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