roma communities repeatedly came under siege from right-wing paramilitary groups and rioting neo-Nazi mobs.

Public officials, mayors and far-right members of parliament continued to indulge in anti-Roma hate speech with seeming impunity. In Italy an anti-Roma pogrom took place in Vallette following a false claim by a 16-year-old girl that she had been sexually assaulted by ‘gypsies’. A furious mob of locals descended on the camp to set it ablaze. Although no one was reported injured the camp was destroyed.

The Czech Republic also witnessed a rise in intolerance and hate speech. The use on national television of the term ‘inadaptables’ to refer to Romani people evolved into a heated dispute. The television channel responded that minorities should assimilate into the majority and that ‘anyone who doesn't understand this is an inadaptable, irrespective of ethnic origin or skin colour’. What may be more astounding is that many consider the term inadaptable to be a ‘politically correct’ way to refer to Roma.

Widespread anti-Roma discrimination

The 2009 EU Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS) found that on average, across nine areas of everyday life, Roma were discriminated against because of their ethnic background more than all other groups surveyed, including Sub-Saharan Africans and North Africans.

The NRIS submitted need to be revised to take account of the recommendations contained in the EU’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee report and endorsed by European Parliament resolution of 8 March 2011.

The report insisted that social inclusion priorities must be linked to a clear set of objectives that include the protection of citizens against discrimination in all fields of life and the promotion of intercultural dialogue to combat racism and xenophobia.

As UNDP stated more than a decade ago, ‘Development opportunities are inexorably linked to human rights’. If the framework is to ‘make a difference by 2020’ to the lives of impoverished and excluded Roma communities, how can we best combat anti-Roma prejudice, and how can we uproot this type of racism across the EU?

A first step would be to look beyond the specifics of Roma exclusion for lessons to be learned. In the United Kingdom, the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993 led to the MacPherson Report in 1999.

The report prompted a nationwide debate that forced the British public to see more crude forms of racism in a wider context and to confront the complex nature of racism. The most important finding of the report was the prevalence of institutional racism in Britain, defined as:

‘The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin (...) in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.’

This definition set a new benchmark for race relations in Britain. The report called on all institutions to examine their policies and practices and stated that there must be an unequivocal recognition of institutional racism and its nature before it can be addressed.

When it comes to Roma inclusion and institutional racism, it is clear that many EU member states remain in deep denial. Member states, old and new alike, need to confront the deeply embedded institutional racism that has undermined, and will continue to undermine, all efforts to promote Roma inclusion.

There is a need for some soul searching by European institutions and member states to heed MacPherson’s insistence that ‘it is incumbent on every institution to examine their policies and the outcomes of their policies and practices to guard against disadvantaging any section of our communities’. He warned that without recognition and action to eliminate such racism it can prevail as part of the ethos or culture of the organization. He described racism as a ‘corrosive disease.’

What do we mean by integration?

As discussed earlier, some models of integration are indistinguishable from assimilation, and represent fundamentally flawed understandings of the relations between ethnic majority populations and minorities.

Roma integration needs to be understood as a two way process, an open-ended sequence of negotiated adjustments between the majority and minorities.

Thus, integration should not imply symmetry in the ‘negotiated adjustments’. There is no symmetry when it comes to confronting structured and embedded institutional racism.

Bhikhu Parekh suggests that rather than ask how minorities can be integrated, we should ask how they can become equal citizens bound to the rest of society by the ties of common belonging.

If we understand integration in the terms defined by Roy Jenkins over 30 years ago, as ‘not a flattening process of assimilation, but equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance’, integration is best viewed as the means and not the end.

The nature, forms, degrees and limits of integration should be negotiated and decided by their ability to serve the overall objective of fostering common belonging and dignity for all in the relations between Roma and non-Roma citizens.

Bernard Rorke works with Open Society Foundations Roma Initiatives as Director of International Advocacy and Research.




