Jewish Graves Vandalized in Hungary

BUDAPEST - Some 130 graves were vandalized at the Jewish cemetery in Budapest, police and members of the Jewish community reported yesterday.

The vandalism apparently took place over the weekend. However, due to the Shavuot holiday, which in the Diaspora lasts two days, the central Jewish cemetery on Kozma Street had been closed and the vandalism was only discovered yesterday morning.

A cemetery worker who entered the premises found 130 tombstones knocked down, many of them broken, a Jewish community member said. No slogans or offensive graffiti were found at the site.

As soon as they heard of the incident, the leaders of the Jewish community hastened to the cemetery. They were joined shortly afterward by Hungarian Interior Minister Monika Lamperth, Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Victor Orban, and Israeli ambassador to Hungary David Admon.

Admon said the Budapest police expect to arrest the perpetrators by this evening.

The vandalism was roundly blasted by Hungarian leading politicians and the media. Chair of the Hungarian parliament Szili Katalin, who is on an official visit in Russia, sent a telegram denouncing the desecration from Saint Petersburg.

The Budapest Mayor's Office offered a reward of a million Hungarian forints (HUF) and the police offered a reward of half a million forints for information leading to the identification of the perpetrators.

Acts of vandalism at Jewish sites are reported every year, but yesterday's discovery was unusual because of the extent of the damage, and drew an immediate reaction from the political parties.

Culture Minister Andras Bozoki said the government would "provide all assistance" necessary to repair the tombstones.

"This is the shame of us all and our common responsibility that such an event is not repeated," Bozoki said in a statement.

The ruling Socialist Party and the main center-right opposition party, Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union, also issued statements condemning the desecration.

Jewish graveyard in London desecrated

Meanwhile, vandals desecrated a Jewish graveyard in London, defacing and knocking over at least 90 headstones, police said yesterday.

The unidentified culprits scrawled racist slogans and Nazi swastikas across headstones in an attack on the cemetery in the east London district of West Ham.

According to police reports, this is the third such attack on a Jewish graveyard this year, with two in the past week alone.

The British government is considering extending its anti-racism laws to include incitement of hatred against religious communities. Violaters could face up to seven years in prison.