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Alemanno is accused of double standards for his Coliseum message

January 28th, 2013

A moderate conservative commentator accuses Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno of applying double standards, when he turned off the lights of the Coliseum in protest against xenophobic and racist voices in Europe. He specifically cited the Hungarian extreme right opposition party Jobbik as an example. A left-wing commentator criticises Budapest Mayor István Tarlós for rejecting a left-wing request to turn off the lights of Parliament and Heroes’ Square on Sunday night.

Gellért Rajcsányi, editor of Mandiner, says he would be the last person to defend the ‘stupid’ views of Jobbik.  He finds the Italian mayor’s explanation less than convincing, however. Rajcsányi reminds the reader that Italians have their own skeletons in the closet. The mayor’s vivid description of a (fictional) violent clash between the Roma and majority Hungarians rather follows the script of an incident in southern Italy where crowds of Italians attacked immigrants and the police had to intervene. Every clear-headed person, Rajcsányi agrees, should raise his or her voice against racism, but if after the Italian incident Hungary had decided to extinguish the lights of the Citadel, a fortress on Gellert Hill which overlooks the city, foreigners would not have hesitated to tell Budapest to mind its own business, and deal instead with Hungarian racism. Alemanno’s decision is a ‘case of Coliseum-sized double standards’ – with the additional irony that the Coliseum was built by thousands of Jewish slaves, he adds.

In Népszava, Marianna Bíró suggests that international concerns about Jobbik and racism in Hungary are justified. She cites the example of a racist video posted on the internet, in which a history teacher says Roma children are ‘primitive’, and maintains that their parents cannot be taught how to discipline them. The teacher adds that the Roma themselves do not have much of a history (a subject he is supposed to teach). Human rights NGOs protested and asked the national education centre to take action and make clear that such vicious racist comments are not acceptable. The left-wing commentator doubts if Fidesz MP János Fónagy and MSZP MP Pál Steiner were right in equally reassuring an international delegation that Hungarians are not anti-Semites. They said so at a meeting with the delegation of the Interparliamentary Coalition on Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA), in response to a statement by the leader of the ICCA delegation, Ms Fiamma Nirenstein (Italy), who said there is an ’emergency’ in Hungary with regard to the extent and tone of anti-Semitic remarks. She also suggested that Jobbik is one of the two most dangerous far right parties in Europe. Bíró also lashes out at István Tarlós, the right-wing Mayor of Budapest who, when asked to turn off the lights of Parliament to echo Rome’s gesture, said that what Budapest needs is not the ’imitation’ of ’empty gestures’ but peace and quiet. While Tarlós finds such a symbolic action unnecessary, she concludes bitterly, two anti-Jobbik protestors were taken into custody for carrying a cardboard sign with a swastika thrown in a garbage bin.  The police justified their detention on the grounds that the display of certain authoritarian symbols in public is forbidden by law. During the same incident, a Jobbik supporter got away with shouting at the demonstrators that some people should be sent to the gas chambers

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