Over the last days a court in Hungary has found a man guilty of Holocaust Denial.
His punishment? Receive a suspended sentence of 18 months in jail and go and visit either the Hungarian Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz or Yad Vashem and write a paper about the experience.
I will not chew gum in class, I will not chew gum in class. I will not deny the Holocaust.
While I applaud Hungary for making Holocaust denial a crime and for trying to do something legislatively to stop antisemitism in their country, absolutely nothing has been achieved by this sentence.
Holocaust denial, like any form of hate, is born in ignorance, ignorance of facts and the impact of what that hate can achieve when circumstances allow it to flourish. I get that this sentence is meant to throw facts at the problem, to make this man understand the full impact of his hate and his denial of the Holocaust, with the idea that seeing the facts up close and personal will cause him to change his way of thinking.
But will it?
Many pro-Israel and Jewish groups recommend responding to hate with facts. During Operation Pillar of Defense, two pro-Israel Facebook groups, which I am connected with, used this tactic on the social media against antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment. Multiple times per day they put announcements on their wall to go and post Tweets or messages on Facebook walls.
And probably just like this guy in Hungary, those at the other end of those messages probably did not change their minds either, despite the barrage of facts flying.
If it were as easy as throwing facts at the problem, we would have been able to get rid of Holocaust denial and antisemitism by now. For nearly 70 years, we Jews have been throwing facts at the problem.
Guess what? Antisemitism is still out there.
Perhaps Gyorgy Nagy, the man sentenced in Hungary might change his way of thinking, perhaps not, but either way, antisemitism will still be out there. The punishment is not enough to deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
Just like the kid who had to write “I will not chew gum in class” 200 times, the next day that kid will probably didn’t stop chewing gum in class, but will instead found a new and craftier way to hide his gum chewing from his teacher.
Visit a museum? Write a term paper? Is this crime and punishment or 6th grade? I realize that the prison experience would probably do more to foster someone’s hate than to get rid of it, but really, could they have come up with something that might cost this person a little bit more and to show others that hate is something that is taken seriously?
After seeing this law put into action I think it’s main purpose is not to punish hate but to make the Hungarian government feel like they have done something.
We’ll see what happens after Nagy writes his term paper.