******UPDATE AT BOTTOM******

More stirrings in Vojvodina.

Rights row in northern Serbian province sparks protest (Reuters, April 12)

Thousands of supporters of Serbia’s ruling parties rallied against the leadership of the country’s autonomous Vojvodina province on Friday, against a backdrop of rising political tension over the northern region.

An area of flat fertile plains, Vojvodina is the agricultural bread basket of Serbia and home to a large minority of some 300,000 Hungarians. Its level of autonomy has seesawed over the past several decades, and has come under renewed scrutiny since power changed hands in Serbia in mid-2012.

Vojvodina is controlled by Serbia’s opposition Democratic Party in coalition with an ethnic Hungarian party.

The latest row erupted this week when the Democrats, who lost power at the state level last year, tabled a parliamentary declaration reaffirming the rights and powers of the autonomous region.

The two main parties in Serbia’s ruling coalition…accused the Democrats of trying to stir up separatism.

Milosevic stripped both Vojvodina and Serbia’s then southern Kosovo province of their autonomous powers in the late 1980s. The Democrats, who helped oust Milosevic in 2000, restored their privileges….

Igor Mirovic, deputy head of Serbia’s ruling nationalist Progressive Party of Serbia, called for the ouster of the Vojvodina government and its Prime Minister Bojan Pajtic, who is deputy head of the Democratic Party.

“We do not need more divisions between Belgrade and Vojvodina … we are demanding retraction of that shameful declaration, early (provincial) elections and resignation of Pajtic and his clique,” Mirovic told the cheering crowd.

Elections in Vojvodina are scheduled for 2016.

Faced with backlash from Belgrade, the Vojvodina government postponed debate on the declaration, but defended the text.

The dispute has the potential to stir tension between Serbia and its northern neighbor, European Union-member Hungary, which watches closely for signs of discrimination against ethnic Hungarians who make up some 13 percent of Vojvodina’s almost 2 million people.

Well isn’t that rich. As Liz, who circulated the item earlier this month, put it: “No doubt ‘northern neighbor watches closely.’ All of Serbia’s ‘neighbors’ watch Serbia closely. Problem is Serbia’s neighbors not ‘watched’ by anyone.”

One must ask a question, the likes of which also should be asked of Croatia and Albania: Is it discrimination that Hungary abhors, or supremacy that it enforces? Ten days after The Hague reversed the convictions of two war criminals in Hungary’s kindred spirit, Croatia, we got this seemingly unrelated little item:

Hungarian Far Right Politician Demands a List of Jewish MPs (Business Insider, Nov. 27, By Adam Taylor)

Márton Gyöngyösi, the deputy group leader of the Jobbik, a far right group in Hungary, made headlines around the world today when he asked for a list of Jews in government and parliament.

“It is high time to assess many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security risk to Hungary,” Gyöngyösi said on Monday, according to Politics.ru, before adding that Hungary’s Foreign Ministry had “rushed to make an oath of allegiance to Israel.”

This morning the comments were brought to international attention by the JTA, while the Hungarian Prime Minister released a statement condemning the comment. The AP reports that MPs, Jewish or otherwise, wore yellow stars today as hundreds of protesters rallied in Budapest.

Jobbick is currently the second largest opposition party in the Hungarian parliament, and has built much of its support on anti-Jewish and anti-Roma rhetoric. However, the party fails to have much legislative power due to the government’s majority.

Gyöngyösi apologized today, saying that his comment was only directed at dual Israeli-Hungarian citizens. However, he has some form on the subject, having lashed out at investigations into Nazi war crimes in Hungary.

Jobbik party members have something of a checkered recent history. Earlier this year one key party member, Csanad Szegedi, resigned after he discovered he was Jewish, and at least 3 members of the party have been forced to resign after admitting their past careers in pornography.

Without commenting on the party member resigning in shame over his Jewishness, which apparently is on par with pornography, the name Jobbik rang a bell, and turned up the following from 2011 about the then-conviction of the two Croatian war criminals:

Jobbik Finds Sentence Against General Gotovina Shameful (Jobbik Party Statement, April 24, 2011)

Jobbik considers the sentence brought against General Ante Gotovina by the International Court of Justice in the Hague as unjust and morally unacceptable.

The convicted general is a national hero, an example of heroism and bravery not only for the Croatian people, but for every freedom-loving nation of the world.

