Jul 4, 2012
Rabbi Rejects Debating Extremist
Hungarian nationalist party leader Gabor Vona challenged Shliach Rabbi Shlomo Koves to a debate. UPDATE: "I'm not giving them a platform... they make people hate me," Koves stated.
Days after one of his colleagues admitted to having Jewish roots, a far-right Hungarian politician challenged a rabbi in the country to a debate.
Gabor Vona, the leader of the Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik, said he wants to show Shlomo Koves, a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi who heads the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, that Jobbik is not anti-Semitic. Koves' group is one of three Jewish streams officially recognized by the state
“Jobbik has never had and will never have any program point, proposal or idea which discriminates between Hungary’s inhabitants on the grounds of ethnicity and religion,” Vona told the website Politics.hu.
Jobbik members have used anti-Semitic rhetoric repeatedly in the past. Politics.hu reported that Koves wants to organize Jews and other Hungarians to combat anti-Semitism.
Last week, a regional leader of Jobbik, Csanad Szegedi, revealed that he is of Jewish descent.
UPDATE 7/5/12 at 1:50pm from Algemeiner.com:
In an interview with The Algemeiner, Rabbi Shlomo Koves, the Hungarian Chabad Rabbi who was challenged to a debate this week by Gabor Vona, leader of Jobbik, a Hungarian nationalist, Neo-Nazi party, has outright declined the request.
"Here is a party which makes openly anti-Semitic comments," he said, "what is there to debate about."
"They say they want to have an open talk, but in every debate you need a point of agreement, I cant have a mathematical debate if you don't agree that 1 and 1 is 2 and 2 and 2 is four," he continued, "they consider certain extreme ideas as facts than what should I debate them on?"
"Why should I respond and give them a platform to say that 'the rabbi says they are not anti-Semitic'," he concluded.
Koves implied that he would be open to the idea of discussion, if the party publicly expressed regret for anti-Semitic comments that have been made in its name, and resolved to cease from bigoted statements in the future, "If they send a letter that says that they regret their anti-Semitic comments from before, then there may be something to discuss," he said.
The party has denied public accusations of Antisemitism, but the rabbi says these claims are irrelevant, "they say anti-Semitic comments and they make people hate me because I am a Jew, it makes a difference to me what they say."
He also added that his general feeling is, that Hungary is not a particularly bad place for Jews to live, "on the street level," he said, "The climate in Hungary for Jews is not bad, and isn't worse than any other European country, I am not going to get hit on the street as a Jew, and there are no laws against shechita or circumcision."
He did however find the direction of public discourse to be displaying troubling signs, "the fact that there is an extreme right wing party and a lot of anti-Semitic ideas in public discourse is concerning." "It didn't start today" he added, "but in the last five to ten years."
Koves also confirmed to The Algemeiner that he has not received any communication from Jobbik or any of its representatives now or in the past, "I still didn't get an official letter or request," he said, "they wrote about the challenge in their paper and held a press conference to announce it."