BY VANESSA GERA           

PHOTO This combination of six file photos shows from left to right, on the top: Marine Le Pen of France's National Front; Heinz Christian Strache, head of Austria's right-wing Freedom Party or FPOE; Netherlands Freedom Party lawmaker Geert Wilders. And on the bottom from left to right are: Italian Lower Chamber President Gianfranco Fini, former head of the National Alliance and currently head of Italy's Future and Liberty Party; chairman of Hungary's " For A Better Hungary Movement or Jobbik, Gabor Vona; and Pia Kjaersgaard head of the Danish People's Party. (AP Photos)
Associated Press / May 17, 2012   

Twenty-one members of Golden Dawn were sworn into Greece's Parliament on Thursday, making it arguably the most far-right party to enter a European national legislature since Nazi-era Germany. Europe's financial crisis is changing the tone across the continent, with frustrated voters turning to extremists on both the right and left. None seem as extreme as Golden Dawn, whose leaders claim that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to kill death camp inmates during the Holocaust. The party -- which won 7 percent of the vote in a May 6 election -- says it wants to rid Greece of immigrants and plant landmines along the border with Turkey.
The new parliament will hold power just one day because the election left no party with enough votes to form a government, forcing repeat elections next month. Recent polls show falling support for Golden Dawn, so it's not certain to make it into parliament again. Still, many people across Europe are troubled.
"The Golden Dawn party is a dark stain on European politics," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. "For the first time in over six decades a seemingly long hidden Nazi ideology returned to power."

Here are other far right parties that have won parliamentary seats and pushed their views into mainstream policies and discourse in Europe, sometimes in ways that have impacted immigrants and Muslims.


France's anti-immigrant National Front was in parliament until 1986, when new rules made it harder for small parties to make it in. Its leaders, first Jean-Marie Le Pen and now his daughter Marine, have featured prominently in presidential elections and maintained a national following. Marine Le Pen came in a strong third place in presidential elections this month, earning more than 6 million votes, and is angling to get National Front candidates back in parliament in legislative elections next month.
While Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted and fined a few times for racism and anti-Semitism, Marine Le Pen has sought to soften the party's message, and turned its anger toward what she calls the "Islamization" of France. Those ideas have entered the mainstream discourse, notably in former President Nicolas Sarkozy's push to ban face-covering Islamic veils and keep halal meat out of public cafeterias. He also made reducing immigration a pillar of his presidency.


The right-wing Freedom Party consistently polls a close second in popularity to the leading Social Democrats, reflecting the resonance of its anti-immigrant, Euro-skeptic message. It counts the neo-Nazi fringe among its supporters and its leaders' occasional anti-Semitic comments are widely condemned by other parties. Its main draw with voters is Islamophobia. It holds 34, or 1.5 percent of the seats in parliament compared to the nearly 27 percent won in 1999. That result catapulted it into a government coalition -- and led to EU sanctions against Austria. In response to their gains, the federal government has toughened asylum rules and introduced compulsory German courses for immigrants.

The Freedom Party of anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders became the third largest bloc in the Dutch Parliament in 2010 elections with 24 seats. The result turned Wilders into a kingmaker who agreed to support the minority coalition of Prime Minister Mark Rutte on crucial votes in return for concessions such as a crackdown in immigration and a ban on the Islamic veil, the burqa. Wilders, a Euro-skeptic, brought down Rutte's government last month when he refused to support an austerity package aimed at cutting the country's budget deficit to within the EU norm of 3 percent of GDP.


The Italian Social Movement, which saw itself as the heir of Benito Mussolini's Fascist party, was Italy's fourth largest party in the decades after the war, gaining up to 6 percent in some cases. But mainstream parties refused any alliance with it so it was kept out of the postwar governing coalitions. It campaigned against immigration and sought tough law enforcement, and some fringe members were linked to right-wing violence. In the early 1990s it morphed into the National Alliance and under party leader Gianfranco Fini moved into the mainstream: It shed its hardline roots, decried anti-Semitism and Mussolini's racial laws, and became a major ally of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Fini had to pull back from a statement in a newspaper interview that Mussolini was one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century.


