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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Israel Takes the Same Path as Hungarian Fascism Did Prior in pre-Holocaust Hungary

German guards oversee the assembly of Jews in Kamenets-Podolsk
prior to their transportation to a site outside of the city for execution
No to Israeli 'Numerus Clausus' Laws

In September 1922 the Numerus Clausus Act was enacted in Hungary. It restricted Jewish participation in the universities to the same percentage that the Jews had amongst the population as a whole. Numerus clausus had been a feature of anti-Semitism in Czaris Russia and this was a flagrant breach of the League of Nations Minority Treaties. The leadership of the Churches made the mildest comments and the leadership of the Jewish community in Hungary raised little objection. The Zionists had no objection whatsoever

But this first anti-Semitic act paved the way for three successive anti-Jewish laws in May 1938, May 1939 and August 1941. The first law imposed a ceiling (20%) on Jewish participation in the professions, the second law defined Jews racially and forbade their employment by the State and limited participation in other professions to 6%. The 3rd anti-Jewish law forbade sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews. These laws laid the basis for the Hungarian holocaust and the growth of the Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross/Nyilas under Ferecz Sazalasi. Although there was an interlude between the Bardossy government in 1942 (which had initiated the first massacres in Novi Sad in January 1942 and the first deportations to Kameniec-Podolsk in April 1941 when thousands of stateless Jews were murdered by the Nazis). [see Randolph Braham’s The Politics of Genocide – the Holocaust in Hungary].

It is therefore fitting that a new ‘numerus clausus’ directed at Arabs, and to a lesser extent the Haredi (Orthodox Jews in Israel who don’t serve in the army but who are represented in government by the ultra-racist Shas party) is now being enacted. Proposed by MKs Hamad Amar, David Rotem and Alex Miller of Yisrael Beteinu. But was is notable is that according to the Ha'aretz article below ‘it was an opposition MK, Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who was most ardently in favor:”.

In fact what is being proposed has been done unofficially for years. Two years ago I covered the attempt of Israel Rail to make it a condition of working on the railways that one has served in the army! No you don’t need to be able to fire a gun to be a guard on a train but since only Jews serve in Israel’s army (bar the small Druze community and some Bedouin and Circassians) it was an easy way to bar Arabs from the best jobs. That time the racist were rumbled and backed off. But now the government is proposing to make this official. If you are an Arab you don’t belong in the civil service. This is an exact emulation of the 2nd Hungarian anti-Jewish law of May 1939.

Below there is an excellent article by Aluf Benn of Ha’aretz making exactly these comparisons.

The spirit of the proposed bill is more important than the language, and everyone is clear on its purpose: to get rid of the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs.
01.06.11 By Aluf Benn Haaretz June 1, 2011.

On July 22, the parliament in Budapest met to vote on Law Number 25 which established the entry requirements to universities in Hungary. The bill stated that for higher learning only those of "unblemished ethical standard, who have demonstrated loyalty to the Hungarian nation," would be let in, and that the university student body must reflect the nations and ethnic groups in the country in accordance to their relative numbers in the overall population.

On the face of it, the bill was meant to ensure fair and equitable representation but everyone realized its real purpose: to dwindle the number of Jews among the student body. Only six percent of the Hungarian population was Jewish at the time, but they made up as much as 30 percent of the student body. When the bill was brought to a vote, most of the parliamentarians from the centrist parties were absent from the plenum. The bill passed with the votes of the extreme right wing and entered history as the Numerus Clausus Law, the first institutional expression of anti-Semitism in Europe during the interwar years.

Among the thousands of Jewish students who abandoned Hungary were John von Neumann and Edward Teller, who went on to develop game theory and the hydrogen bomb. Their skills and those of their colleagues did not interest Hungarian nationalists. They wanted to throw the Jews out, even at the cost of a brain drain. Politicians in Budapest were only concerned about international pressure, which indeed eased the restrictions a few years later. But the damage had already been done: The Jewish geniuses were gone, and Hungary continued its downfall into fascism.

The proposed Affirmative Action bill, which passed last week through the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and is on its way to a preliminary reading, is marching along the same path. The bill proposed by MKs Hamad Amar, David Rotem and Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu seeks to give preference for civil service jobs to those who served in the IDF. On the face of it, justice is being done in favor of "those who lay in ambush and risked their lives," to quote Amar, preferring them over those who evaded the draft and were able to go to university at age 18.

But like in Hungary of 1920, so too in Israel of 2011, the spirit of the law is more important than the language, and everyone is clear on its purpose: to get rid of the Haredim and the Arabs. The state is the one that exempted them from mandatory military service and now wants to punish them for alleged "evasion."

MK Rotem, who chairs the Knesset Law Committee, explained his position during discussions: "I hear constantly talk about the right to equality. I think that the military cemeteries should be closed, there is no equality there. They do not bury Arabs there."

To the Shas representative MK Nissim Zeev, who opposed the bill, Rotem said: "I do not care about your world."

Rotem responded rudely to the representatives of ministries who expressed reservations at the bill, saying it was redundant and possibly also illegal. "At noon today you will see how legal it is" Rotem told attorney Tziona Koenig-Yair, Commissioner for Equal Opportunities at the Workplace. "What is your [lawyer's] license number?" "19893," she said.

Rotem then went on to deal with the Justice Ministry's representative, attorney Dan Oren: "And what is your license number?"

What is the relevance, wondered Oren, and insisted: "It is our function and we have expertise in these matters."

Koenig-Yair gave in: "I apologize to the chairman if there was something offensive in my statements."

The government of Benjamin Netanyau, which has sought to oppress the Arab community since it was established, was, of course, in favor of the "Affirmative Action Bill." Not all committee MKs fell in line: Benny Begin voted against the bill in the preliminary reading, Isaac Herzog petitioned against it, but Rotem said that "he can no longer file a petition." During the vote in the Law Committee, it was an opposition MK, Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who was most ardently in favor: "From a moral point of view, I consider this a most important law," he said. Schneller joined the two representatives of Yisrael Beiteinu, and against the two Haredi MKs, passed the bill to the next stage.

The nationalists in Israel, like their predecessors in Hungary during the past century, do not care about the loss of talent or exacerbation of domestic tensions. They are interested in harming minorities and pushing them out. And like their predecessors in the parliament in Budapest, the representatives of the center in our Knesset have opted to sit in the cafeteria instead of fighting racist bills.
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