ROME, May 29 (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League has appealed to the leaders of the Czech Republic and Hungary to take action against recent racist behavior directed against Jews and Gypsies.
Both countries hope to joint the European Union, which, particularly since the rise of the far-right Freedom Party in Austria, has served notice that it will monitor episodes of xenophobia and intolerance.
The ADL’s Vienna-based Central and East European Office sent a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressing “deep concern” at recent racist incidents in Hungarian soccer stadiums.
It also sent a letter to Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman expressing alarm over the frequency of aggression against Gypsies, known as Roma, in the Czech Republic.
ADL called on Orban and his government to take stronger legal measures against the anti-Semitic and racist behavior of soccer fans who in several recent matches chanted taunts such as “the train is leaving for Auschwitz.”
The taunts were particularly aimed at the MTK soccer team, which had Jewish ownership in the past.
“ADL believes these offensive outbursts are not consistent with the image of the Hungarian Republic,” the ADL office said.
“Until now, tools used against anti-Semitism and racism in soccer stadiums have not been effective enough or have been handled too leniently.”
The ADL called on Czech Prime Minister Zeman and his government to take “stricter measures” against skinheads and other right-wing extremists who have staged attacks against Gypsies.
It noted that the Czech government’s human rights commission reported a worrying increase in the number of racially motivated crimes, including 11 killings involving Gypsies since 1989.
The ADL said it is alarmed by the latest incident in the town of Orlova, where 10 Czech skinheads attacked and severely injured a Gypsy family with a 4-year-old handicapped child.
“Following our research locally, we learned that the police did not locate the perpetrators,” it said. “Meanwhile they are portraying the attack as not racist-motivated, calling it a brawl and thus playing down this violent outburst of hate.
“The insulting and inhuman behavior of skinhead and right-extremist groups does not match the image that ADL holds of the well-respected Czech Republic, the Czech people and the endeavors of the country to become a member of the European Union,” it said.