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History repeats itself ......unfortunaely

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  • Joe Poras
    While in Athens, I read this article and copied it. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Tuesday, May 30, 2006 Jew-Bashing in Bucharest By Radu Loanid Two months ago, at a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2006
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      While in Athens, I read this article and copied it.

      THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Tuesday, May 30, 2006


      Jew-Bashing in Bucharest

      By Radu Loanid

      Two months ago, at a government-sponsored training course for
      Bucharest’s political elite, I had the opportunity to teach a section
      on the Holocaust. The topic sparked some unexpected reactions. One
      participant ranted on about how Israeli companies and employers doing
      business in Romania are allegedly the source of contemporary
      anti-Semitism in the country. Another wondered how so many Jews
      managed to escape from the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. 2001, thus giving
      credence to the anti-Semitic lie that the Jews and Israel were behind
      these terror attacks. On Romanian TV, meanwhile, it is not unusual to
      see Orthodox priests repeating that 2,000-year-old charge of deicide:
      “The Jews killed God.”

      Jew-bashing in Rornania seldom comes without racist attacks on the
      country’s other ethnic minorities, Roma and Hungarians. Nationalism is
      so popular that not one but two xenophobic parties compete for votes.
      There is the extreme nationalistic Party of Greater Romania (PRM), which
      won 13% in the last parliamentary elections and gets up to 18% in recent
      opinion polls. Then there is the New Party Generation (PNG), not (yet)
      represented in parliament but also gaining in popularity, getting
      around 6% in polls. Finally, the illegal but tolerated Iron Guard—which
      traces its roots to the main pre-World War II fascist party of the same
      name—is gaining influence on university campuses. Even the mainstream
      media have found praise for some members of this criminal movement.

      The leader of the PRM is Corneliu Vadim Tudor, a megalomaniac demagogue
      whose political program boils down to vicious hatred toward Hungarians,
      Jews and Roma. He was Nicolae Ceausescu’s court poet and denounced
      fellow writers and dissidents to the former dictator’s feared secret
      police, the Securitate. An open admirer of Slobodan Milosevic and
      Saddam Hussein, Mr. Tudor regularly publishes in his weekly Romania
      Mare publication anti-Roma and anti-Semitic incitements, Holocaust
      denials and “black lists” of political adversaries he considers
      “guilty of antiRomanian activities.” Among his campaign promises is to
      rule with the machine gun and organize public executions. Mr. Tudor
      believes that “America is a colony of Israel. ..a small mouse dragging
      after it a giant elephant” and that “Zionism keeps the planet under
      terror, and puts Christianity and Islam into a state of conflict and of
      reciprocal extermination.”

      Gigi Becali, leader of the PNG and a rich, vulgar, violent man, promises
      to “turn Romania into a country like the holy sun in the sky,” a close
      variation of an old Iron Guard slogan. Mr. Becali calls himself an
      “athlete of Christianity” and has generously endowed the Maglavit
      church, the gathering point of Romania’s mystical extremists in the ‘30s.

      While everywhere else in Europe the extreme right is politically
      isolated, some of Romania’s political establishment help these
      demagogues gain an aura of respectability. One could not imagine Jean
      Marie le Pen even coming close to the gates of the Elysee Palace, let
      alone being invited into the president’s office. And it would simply
      be inconceivable for a French socialist leader to negotiate with the
      extremist Front National. But in Romania, Mr. Tudor maintains friendly
      ties with many prominent members of the opposition Social Democratic
      Party (PSD), who discreetly try to help him gain credibility with
      Western governments in exchange for cooperation from Mr. Tudor. The two
      parties are in talks for a formal parliamentary alliance. The recently
      elected president of the Romanian parliament, Bogdan Olteanu, who
      represents the pro-Western, business-oriented Liberal Party, won his new
      job with the crucial support of the PRM. The president of Romania,
      Traian Basescu, receives Mr. Tudor at his palace and socializes publicly
      with Mr. Becali. The PSD, meanwhile, gives Mr. Becali campaign advice in
      hopes of weakening the PRM.

      That mainstream politicians would find it so easy to rub shoulders with
      extremists is not that surprising in a country where the use of racist
      and populist rhetoric is not limited to the fringes of the political
      spectrum. Particularly anti-Hungarian, anti-Roma and homophobic
      comments have become vote-winners for all political parties. The
      boundaries between extreme and mainstream parties are more fluid in
      Romania than in other countries in the region. And although Holocaust
      denial is a crime, no Holocaust denier has ever been punished in
      Romania. As in many other domains, the country does not lack tough laws
      but rather the will to enforce them. How are such odious dealings
      possible in a country that is a NATO member and ready to join the
      European Union next year? History is, as always, a good guide. Visceral
      nationalism has a long tradition in Romania, going back to pre-World War
      II times when the Iron Guard, which would later play an important role
      in preparing the destruction of the Romanian Jewish community during the
      Holocaust, advocated hate toward foreigners in general and Jews in
      particular. Communist dictator Ceausescu for years hammered the same
      themes into the national conscience.

      Is Romania now reverting to its preWorld War 11 roots? Is nationalism
      the only real ideology in today’s Romania? Is it justifiable to get
      close to the extreme right in order to divide it and steal its votes, as
      some mainstream politicians have claimed?

      Romania’s political class should not have a short memory. Striking
      alliances with extremists always backfires. After the 1937 elections,
      when the Iron Guard and the anti-Semitic National Christian Party won
      22% of the votes, the Romanian political class followed the same course
      as it is doing again today. Back then, mainstream political leaders
      also entered into electoral alliances with extremists, foolishly
      believing they could control them. Fifty-one years of fascist and
      communist dictatorship followed. Playing this dangerous game with the
      extreme right tarnishes not only Romania’s image abroad but threatens
      its national security.

      Mr. Ioanid is author of “The Holocaust in Romania” and “The Ransom of
      the Jews.”
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