Below is an open letter to Haifa University’s academic expert on the holocaust of the Roma. Haifa University is bestowing an honorary doctorate on the racist anti-Roma Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Jason Kenney. Haifa University itself has a long record of racism, not least its recent decision to ban the commemoration of the Nakba – the Palestinian catastrophe – at the urging of the student union (students in Israel are not left-wing!).
It reminds me of newspaper clippings I have of the late Robin Cook, commemorating the deportation of Warsaw’s Jews to Treblinka on one day and the next day going to Czechoslovakia, as it then was, to denounce Roma immigrants to Britain!
Open Letter from Roma Community Centre (RCC), Toronto, Canada
|Prof. Margalit - Haifa's Roma Expert Keeps Quiet|
Open Letter from Roma Community Centre (RCC), Toronto, Canada.September 17, 2012
|International Roma Community Centre|
Dear Professor Margalit:
I am writing to you on behalf of Roma Community Centre (RCC), based in Toronto, Canada. Ours is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping newly arrived and Canadian Roma. Part of our mandate is to raise awareness about the ongoing abuses of human rights of the Romani people and Europe’s rapidly growing neo-Nazi movements that promote anti-Roma racism, persecution and hate.
You may be aware that University of Haifa is about to confer an honorary doctorate upon the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, and this is our reason for writing you this letter. We feel that you, as a scholar of Roma and the Holocaust, should know that this is taking place, and we wish to convey to you pertinent information about this matter.
|Haifa University bows to far-right students and cancels Nakba commemoration|
Of particular concern to us is the strong stance currently taken against Roma by Mr. Kenney, particularly in light of the nationalist, extreme right and neo-Nazi paramilitary movements currently sweeping Hungary. The anti-Roma, anti-Semitic Jobbik Party now has 47 members (12.2%) in the current Hungarian Parliament (more parliamentary seats than any other far-right party since the Nazi era), as well as three MPs in the European Parliament.
|Israeli Sculptor Dani Karavan Photo by Daniel Reiter|
In 2011, Jobbik’s paramilitary wing, Civil Guard, occupied a Romani neighbourhood in Gyöngyöspata, where the Roma residents were threatened with dogs, their children followed to and from school, their houses surrounded, and vigilante checkpoints set up, all as police stood by. Sixty-seven families fled Gyöngyöspata to seek safety in Canada. We fear that they were not granted refuge here, because Mr. Kenney has stated publicly that Roma refugee claims are ‘bogus’ – despite Canada’s own immigration law requiring refugee claimants to be assessed case by case. He maintains that Hungary is a safe place for Roma. However, Athena Institute (and other human rights organisations) provide evidence that the truth is far different; furthermore, they show that what is happening to Roma in Hungary is also happening to Jews.
The Gyöngyöspata incident is not an isolated one. Pogroms and neo-Nazi demonstrations are now taking place across Hungary. Roma are targeted, threatened, beaten and even murdered. A recent survey revealed that sixty percent of Hungarians believe that Roma have “criminality in their blood”. Footage of the Gyöngyöspata occupation includes a neo-Nazi proudly announcing that he is urinating on the ground in the shape of a swastika, and a woman reporting that a member of the Civil Patrol threatened her that “I will build my house with your blood”. Chillingly, right after the occupation, a far-right Jobbik mayor was elected in Gyöngyöspata. And Jobbik has called for Roma families to be rounded up and placed in special “public order protection” camps.
Unfortunately, Mr. Kenney’s statements have encouraged expressions of outright racism against our people. On a recent broadcast of “The Source with Ezra Levant”, titled “The Jew vs. the Gypsies”, Mr. Levant delivered an incendiary diatribe against Roma in which he referred to us as a “scourge”, “deviant”; a “Gypsy crime wave” who “gypped their way into Canada”. In his broadcast Ezra Levant invoked the hate speech of the third Reich: some of his epithets echo Nazi descriptors of Roma: “asocials”; “racial inferiors”; “aliens” (having “alien” blood); and, along with Jews, “Untermenschen” or “non-persons”. Further, we were alarmed to discover that on his website, Ezra Levant refers to Mr. Kenney as “my favourite MP” (Member of Parliament), and that he is on the Tribute Committee of Canadian Friends of Haifa University to honour Mr. Kenney.
