Congressman Howard L. Berman, the most senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York) and 48 other Members of Congress, sent a letter to Prime Minister Victor Orban of Hungary today, calling for a condemnation of members of the Hungarian Jobbik party for their homophobic and anti-Semitic remarks and positions.
"Silence in the face of such bigotry empowers and enables radical groups like the Jobbik party to continue with their racist, discriminatory agenda," said Rep. Berman (D-Valley Village). "Their actions must be challenged to send a clear and unambiguous message that hatred is not tolerated within the halls of the Hungarian Parliament. It is my hope that the Prime Minister will officially repudiate the homophobic and anti-Semitic policies and rhetoric of the Jobbik party."
The letter cites numerous instances of homophobic and anti-Semitic positions espoused by the Jobbik party, including a bill the party introduced referring to homosexuality as a perversion and official material circulated by the party which perpetuates the blood libel myth of Jews using Christian blood for religious ceremonies.
In 2009, Rep. Berman proposed legislation that would require the State Department to work with governments of other countries to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality and otherwise restricting the rights of LGBT individuals around the world.
June 21, 2012
His Excellency Victor Orban
c/o Embassy of Hungary
3910 Shoemaker Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Prime Minister Orban,
As strong supporters of a strengthened U.S.-Hungary relationship, we have long sought to build upon the ties between our two countries. Hungarian immigrants to the United States have contributed significantly to American economic, political and cultural life, and many Hungarian-Americans retain ancestral links with Hungary. Moreover, Hungary holds a special place in the American imagination as one of the Central European states at the vanguard of fighting for freedom, independence and justice.
We are deeply concerned, however, by anti-Semitic and homophobic positions espoused by members of the Jobbik party. For example, Jobbik's presidential candidate, Krisztina Morvai, referred to Israeli Jews as "lice-infested, dirty murders" and warned Hungarian Jews that "your kind's time is over." The Jobbik magazine implied there is truth to the myth that Jews used Christian blood in religious rites, and Jobbik introduced a bill in parliament referring to homosexuality as a perversion and calling for the imprisonment of those who "promote" homosexuality. Further, Jobbik has attacked the employers of those who may be gay, calling for the ouster of Robert Alfoldi, the director of the National Theater, based on his presumed homosexuality. These statements take place against a backdrop of broader problems of intolerance and discrimination against Roma, migrants and others.
These positions have no place in civilized discourse and must not be allowed to go unchallenged, particularly in light of reports by the U.S. Department of State and the Anti-Defamation League that anti-Semitic rhetoric is increasing in Hungary.
We understand that there has been an agreement reached to set up a parliamentary ethics committee to address hate speech in the parliament itself. It is vital that Hungary's leaders use their bully pulpit to speak out against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry to send a clear message that intolerance is an affront to the decency of the people of Hungary.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.