Hungarian official rejects anti-Semitism charges in Kertesz case

PRAGUE (JTA) — A Hungarian government official rejected charges of anti-Semitism in the asylum case of Hungarian-Jewish writer Akos Kertesz.

Following Kertesz’s political asylum request last week to Canada, the head of the ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance in Hungary denied the charges. Zoltan Nemeth said the stripping of Kertesz’s honorary citizenship by the Budapest City Council had nothing to do with the author’s religion or ethnicity, the Hungarian News Agency reported.

The incident arose from an article by Kertesz in a Hungarian-language American newspaper in which he referred to Hungarians as “genetically subservient” in being unable to accept responsibility for crimes against Hungarian Jews in the Holocaust. Though Kertesz later removed the offending phrase, the city government still withdrew the honorary citizenship.

While agreeing that criticism of Kertesz’s article was justified, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary said it regretted that “seven decades after the persecution of Jews in Hungary anti-Semitic attacks, resurfacing in the country, have forced a Hungarian writer to emigrate.”

The federation’s statement further reputed the government’s denial of anti-Semitism, saying “excessive and tasteless attacks and heckling by the extreme right prompted the city council’s conservative majority, also motivated by anti-Jewish sentiments, to deprive him of the Key to the City.”

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