Hungary's Jobbik party -- The Movement for a Better Hungary -- won nearly 17 percent of the
national vote in the 2010 parliamentary elections and is currently the second-largest opposition party in the legislature, behind the Socialists. Jobbik's popularity is highest in Hungary's northeast region, the country's poorest, and some of its support came from its pledge to fight what it calls "Gypsy crime." From 2009, uniformed groups closely tied to Jobbik, such as The Hungarian Guard, set up patrols in countryside villages to "protect" residents from Gypsies, but such activities have been banned under the current, center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Guard and several other such groups use some colors, slogans and symbols of the far-right nationalist parties of the 1930s, and its rhetoric is sometimes anti-Semitic, racist and anti-gay. Racist comments by Jobbik deputies have drawn condemnation from the rest of the parties and Orban's governing Fidesz party's two-thirds majority has allowed it to not make any concessions to Jobbik in the legislature. At the same time, some of the themes Jobbik promotes can also be found to a smaller or larger degree in Orban's policies.


The anti-immigrant Danish People's Party is Denmark's third largest party and has pushed the country to adopt some of Europe's strictest immigration laws, leading to a drastic cut in the number of refugees seeking shelter there to just over 5,000 in 2011, from 13,000 in 2001. Last year, it also pushed through a plan to reinstate custom checks at Denmark's borders with Germany and Sweden. Both the European Union and Germany sharply criticized the move, with the EU accusing Denmark of violating the spirit of EU rules on free movement for goods and people.
Associated Press writers Elena Becatoros in Athens, Angela Charlton in Paris, George Jahn in Vienna, Victor Simpson in Rome, Mike Corder in Amsterdam, Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Monday, I had the privledge of visiting at Pinehurst School in Seattle WA, (formerly know as Alternative School #1).

This was my second visit to the school to talk  about Romani people, the Porrajmos.....
I was totally impressed on my first visit, but this time I was blown away.

The students were totally involved, attentive and supportive.  The questions they asked were incredible coming from those so young.

One of the 2nd grade students chimed in on a discussion about immigration with an amazing analysis of hostility toward and attacks on immigrants.

Another student not only knew who Angela Davis is, but had recently written an excellent paper on her and Bobby Seale.  Be still my heart.

The teachers had prepared the students for my visit by familiarizing them with information about the Romani and the Holocaust.

I learned so much on Monday.  I thank the students and staff of Pinehurst School for affording me such a wonderful opportunity to share ideas with them.

It's amazing to me that teachers get so much disrespect in this present social climate.  Seems we want to blame teachers for all the economic ills.
To me they are the unsung heros of our time.  They are grossly underfunded in their work, underpaid, under supported, and under respected.

If anyone has the slightest doubt of why teachers should be valued and cherished I urge them to pay a visit to Pinehurst School.
Just have a conversation with any of the students.

Five minutes in this vibrant school will change your opinion pretty quickly.

Pinehurst School, students, teachers and staff,
Nais tukai
I thank you.


Why TLC’s My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding Doesn’t Represent the Romani

TLC's My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding
Photograph courtesy TLC

The first time I heard that TLC was planning an American version of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (then unnamed), I was thrilled. Though not particularly fond of the British series (its content had very little to do with Romani culture), I had hopes for this new show. I was in the middle of working on my book and thought the show’s creators might benefit from my personal experience. My literary agent contacted the show, and after a prompt, enthusiastic response from the producers, I flew out to meet one of them in L.A., excited to be a part of something this important and extraordinary. Here was an opportunity to dispense with the silly outdated notions that we all live in trailers and marry off our tween daughters, that Romani women prefer cleaning baseboards to getting an education, that our men drink more than they work.

