Romania’s laws on anti-Semitism ‘meaningless’ without enforcement, activist warns


(JTA) — Romania’s parliament passed a law to help combat anti-Semitism, according to its author, but a leading activist in the field said more enforcement, not legislation, was needed.

The measure passed last week bans disseminating material that falls under the government’s definition of anti-Semitism and creating anti-Semitic organizations. It mandates prison terms of three months to 10 years.

“Clear, direct and firm measures need to be enforced,” said Silviu Vexler, a Romanian Jewish lawmaker who initiated the law. “This is the main purpose of this law.”

But Maximillian Marco Katz, founding director of MCA Romania-The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, told JTA that “Romania does not lack laws against anti-Semitism.” Romania’s criminal code prescribes up to three years for incitement to hate or discrimination against any ethnic group. The Balkan nation also had two laws banning Holocaust denial, one referring to the genocide in general and a more recent one, passed in 2015, dealing specifically with the  murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews in areas controlled by Romania during World War II.

Romania had “adequate laws against anti-Semitic hate speech and actions,” Katz said last week, before the law passed, during a conference in Poland held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “The problem is that these laws are not implemented, and that’s not a problem that’s solved by making new laws, which without action are meaningless.”

Katz cited several recent cases, including the failure by authorities to prosecute Gheorghe Funar, a former mayor of the city of Cluj who last year said in a filmed speech that the “Romanians are victims of Jews within” who perpetrated “the greatest Holocaust in human history.” A police officer told Katz he “did not see who was damaged” by the former mayor’s speech and that he therefore is dropping the investigation.

“The laws that are in place and are not implemented are almost unknown by the police, prosecutors and judges,” Katz said.

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