Mr. Kenney’s insistence that Roma refugee claims are “bogus’, Mr. Levant’s frightening and malignant diatribe, and the notable silence of both men about the growing neo-Nazi movement in Hungary, lend implicit support to the anti-Semitic, anti-Roma Jobbik Party.
Nor has Mr. Kenney spoken out against Jobbik’s developing relationship with Iran. In January, 2011, the Jobbik leadership and an invited Iranian delegation discussed economic, trade and cultural relations in Tiszavasvári, Hungary, which Jobbik leader Gabor Vona calls “the capital of our movement.” After the Jobbik candidate won Tiszavasvári’s mayoral election, “he created a uniformed …. ‘gendarmerie’ to patrol Roma neighborhoods to combat what he called “Gypsy crime.”
Documentation of the above information I have provided will be made available to you at your request.
We have communicated our dismay to the University of Haifa. Nevertheless, on November 4, in Toronto, Jason Kenney is to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University.
Roma Community Centre is not along in voicing our concern. On behalf of a group of eighteen Toronto Jewish doctors, Dr. Philip Berger wrote to Dr. Aharon Ben-Ze’ev, President of University of Haifa that “The (Canadian government) immigration policy changes have also provoked outrage in the Jewish community…. Notably the Toronto Board of Rabbis supported by Elie Weisel oppose the changes.”
Mitchell Goldberg of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, in a letter to Dr. Ben-Ze’ev, wrote:
“We remind you that Canada was one of several countries that, in 1939, turned away over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. At the time, a Canadian official was asked how many Jews Canada should accept. His reply was ‘none is too many’. Here is what the present law, drafted by Minister Kenney, would say and do about those Jewish refugees were they to arrive today:
“The SS St. Louis was piloted by human smugglers intent on abusing Canadian immigration system. The passengers are part of a ‘human smuggling event’ and will be automatically detained. If their refugee claims are rejected, they will be deported back to Germany with no chance to appeal the negative decision. If their refugee claims are accepted, these German Jews may or may not be released from detention before a year has passed. It will be important to detain them for as long as possible in order to send a message to other German Jews not to try the same thing, lest Canada be flooded with Jewish refugees. In any case, the Jews aboard the SS St. Louis cannot rescue family members left behind in Germany, because ‘irregular arrivals’ must be punished for using smugglers: Even if they are accepted as refugees, they are ineligible to sponsor family members for five years. By that time, it will be 1943. The Nazi’s Final Solution will be in full operation.”
Professor Margalit, we hope that you share our deep concern. If you wish, we can forward you our correspondence to the University of Haifa administration. We have requested that University reconsider granting an honorary doctorate to Jason Kenney. Mr. Kenney insults not only the memory of Roma murdered along with Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, but the present-day Roma being targeted by those intent upon continuing the work of the third Reich.
Lynn Hutchinson Lee
Chair, Social Justice Committee
Roma Community Centre
2340 Dundas St. W., Suite G20
facebook group: Toronto Roma Community Centre
The Roma Community Centre is committed to Celebrating Romani Culture, Successful Settlement, Promoting Human Rights, Community Developing Initiatives, and Cultivating Community Partnerships.
The web page of Professor Margalit is
by Lynn Hutchinson Lee
Here is a letter RCC has just sent to the governors & administrators of Haifa University, Israel, who are conferring an honorary doctorate on Jason Kenney. Letter is v. long – see below:
Dear Mr. Charney, Mr. Ayalon, Mr. Shapira, Professor Faraggi and Mr. Gaver: Roma Community Centre is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping newly arrived and Canadian Roma. Part of our mandate is to raise awareness about the ongoing abuses of human rights of the Romani people and Europe’s rapidly growing neo-Nazi movements that promote anti-Roma racism, persecution and hate.