Ante Gotovina and the other heroes of the Croatian ‘War for Independence’ stood up for territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country, and they took a major part in creating national cohesion and pride. It is an unfortunate development of modern times, that the so-called ‘international community’ considers their acts as crimes. The war fought by Croatia was a rightful, and just act of self-defense against former Yogoslavian - later Serbian - military and paramilitary units.

General Gotovina - the leader of ‘Operation Storm’ - was a significant figure of this struggle, whose patriotism is an example for us all.

Ante Gotovina heroj!

Márton Gyöngyösi
President, Jobbik Foreign Affairs Committee

As for Gyöngyösi’s resentment over Nazi war crime investigations of Hungary, chief Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff wrote in April 2010, “If the ultranationalists become the main opposition in Hungary, it is unlikely [WWII gendarmerie officer] Sandor Kepiro will ever be brought to justice…[and will have] potentially very dangerous consequences, especially for the country’s minorities.”

Apparently, becoming the second-largest opposition party was good enough in Hungary, which in July 2011 acquitted Kepiro, who helped organize the murder of 1,200-3,000 Jews, Serbs and Gypsies in the Hungarian-occupied Serbian city of Novi Sad (and whom Zuroff found in 2006 living in Budapest undisturbed). He died peacefully two months later at the age of 97. Zuroff in 2010 offered a possible explanation for Hungary’s foot-dragging on trying Kepiro: “[T]he authorities hoped he would die and spare them the trouble and embarrassment of a trial which would highlight Hungarian complicity in Holocaust crimes.”

Indeed, if you’re trying to repeat history, you certainly don’t want to refresh people’s memory of it. Upon Kepiro’s acquittal in 2011, Zuroff said, “This is a joke.” Serbian chief prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said, “I was shocked at the behaviour in the court and the fact that the verdict was greeted with applause. It was a nauseating scene.” And Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Ana Frenkel, of Novi Sad, said, “It is not unexpected from a Hungarian society which is not yet mature enough to face its past.”

That goes double for Croatia, abetted by a world that is simply not interested in punishing Serb-killers, which — interestingly — the last of the surviving Nazis were.

Last year Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel noticed that Hungary also has been whitewashing its past, even honoring the late pro-Nazi writer Jozsef Nyiro, a loyal member of Hungary’s WWII far-right parliament. Parliament Speaker Laszlo Kover and another senior government official attended a ceremony for Nyiro in a heavily Hungarian part of Romania (Incidentally, the Hungarian government claims to be very concerned about ethnic Hungarian populations in Austria, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia and have issued them passports, a harbinger of territorial pretensions to come.) The Hungarian government even made Nyiro part of the official school curriculum, Haaretz reported in June, adding that “public spaces were named after Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s head of state when the country allied with Nazi Germany….[A]bout one thousand Hungarians attended the unveiling of a statue of Horthy in a village with activists in paramilitary outfits flying the flags of the far-right Jobbik opposition party and various nationalist groups.”

Yes, we should really care what Hungary thinks about Serbia. And take the concern for its infiltrators there as genuine.

******UPDATE******

I forgot to include this recent (March) JTA article about Hungary:

Hungarian politicians chided on anti-Semitism, war crimes suspect (JTA, March 6, 2013)

BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — An American Jewish organizational leader met with Hungarian political leaders to express concern about growing anti-Semitism in the country.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and Simon Samuels, head of the Paris office of the Wiesenthal Center, met in Budapest with Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Zsolt Németh and Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics.

“My presence here in Budapest is to deliver a message of concern over the increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary,” Cooper told JTA. He said a number of issues triggered his visit, among them a lack of progress on bringing Hungarian Nazi war criminal László Csatáry, 98, to justice. Csatáry is currently under house arrest in Budapest.

Navracsics told Cooper on Wednesday that he will urge the public prosecutor to move swiftly to commence the Csatáry trial for complicity in the murder of 12,000-15,700 Jews in 1944 in the town Kassa.

“We are deeply concerned, particularly because of Csatáry’s advanced age, that the trial begin without delay,” Cooper said in an interview…

Efraim Zuroff, head of the Jerusalem Wiesenthal Office, found Csatáry living in Budapest after being stripped of his Canadian citizenship and deported from Canada 15 years ago.

“There is a unique situation in Hungary in terms of anti-Semitism,” Cooper said. “Anti-Semitism here is due to the revisionism of collective memory in terms of World War II.”

Cooper criticized the center-right Hungarian government, saying, “There is not enough of a tough line concerning the extremists.”

During talks with Hungarian politicians, Cooper said he encouraged them to “draw a much tougher line between themselves and the extremists.”