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Cablegate: Anti-Semitism Round Table Highlights Recent

VZCZCXRO0309
PP RUEHAST
DE RUEHVB #0768 1771010
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261010Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6330
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000768

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM HR MINORITIES
SUBJECT: ANTI-SEMITISM ROUND TABLE HIGHLIGHTS RECENT
INCIDENTS IN CROATIA


1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: Following several
incidents targeting members of the Jewish community in
early June, community leaders organized a round table
on anti-Semitism in Croatia June 20. Director of the
Simon Wiesenthal Center Ephraim Zuroff, representatives
of ethnic minorities, the Catholic Church, Islamic
community and diplomats including the U.S. Embassy DCM,
were among the speakers. Most participants agreed that
anti-Semitism was not widespread in Croatia, but that
lack of strong timely government reaction to the
incidents could create an atmosphere condoning
intolerance towards minorities in general. The event
received positive media coverage and served to
highlight both the incidents and the importance of
promoting tolerance in Croatian society. END SUMMARY
AND COMMENT

2. Background: In early June a group of skinheads made
a Nazi salute, pushed and verbally attacked rabbi Zvi
Eliezer Aloni in downtown Zagreb. During the previous
week, the Jewish community received two threatening e-
mails; one threatened to "pay Palestinians to destroy
Jews" and the other denied the Holocaust and offended
Jews. In its statement of condemnation, the Jewish
Community said that the incidents "recalled the times
they thought passed long ago". The Government failed
to issue a visible and timely reaction. The
Parliament's Human Rights and National Minorities'
Committee was the only state body to promptly react.
Its president Furio Radin (a representative of the
Italian minority) condemned the incidents, stating that
intolerance against minorities had reached very high
levels. Pierre Besnianiou, head of the World Jewish
Congress, visiting Zagreb in June, also urged the GOC
to strengthen its laws against anti-Semitism.
Subsequently, Parliament passed an amendment to the
Penal Code that explicitly defines ethnically motivated
crime and toughens sanctions against such crimes.

3. President of the Croatian Helsinki Committee, Zarko
Puhovski, who facilitated the participation of over 20
speakers at the round table, stressed that no community
can prevent such assaults, but that permissiveness of a
society was a problem and that competent bodies must
find efficient ways to deter such incidents. He added
that anti-Semitism never appeared alone, but along with
intolerance of other ethnicities. Similarly, Serb MP
Milorad Pupovac, said that anti-Semitism indicated a
general lack of preconditions for protection of
minorities. He expressed concern that passage of the
hate-crimes law in June required strong lobbying by
minority MPs, and was not automatically supported by
the entire political spectrum. The OSCE Head of Mission
to Croatia Jorge Fuentes struck a moderate note
claiming that the Jewish problem in Croatia was not
widespread - perhaps partly due to its small size of
less than 500 according to the last census -- but
commended the inclusion of hate crimes in the Penal
Code.

4. Efraim Zuroff of the Wiesenthal Center noted that
anti-Semitism was on the rise in all transitional
countries of Eastern Europe. While all the governments
acknowledged guilt for anti-Semitism or the Holocaust,
they invariably did this in Israel and postponed such
acknowledgment in their own countries. Zuroff commended
Croatia for prosecuting the former commander of the
Jasenovac concentration camp Dinko Sakic and requesting
extradition of Milivoj Asner. But the record remains
mixed, with former Ustasha Prefect of Dubrovnik Ivo
Rojnica still at large in Argentina. Zuroff recalled
that late president Tudjman intended to name Rojnica an
Ambassador to Argentina. Updating schoolbooks with
information on the wider context of anti-Semitism and
the Holocaust still remains an outstanding issue.

5. The media reported that the U.S. Embassy Deputy
Chief of Mission depicted anti-Semitism as a global
problem and gave an account of USG cooperation with the
Government on Holocaust education; most notably,
cooperation continues between the Holocaust Memorial
Museum in Washington and the Jasenovac Memorial Center
in Croatia. The U.S. government also assisted Croatia
in meeting requirements to become a full member of the
International Task Force for Education on the
Holocaust.

FRANK

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