Lithuanian tabloid runs hate splash

By Karen Glaser, January 5, 2012
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The front page reads: "The Jews… see no need to pay social security taxes"

The front page reads: "The Jews… see no need to pay social security taxes"

The Lithuanian government declared 2011 the Year of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Yet in the penultimate week of 2011, one of its national dailies ran a front-page story that has arguably set Lithuanian-Jewish relations back years.

The tabloid Vakaro Zinios published a large picture of Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, who runs the Chabad Centre in Vilnius, with the headline "The Jews", followed by the words "…see no need to pay their social security taxes".

The article reports that Chabad is one of numerous organisations, including Western Union, that has fallen behind in its tax payments to the state. But Chabad is not even one of the worst ten tax offenders listed later in the story.

Wiesenthal Centre Israel Director Efraim Zuroff described the piece as "utterly appalling. It deliberately creates the impression that Jews are ripping off the country - the headline doesn't say Chabad, it screams 'Jews'.

"This type of blatant antisemitic lie speaks volumes about Lithuanian society, about what its newspaper editors know will appeal to their readers at a time when the country is facing financial ruin. What possible threat could the remnant of a Jewish community pose to anyone in Lithuania?"

None whatsoever, says senior human rights lawyer Justinas Zilinskas, who says the tabloid, read almost exclusively by poorly-educated and hard-up Lithuanians, has a longstanding reputation for running "vulgar, antisemitic and nationalist" stories.

Stories, he adds, for which it knows it will not be prosecuted. Mr Zilinskas said: "Despite the ugly headline, I seriously doubt whether our courts would recognise the article as an incitement to hatred because there is nothing in it that mocks or calls for discrimination. Unfortunately, only clear-cut antisemitic cases like skinheads shouting 'Juden raus' end up in our courts."

Despite the obvious antisemitism expressed by the tabloid, its editors, Jewish leaders and the country's politicians declined to comment on the article.

Last updated: 12:45pm, January 5 2012