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Hungarian Lawmaker's Anti-Semitism Opens Old Wounds

Hungarian lawmaker was urged to resign after making a speech in Parliament that was widely criticized as being anti-Semitic.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 4/5/2012, 5:49 PM

Law and Order
Law and Order
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A far-right Hungarian lawmaker was urged to resign on Wednesday, after making a speech in Parliament that was widely criticized as being anti-Semitic.

Zsolt Barath criticized the 19th-century court case that had found several Jews innocent of murdering a Hungarian peasant girl, CBS news reported.  That verdict provoked a series of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country.

In his speech, Barath claimed that the judge had proof of the defendants' guilt but succumbed to pressure urging their acquittal.

Janos Fonagy of the governing Fidesz party accused Barath of opening "centuries-old wounds” and opposition groups called on Barath to resign.

"We cannot tolerate barely concealed anti-Semitism within the walls of Parliament," Politics Can Be Different said in statement, describing Barath's speech as an "incitement falsely made to appear as a history lesson."

"It is our daily experience that increasingly coarse, racist and anti-Semitic speech is becoming permissible in the Hungarian Parliament," said Rabbi Slomo Koves of the Unified Hungarian Congregation. "In our judgment, the gravity of the situation is unprecedented in the past two decades of Hungarian democracy. Anti-Semitism has escalated to a point which cannot be ignored by a single decent person."

Barath’s Jobbik party won nearly 17 percent of the vote in Hungary's 2010 election and is the largest opposition party behind the Socialists. Its popularity has been based on an extreme nationalist message with strong anti-Roma and anti-Semitic overtones, noted CBS news.