(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The New York-based World Jewish Congress is urging the Serbian Government to ban a neo-Nazi rally scheduled to take place in a northern Serbian city next month.
The rally, which is being organized by the well-known neo-Nazi Nacionalni Stroj organization, is slated to take place in Novi Sad on October 7, having received official authorization, the organization said.
"The extremist views and neo-Nazi activities at Navionalni Stroj are well known and certainly not in line with the principles of a democratic society which has at its core the respect and protection of minorities," the WJC President Ronald S. Lauder and WJC Secretary-General Michael Schneider wrote in a September 19 letter to Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
The letter, which was also sent to the Serbian Interior Minister and Parliament Speaker, calls on the Serbian leaders to condemn the planned march, and to ensure that the organization does not continue with its "repugnant incitement." Members of the neo-Nazi group, whose name means National Rank in Serbian, have previously been jailed for spreading racial hatred in the city.
In 2005, anti-Semitic posters and graffiti signed by the group appeared in Novi Sad and Belgrade.
The Serbian Jewish community, as well as several human rights groups, have also asked Serbian the government to ban the rally.
The group, which advocates extreme nationalist views, planned the march against the secession of Serbia's separatist Kosovo province.
The rally, which is being promoted on several ultra-nationalist and right-wing Web sites, is being billed as "a march for Sebian unity."
Novi Sad, which was the scene of a 1942 massacre of about 800 Jews and 400 Serbs by Hungarian police during World War II, is currently run by a right-wing party with nationalist policies.
The condemnation of the planned rally by the new WJC leadership is the first public move the group has taken since Schneider took up his post this month, and is seen as part of an effort to focus the organization on global anti-Semitism after a period of intense internal turmoil crippled the once-prominent Jewish organization.