It is with great dismay that our organisation has learned that Haifa University intends to confer an honorary doctorate, in Toronto on November 4, upon Canadian Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney. According to the Canadian Friends of Haifa University website, among several reasons cited, this award is being granted “in recognition of his steadfast position against antisemitism, racism and intolerance”. We feel it is imperative to share with you our concerns about Mr. Kenney’s position on Hungarian Roma refugees now seeking safety in Canada, particularly in light of the nationalist, extreme right and neo-Nazi
paramilitary movements in Hungary. Please refer to:
‘Meet Europe’s New Fascists – Hungary’s far-right activists used to rally in the streets. Now they’re in parliament, where their party, Jobbik, is stoking hatred of Jews and Roma’
Disturbing information about Mr. Kenney, which may not be known to you, is that he was honoured at a Croatian event in Canada, during which he said that “I have in my office a prayer card with a picture of Cardinal Stepinac….he was one of the great heroes of the 20th century”. As you may know, Cardinal Stepinac was a pro-Nazi war criminal and supporter of the Nazi satellite regime (Ustasha) in Croatia ). In 1943, Stepinac was found guilty of Nazi collaboration.
|Anti-Roma racism is also widespread in Britain|
Mr. Kenney has publicly stated that Roma refugee claims are ‘bogus’, and that Hungary is a safe place for Roma. On December 2, 2011, he insisted on Hungarian television that Roma suffer ‘occasional acts of discrimination.’
The truth is far different – a web of well-documented, systemic racism and persecution:
• entry into Parliament and increasing influence of a far-right, anti-Roma, anti-Jewish party called Jobbik;
• illegal segregated and substandard schooling for Roma children;
• grossly inequitable access to adequate housing, employment and health care (see “Poor, abused and second-class: the Roma living in fear in Hungarian village” at
• Jobbik leader Gabor Vona’s proposal to remove Roma children from their families, and place them in residential schools;
• Jobbik MEP Csanad Szegedi’s advocacy of ‘public order protection camps’ for Roma
• the introduction of labour camps, under police supervision, for Roma
‘Torchlit marches, school segregation and talk of labour camps has Roma fearing for their lives after far-right party Jobbik came to power in Gyöngyöspata’).
• ongoing threats and acts of violence by neo-Nazi vigilantes now increasing. Please refer to:
‘Hungary: Murders of Roma people were planned’;
“I WILL BUILD MY HOUSE WITH YOUR BLOOD”We urge you to take a few minutes of your time to look at video documentation shot during the 2011 neo-Nazi Civil Guard occupation of the Romani neighbourhood of Gyongyospata, a village in Hungary. Please go to:
You will see:
• a Romani woman quoting a neo-Nazi threat: “I will build my house with your blood” (0:28);
• neo-Nazi Jobbik rally in Gyöngyöspata (0:45 – 1:28);
• a Romani man stating that “we will move out of Gyöngyöspata, take our children and family because we have been terrorized for two months” (4:38);
• neo-Nazi Alex proudly announcing that he is urinating on the ground in the shape of a swastika (4:57 – 5:04);
• election of far-right Jobbik mayor in Gyöngyöspata (7:34 – 8:01);
• concluding text: “67 Roma villagers have left to claim asylum in Canada” (8:06 – 8:10).
Administrators and Governors, this brings us back to Jason Kenney: did Canada grant asylum to those villagers from Gyöngyöspata fleeing neo-Nazism? Or did we send them back to Hungary, as we sent Jews back to Nazi Germany in 1939?
