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MP Denies ‘Anti-Semitism Slur’

Referring to Matyas Eorsi, a monitor from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as “a Hungarian Jew” had no anti-Semitic implications, Republican Party MP Levan Berdzenishvili has said.

Berdzenishvili’s remarks, made on December 7 on a live talk show on Tbilisi-based Kavkasia TV, were made in the context of the recent PACE delegation visit to Georgia. Berdzenishvili was criticizing Eorsi for allegedly being biased in favor of the Georgian authorities.

“This group consists of two people: Matyas Eorsi and Kastriot Islami. Islami is Albanian and Matyas is…,” Berdzenishvili says, cut short by the talk show host who says “Hungarian.” Berdzenishvili, however, finishes his own sentence, saying “a Hungarian Jew.”

The Georgian daily 24 Saati (24 Hours) was the first to run with the story with journalist Eka Kvesitadze writing that “Berdzenishvili’s statement that he wouldn’t take any advice from ‘a Hungarian Jew’ is not only shameful, but anti-Semitic as well.” Berdzenishvili hadn’t actually said this and so the newspaper later apologized.  Its apology was, however, less than totally sincere, as it later rewrote the offending sentence with little in the way of difference in meaning. “The implication inherent in Levan Berdzenishvili’s statement that he wouldn’t take any advice from ‘a Hungarian Jew’ is not only shameful, but anti-Semitic as well.”

Terry Davis, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, was next into the ring, describing Berdzenishvili’s remarks as “racist.”

In an email reply to a Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) question on December 14, Davis said “the gentleman in question has only damaged his own reputation and his party’s reputation. But this does not mean that such outbursts should be taken lightly. Politicians must be accountable for what they say and for the example they set to other people.”
“I know Georgia very well,” he also wrote, “because I was the rapporteur for its accession to the Council of Europe, and I can say that such statements have nothing to do with Georgia as I know it. The great majority of Georgians are tolerant people, and they do not need to be urged to reject such intolerant and racist statements.”

Nino Burjanadze, the acting president, also weighed in on the debate on December 14, saying she was “sorry that in this political battle some people have disregarded the principle of tolerance.”
Berdzenishvili, however, has dismissed the allegations, saying the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

“When I was speaking about Matyas Eorsi the anchor intervened to say ‘he is Hungarian’ and I just specified that he was a Hungarian Jew. I just gave his origin. By the way, I think that the only positive thing about him is the fact that he is Jewish. I am astonished by all this media hype about these remarks, because it is ridiculous to accuse me of anti-Semitism,” Berdzenishvili told Civil.Ge.

Public Defender Sozar Subari seemed to agree. Although it was unwelcome to have brought Eorsi’s ethnicity or religion into the equation, he said on December 14 that he “didn’t get the impression [the remarks] had been made for negative purposes.”

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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