When I met the producer, I was pleased to hear he was still working on the show’s angle. But as we talked, he seemed to become increasingly disappointed with my profile. As a college graduate, a classically trained pianist, and member of the film industry, I did not fit the bill of the “real gypsies” he was interested in meeting; everyone he had been interviewing resembled me far more than the tambourine-jangling caricature he had in mind. At this, warning bells went off. I suggested staying away from stereotypes if possible, but when he asked if I planned on attending any “old-fashioned gypsy weddings or birthday parties” in the future, I felt so dismayed I wanted to cry.

Having worked in the industry, I know that producers are entertainers first and foremost. They’re in the business of making money, a business which employs many hard-working people and supports countless families. However, a show like this can harm a group of people already under scrutiny, people who also have families to watch over. Being a Romani isn’t a way of life or a cult. We aren’t Gypsy by choice or calling. No one can decide to become a Gypsy one day. We are a race of close to 10 million, with a culture that spans centuries and across continents. It is one thing to present a willing group of people in a negative light, but quite another to represent an entire race of people as a niche stereotype. This is particularly dangerous since people know so little about us and yet think they know so much.

Once home from the meeting, I wrote the producer this email:

Hi John,
On the way home I've thought about our conversation more and I do have a few suggestions.
The Romani always remember their roots, but that doesn’t mean they don't break out and try to find bigger ways to express who they are. THIS diversity is who we are. Although some Romani live more traditionally, there’s an overwhelming number who have accomplished great things while still holding on to their identity. These people make up the majority of Romani, but are rarely talked about. Maybe if they’re shown, their stories told, the audience can relate in more profound ways than ever. After all, we all strive to prove our worth in this world without losing who we are, where we came from.
You may find a Romani painter who perhaps doesn't celebrate birthdays Gypsy style, yet is meticulously developing a Rromanes alphabet so that the language isn’t forgotten and our stories can be recorded. Or, you may come across a Romani woman who never cuts her hair and often wears skirts and cooks for her family, all after working as a lawyer all day. This kind of juxtaposition might be an angle to consider in addition to the old-fashioned celebrations, because it’ll showcase us as so much more than vagabonds with no care in the world. It will show our connection to the rest of the society, our true face.
I think to show the Romani in this balance instead of a narrow viewpoint, would produce a breakthrough project like no other!
Sorry for the rant. I'm simply enthusiastic about what you’re doing. This show has so much potential. Good luck!


He never answered.


We are all Roma citizens.

Let us take up the legacy of the gypsy heroes of May 16th 1944

BY ROBERTO MALINI - La Voix des Rroms



On May 16th, 1944 four thousand Roma imprisoned in the “zigeunerlager” in Auschwitz decided to stand up to their murderers who according to programme had come to get them to lead them to the gas chambers.

The most powerful and well-organized machine of oppression and death of all time found itself before human beings reduced to a pitiful state – swarms of children all skin and bone and barefoot women and men.

It wasn’t only the men who decided not to bow their heads to these butchers in uniform; the scrawny hands of children and women picked up stones, bricks, iron rods and rudimentary blades and all together the Roma of Auschwitz cried

“No! We will not give you our children to force through your chimneys. Your doctors have tortured so many of them already while experimenting their monstrous science.

The children’s screams rose high into the air, higher than the dense smoke issueing from the crematoriums, higher than our prayers. You will not wipe out our families after you have already taken away the precious gifts of freedom and dignity. We will not leave to your grasping hands, to your wicked hearts and your inhuman hatred the beauty of our lives, the sanctity of the love that unites our families in a poor yet proud people”.

The mothers held their younger children tightly to their chests as they fought; the young children defended the “zigeunerlager” until they were covered in blood, looking like the spirits of revenge in legends; dark-skinned arms brandished primitive weapons with tireless energy, until the SS retreated, astonished at the sight of their heroism, their superhuman courage as they faced the bullets and bayonets with their bare skin.

The SS retreated, taking with them many German corpses. Only on August 2nd, 1944 were the Nazis able to dispose of the “zigeunerlager” - after they’d left the Roma imprisoned in the “death factory” close to death by reducing their food ration to a minimum. 2,897 Roma heroes were assassinated in the gas chambers of Birkenau on one night alone.

