(JTA) — Following a politician’s tirade against a Jewish mayor in Moldova convicted of fraud, the country’s Jewish community condemned “hate speech’s use as an instrument of political struggle.”
The statement Friday by the Jewish Community of Moldova — a landlocked republic sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine — did not name former sports minister Octavian Țicu or any other alleged purveyor of hate speech.
But it came fresh on the heels of a controversy over Ticu’s July 23 post on Facebook about Ilan Shor, the Israel-born mayor of Orhei, a city north of the capital Chisinau. The post called Shor a “thief” who “drinks wine and eats the bread of a country that has received him and many others generously, yet he curses us in Russian and considers us a herd of sheep.” He also wrote that Shor “didn’t bother to learn” the local language, Romanian.
Last year, a Moldovan court sentenced Shor to 7 1/2 years in prison for his role in a $1 billion banking scandal that nearly bankrupted the tiny former Soviet republic in 2015.
Shor, who was a senior bank executive at the time, was found guilty of causing financial damage of $1.26 billion linked to the scandal. He denies any wrongdoing; his appeal is pending in the Supreme Court.
Ticu’s reference to Shor as a foreigner apparently owes to the fact that he was born to Moldovan parents in Israel, where they settled in the 1970s. But they returned in 1990, when he was 3 years old, and Shor grew up in Moldova.
The reference to Russian provoked outrage in Moldova, where nearly all of the country’s some 2,000 Jews and about 20 percent of the general population speak Russian as a mother tongue. Ticu, a former boxer who served as minister for two months in 2013, denied any allegations of anti-Semitism leveled against him in the local media. Moldova has 3.5 million residents and is one of Europe’s poorest countries.
Public figures, including “politicians and journalists,” have a “special responsibility in the context of” preventing hate speech, the Jewish community wrote in its unusual statement.