JEWISH ACTIVISTS WRITE• A June 15, 2012, Globe and Mail newspaper article by Canadians Bernie Farber, Philip Berger and Clayton Ruby (respectively a prominent Jewish advocate, doctor and lawyer) states that “… with resurgence of neo-Nazism in parts of Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, Roma face violent attacks. Many have tried to flee to Canada, where doors have once again become hard to pry open … Today, we go on record as Jews and descendants of immigrants to say that we oppose cuts to refugee health care and the designation of so-called ‘safe’ countries …. As Jews and human rights activists, we know well that countries deemed safe for the majority can be deadly for some minorities.”
• On July 16, Bernie Farber wrote of Mr. Kenney’s legislative proposal in Huffington Post, “One of the more pernicious elements of the new Immigration and Refugee Bill C-31 is the so-called ‘Designated Safe Country’ (DSO) rule.” He continues, “I am proud of my own community for standing shoulder to shoulder with the Roma over many decades of persecution. Historically both our communities understood the ultimate expression of hatred; for us it was the Holocaust or in Hebrew the Shoah; for the Roma, the only other group targeted by the Nazis for extermination, it was called the ‘Porajmos’ or the ‘Devouring.’”
• A March 5, 2009, letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to Hungarian President László Sólyom stated that “in ‘Judenrein’ (ethnically cleansed of Jews) Eastern Europe where the Holocaust succeeded, antisemitism persists as a phantom pain syndrome – the body still seeks to scratch the missing limb.” A press statement (“Solidarity with Roma after pogrom in Hungary”) said the letter identified “today’s target of hate” as “the Roma community – over 700,000 people in Hungary alone. Also marked for extermination by the Nazis, scapegoated for the current economic crisis by neo-Nazis, Gypsophobia must not become acceptable to the mainstream in Eastern Europe in the way that antisemitism has become an epidemic in the West.”
ROMA COMMUNITY CENTRE OPEN LETTEROn August 18 the Globe and Mail reported that Canada is now taking steps to detain Roma refugee claimants while awaiting more aggressive immigration policies to shut off the flow of Roma admitted to Canada. Volunteers at Roma Community Centre have heard that perhaps 75 Roma are already in detention.
In an August 25 open letter to Mr. Kenney and Canadian Prime minster Stephen Harper, RCC Executive Director Gina Csanyi-Robah outlined the current political climate in Hungary: “Jobbik, an extreme right-wing ultra-nationalist political part, which openly expresses hatred and promotes violence toward the Roma and Jewish minorities in Hungary, is currently the second largest political party operating in Hungary”
The RCC continues: “Many of the small cities, towns, and villages in Hungary, especially where there is a significant concentration of Roma living, now have mayors and city councillors that are members of the Jobbik party. In 2009, when the Hungarian government made a move to ban the Hungarian Guards, Jobbik political party leader, Mr. Gabor Vona, taunted Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the ruling Fidez party by wearing the banned Hungarian Guards uniform to the Hungarian National Assembly the very next day. He was applauded by the 47 Jobbik (21%) Members of Parliament …. This past Saturday (August 25), thousands of uniformed Hungarian Guards carrying the Arrow Cross flag of the WWII Hungarian Nazis marched up Andrassy Utca, the street famous for its international embassies, toward the landmark Hero’s Square in central Budapest.”
Nazi Germany – 1930’s; Neo-Nazis, Hungary – 2000’sIn the Nazi era, up to 1.5 million Roma were murdered (International Organisation for Migration, November 2001). Simon Wiesenthal, in a 1984 letter to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, wrote: “The Gypsies had been murdered in a proportion similar to the Jews, about 80% of them in the area of the countries which were occupied by the Nazis.”