Today, May 16th, 2008, we are faced with the heirs of Hitler’s butchers.

The instigators of this new genocide are the men and women we see every day in the newspapers and on TV, smiling, full of themselves, fresh from face lifts and make-up sessions, their sneering mouths full of words that sound like “Legality”, “Justice”, “Safety”, but which really mean “Persecution”, “Racism” and “Death”. 

We see them every day and they no longer wear party colours because they are united by hatred. They have no respect for anything: either for human life, or human rights, for the universal laws or the new Europe that speaks out against prejudice.

They have encouraged violent acts and pogroms all over Italy, deceiving the Italian people with racist lies and fomenting xenophobic violence.

We who still see the light of human rights won’t be able to stop them, we who are all Roma now, we who want to be Roma because we want to be just, we will not be able to stop them if we do not decide right now to inherit the pride of the Auschwitz gypsies - if we do not decide to line up at the side of the persecuted families, and defy the authorities who no longer represent anything, the uniforms that no longer represent anything, the high-ranking state officials who have betrayed all values, who have no right to express themselves in the name of a people, of a civilization, of a humanity that – among so much horror – wrote up a text that was a commitment to build a better future for everyone: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Nous sommes tous Rroms: recueillir l'héritage des héros

(texte traduit de l'italien par Saimir Mile - La Voix des Rroms)

Le 16 Mai 1944 quatre mille Rroms internés dans le "Zigeunerlager" à Auschwitz ont décidé de s'opposer à leurs tortionnaires, qui selon le programme nazi étaient venus les conduire dans les chambres à gaz. La population rromani, réduite à des conditions pitoyables, composée d'une nuée d'enfants qui n'avaient plus que la peau et les os, et de femmes et d'hommes pieds nus dans l'enfer, se trouvait face à la machine de mort et d'oppression la plus puissante et organisée de tous les temps. Pourtant ils n'étaient pas hommes et femme prêts à baisser la tête devant leurs bourreaux en uniforme impeccable; les mains décharnées des enfants et des femmes se mirent à ramasser pierres, briques, lames rudimentaires et pauvres armes de fortune. Tous les Roms d'Auschwitz décidèrent de dire : "Non!" à l'inhumanité.

"Non, nous ne vous donnerons pas nos enfants. Non, nous ne vous laisserons pas les évacuer en fume par vos cheminées. Vos médecins-tortionnaires ont déjà assez torture d'innocentes victimes, expérimentant leur science monstrueuse sur eux comme sur des rats. Leurs cris sont assez montés au ciel, encore plus haut que la fumée dense crachée par vos fours crématoires, encore plus haut que nos prières désespérées. Vous n'anéantirez plus nos familles, à qui vous avez enlevé liberté et dignité, notre trésor le plus si précieux. Nous ne laisserons plus à vos mains rapaces, à votre cœur macabre et à votre haine inhumaine, ni la beauté de notre vie, ni le caractère sacré de l'amour qui unit nos familles pauvres, mais fières. "

Les mères serraient les plus petits contre leur poitrine, tout en luttant contre les bourreaux déchaînés. Les jeunes gens défendirent le "Zigeunerlager" jusqu'à ce que le sang ne les couvre, les rendant semblables aux esprits de vengeance des légendes. Les bras maigres brandirent jusqu'à la tombée de la nuit des armes rudimentaires dans un élan infatigable, jusqu'à ce que les SS se retirent, terrifiés devant cet héroïsme et ce courage surhumains qui dressait la chair nues contre les balles et les baïonnettes de la mort. Les SS se retirèrent, emportant avec eux de nombreux cadavres allemands. Ce n'est que le 2 août 1944 que les nazis - après avoir affamé les Rroms prisonniers de l ' "usine de la mort", en limitant au minimum leur subsistance alimentaire, réussirent par le massacre à liquider le "Zigeunerlager." Cette nuit là, 2.897 héros rroms furent assassinés en une nuit dans les chambres à gaz de Birkenau administrativement pour "laisser la place aux martyrs juifs raflés à Budapest".

Aujourd'hui, le 16 mai 2008, nous sommes confrontés avec les héritiers des bourreaux d'Hitler. Les auteurs du nouveau crime de masse sont ces hommes et ces femmes que nous voyons tous les jours sur les pages des journaux et à la télévision, souriant, plein de grands airs supérieurs, refaits par le lifting et le maquillage, la bouche pleine de mots qui sonnent si beau "légalité", " justice ", "sécurité ", mais qui sont détournés de leur sens et signifient en réalité "persécution ","racisme" et "mort ". Nous les voyons tous les jours et ils n'ont plus de couleur, pour beaucoup ils sont devenus transparents, unis dans la routine et uniformisés par la haine. Comme les nazis, mais cette fois avec "un visage humain" et "un langage politiquement correct", ils ne respectent rien: ni la vie, ni les Droits de l'Homme, ni les lois universelles, ni la nouvelle Europe faite pour combattre préjugés. Ils viennent d'inciter à la violence et à des pogroms dans toute l'Italie, ils ne cessent de tromper les masses avec des calomnies racistes et l'incitation à la violence xénophobe. Nous ne les arrêterons pas d'un coup, nous qui sommes encore assez clairvoyants pour voir la lumière des Droits de l'Homme. Non, comme à Auschwitz et bien souvent dans l'Histoire, le combat est inégal, nous savons maintenant que nous sommes tous des Roms, nous voulons être tous des Rroms parce que nous voulons être justes. Nous ne les arrêterons pas dites-vous ? Pourtant nous croyons fermement que si, à condition de décider dès maintenant de nous ériger en héritiers de la fierté et de l'héroïsme des «tziganes» d'Auschwitz. A condition de nous combattre aux côtés des familles persécutées en remettant en question ces autorités déshumanisées qui ne représentent plus rien, ces uniformes qui ne signifient plus rien, ces plus hautes fonctions de l'État qui ont trahi toute valeur et toute humanité sous des prétextes de plus en plus cousis de fil blanc. De quelle légitimité réelle ces gens-là se réclament-ils lorsqu'ils fondent des actes et des décisions juridiques sur une identité ethnique ? Ont-ils le droit, ces gens-là, de prendre la parole au nom d'un peuple, d'une civilisation, d'une humanité, qui au-delà de tant d'horreurs - a donné au monde un texte d'une insigne générosité, engagement magnifique à construire un avenir meilleur pour tout le monde: la Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012


Political, social turmoil worries Hungary’s Jews


The debate over anti-Semitism in Hungary has sharpened since the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Roma (Gypsy) Jobbik movement entered Parliament two years ago as the country’s third largest party.

Seeking scapegoats and channeling paranoia at a time of severe economic, social and political woes, Jobbik’s lawmakers regularly -- and loudly -- spout xenophobic, anti-Roma, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Outbursts in Parliament, in local councils and in the media have demolished taboos and increasingly serve to legitimize hate speech in both private conversation and public discourse.
But for the Jewish community, anxiety over anti-Semitism is only one toxic element of a broader and much more complex national crisis that touches all parts of society two years after the 2010 elections swept the conservative Fidesz party to power.

“The danger is about Hungarian democracy, not about anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Istvan Darvas told JTA.

“Everybody feels the crisis,” said Mircea Cernov, CEO of Haver, a foundation that fights anti-Semitism and teaches schoolchildren about Judaism and the Jewish people. “The financial and economic challenges, unemployment and poverty, social, education and health system crisis, democratic system in turbulence -- there is no difference between people influenced by all this.”
With a two-thirds majority in Parliament, Prime Minister Victor Orban and his government rewrote the constitution and pushed through controversial new laws that sharply polarized the country and also drew tough criticism from the European Union and other international bodies.

These included new legislation regulating the media, changing how judges are appointed and reducing the number of officially recognized religious bodies. Three Jewish streams have such recognition.