In 2010 Jobbik took more parliamentary seats in Hungary than any other far-right party since the Nazi era. The following year, on March 1, 2011, the Hungarian neo-Nazi vigilante group Civil Guard took control of a Romani neighbourhood in the village of Gyöngyöspata, where they set up checkpoints at the entrance to the neighbourhood and formed a human chain around the houses of Romani residents. On March 17, the European Roma Rights Centre wrote to Hungarian authorities, reporting that the Civil Guard patrols “threaten (Romani residents) with weapons and dogs, and follow them every time they leave their houses, unimpeded by local police … The patrols have been supported by the far-right political party Jobbik, which organized a march of thousands through the village in black military uniform on March 6th. Finally, the (Civil Guard) indicated that … they will also set up chapters in other towns to expand their patrols.”
Richard Field writes that on July 25 2102, “the Bekes county court rejected the public prosecutor’s request that the so-called Civil Guard….the paramilitary organization behind last year’s anti-Roma disturbances be disbanded”. Two anti-Roma demonstrations followed.
WHAT RCC SENT TO JASON KENNEYIn addition to the open letter mentioned above, since June RCC members have sent Mr. Kenney the following information:
• June 18, 2012: the Washington Post reported that Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (himself a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Haifa University) repudiated the Grand Cross Order of Merit he received from Hungary in 2004, after learning that Budapest officials had attended a recent ceremony for Jozef Nyiro, a WW II Hungarian parliamentarian and Nazi sympathizer. In a letter to Hungarian Parliamentary Speaker Lazlo Kover, Mr. Wiesel expressed his dismay at the presence of the Speaker, along with Hungarian Secretary of State for Culture Geza Szocs, and leader of the far-right Jobbik party Gabor Vona, at the ceremony. (In 2007 Vona founded Magyar Garda, the paramilitary organization that in March 2011 terrorized the Roma community in Gyongyospata, Hungary.) ;
• August 6, 2012: a press statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre was issued on the 68th anniversary of the Porrajmos (‘Devouring’), the Nazi genocide of Roma and Sinti. In the press statement, a letter from Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, stated that “the common fate of Jews and Gypsies determined by the Nazi race theorists led the late Simon Wiesenthal to work closely with Roma and Sinti survivors.” Concerning Hungary, the press statement says: “The Centre pointed to ‘its particular focus on Hungary, due to the infiltration of hate into the mainstream politics of that country and even its representatives at the European Parliament.’ Sadly, we have yet to receive an adequate response regarding our appeals to the Hungarian authorities for effective counter-action.”
NONE IS TOO MANY?
Administrators and Governors of Haifa University, you may know that in 1939, Canada turned back a ship carrying 900 Jews to face the Nazi Holocaust. A Canadian immigration official at the time said of Jewish asylum seekers fleeing Nazi Germany that “None is too many.”
Given the well-documented growth of ultra-right violence against Jews and Roma in Hungary, we believe that the Roma deserve a better reception from Canada than that given to Jews in 1939. Distressingly, “None is too many” seems to inform the current federal government’s policy on Roma refugees.
In spite of the information presented above (and more), Jason Kenney continues to malign Roma as making ‘bogus’ refugee claims with designs on Canada’s social services, and still upholds Hungary as a safe place for this vulnerable and persecuted minority.
In conclusion, we invite you to contrast Mr. Kenney’s approach with that of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, in her press statement commemorating International Roma Day, April 8, 2012:
“They are segregated, beaten, and systematically discriminated against. They are denied access to an education and to jobs. Despite a decade of progress, during this global economic downturn incidents of anti-Roma rhetoric and violence are on the rise……. We believe governments have a special responsibility to ensure that members of the Roma community – and all minority communities – have the tools to succeed as productive members of society.”
(The full text is attached to this message.) As well, please find attached an image: ‘Germany 1932; Hungary 2012’, as well as a list of documented neo-Nazi hate groups in Hungary
In light of Mr. Kenney’s continued refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of the clear and growing neo-Nazi threat in Hungary, and in light of the documented information we have provided, we respectfully ask: is this a person upon whom Haifa University wishes to confer an Honorary Doctorate?