Other new laws cut social benefits, nationalized private pension funds and even outlawed homelessness.

The government said the new laws were needed to consolidate the legal and judicial system. But critics claimed they contributed to a “democracy deficit” and undermined democratic rights.
Jobbik and other extremists have capitalized on the economic uncertainly and social and political polarization to push a virulently nationalist message that stigmatizes Jews, Roma, immigrants and other minority groups.

Fidesz is not formally allied with Jobbik and has condemned anti-Semitism.

But a defense of Hungarian national honor is one of Fidesz’s platforms. Many Hungarian Jews, who traditionally have gravitated toward leftist-liberal parties, are deeply troubled by appeals to nationalism, even by mainstream parties.

And there is a perception among Fidesz opponents that some of its members may be sympathetic to Jobbik’s more extreme stance. This month, for example, the Israeli ambassador to Hungary canceled an official visit to the town of Eger after an audio recording came to light in which a Fidesz town councilor slammed a prominent actor as a “filthy Jew” with leftist-liberal sympathies.

“Intolerance is growing, radical narratives and voices are powerful, and many people feel that the risk of a greater conflict is real,” said Cernov.

The country, he said, faces a "moral crisis" along with its other woes.

“There are no real credible voices and opinion-influencing figures,” he said. “No role models and no people who can set positive reference points. The lack of a minimum platform of common understanding among all democratic parties and civil groups is the real weakness of the Hungarian society."

In a recent incident, addressing Parliament just before Passover, a Jobbik lawmaker went so far as to advance the blood libel -- the accusation that Jews kill Christian children and use their blood for ritual purposes.

And in a February interview with the London Jewish Chronicle, Jobbik foreign affairs spokesman Marton Gyongyosi called Israel a "Nazi system based on racial hatred,” accused Jews of “colonizing” Hungary and stressed Jobbik’s support of Iran.

These developments have ratcheted up the anxiety level for Hungary’s 100,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in central Europe.

“The gravity of the situation is unprecedented in the past two decades of Hungarian democracy,” Rabbi Shlomo Koves told The Associatied Press. “Although the safety and well-being of Hungarian Jews in their daily life is not physically in danger -- or no worse than in any other European country -- anti-Semitic public speech has escalated to a point which cannot be ignored by a single decent person.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the representative on anti-Semitism to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said it is not simple to gauge the extent and impact of anti-Semitism in Hungary.

“There are real problems and a high degree of uncertainty,” he told JTA after a fact-finding mission to Hungary in April. But, he added, “It is not easy to separate the anxiety that Jews feel together with many other left-of-center Hungarians at current political developments and unease at what are more directly anti-Semitic rumblings.”

Members of the Jewish community said anti-Semitism was widely expressed verbally but there have been few episodes of physical violence.

“Many people are afraid,” said Andras Heisler, a former president of the Federation of Jewish Communities. “But in normal daily life there is not any danger.”

Indeed, unlike in many Western countries, little security is evident at most of Budapest’s 20 or so active synagogues, prayer houses and other Jewish sites.

And Jewish life is lived openly. Budapest may be one of the only capitals where a program linked to this year’s March of the Living was publicized on an advertisement that covered the entire side of a downtown building.

Still, a report released before Passover by the Anti-Defamation League added fuel to alarmist fires.
Based on a telephone survey in which callers asked 500 people in 10 countries four questions regarding anti-Semitic stereotypes, the ADL found that 63 percent of Hungarians held anti-Semitic attitudes.

The report grabbed headlines. But sociologist Andras Kovacs, Hungary’s foremost researcher on anti-Semitism, slammed the report for employing what he called a faulty methodology that favored responses from hard-core anti-Semites, giving a skewed result that fed alarmism.

According to his research, he said, the proportion of anti-Semites in Hungary is 20 to 25 percent.
Cernov called the ADL report “superficial” and “even irresponsible.”

It could, he said, have a negative impact on organizations like Haver that were trying to carry out serious social action and other educational work to combat prejudice and counter extremist trends.