Is this antisemitism or not?

The country is in turmoil after the chairman of the Christian Democratic party, Zsolt Semjén, gave a speech in parliament yesterday. A lot of people think that his speech was antisemitic and that therefore he should resign. He, on the other hand, wants to sue anybody who dares call him an antisemite. The first victim, a newspaperman, is already being sued, according to the spokeswoman of the Christian Democratic caucus.

Note, by the way, that the Christian Democratic Party is really a pseudo party. According to all the polling results, their support is not even measurable. The caucus was created by twenty-two Fidesz members. The idea was to form an independent caucus and in this way double their committee representation. And why exactly twenty-two? Apparently because they wanted to be bigger than the SZDSZ, which has twenty-one members. They can thus call themselves the “third largest parliamentary caucus” after the MSZP and the Fidesz.

I decided to translate the speech, which was mercifully short, without trying to interpret it. After the translation I will offer some explanatory notes.

"Esteemed House,

It may be somewhat unusual that in the name of the Christian Democratic Party I would like to talk to my fellow countrymen of the Jewish faith, but this is my right and my duty. I am asking my fellow countrymen of the Jewish faith and origin to consider whether it is good for the Hungarian Jewry that a party with wrong political ideas holds Uncle Schwarz and Auntie Weisz hostage. Is that good for the Hungarian Jewry?

There is social democratic antifascism as well as Christian democratic antifascism. I think it will suffice to mention that it is the Christian Democratic Party that since 1990 had two presidents who had been condemned to death by the courts during the Arrow Cross regime. It was a miracle that they managed to escape. I am taking about Sándor Keresztes and László Varga.

With this history behind my party I would like to remind my colleagues on the left of the aisle that after World War II the former Arrow Cross members—they are so often mentioned lately—did not join the Christian Democratic Party of [István] Barankovics or the Smallholders Party but the Communist Party. Then the left wasn’t so finicky.

And it wasn’t we who nationalized Jewish property but one of your many predecessors, the Hungarian Communist Party. It was the right that gave back the Jewish property. It was the Antall government that passed the law allowing the Orbán government to give back the bulk of the nationalized properties and signed three agreements with the Hungarian Jewry; these can be compared in their generosity to the agreement with the Vatican.

And we were never, unlike the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party [of János Kádár], antagonistic toward the state of Israel.

Let me say a few words to the members of the SZDSZ as well. The greatest disagreements that exist between them and us are the liberalization of drugs, the marriage of homosexuals, the problem of extreme religious sects, and the question of euthanasia. These questions, which also distinguish the SZDSZ from the MSZP, have nothing to do with Judaism, and it is the vilest thing to establish a connection between them and the Jewish people. I would like to remind everyone that all these—liberalization of drugs, marriage between same sex individuals, extreme sects, euthanasia—are diametrically opposed to the Mosaic laws, the Torah, and the authentic rabbinic tradition. Moses imposed stoning for these sins.

There is an old story that is useful to remember nowadays. This story is about Chief Rabbi Sándor Scheiber, who was a great scholar, upright man, and a good Hungarian. He said that the Almighty should save the Hungarian Jewry from the attitude that if there is prosperity there are earlocks, and if there is a depression there are no earlocks. I am asking my countrymen of Jewish faith and all Hungarians of good intentions to think about all this."


“Jewish faith.” Semjén uses an old-fashioned word to refer to the religion: “izraelita.” Jewish (zsidó) is reserved in his vocabulary for ethnic origin.

Sándor Keresztes. If I were in Semjén’s shoes I wouldn’t talk much about him. Historians discovered that he was working for the secret service after 1956.

As for the return of properties, Semjén is misleading. Only the churches got back their property. Ordinary citizens received only meager compensation.

As for Sándor Scheiber, by all accounts he was a wonderful man, but he has been dead for twenty-two years and therefore one cannot tell whether he ever said that. However, Scheiber’s daughter, Mária Scheiber, a doctor, phoned György Bolgár today and assured everybody that her father never said anything like that. By the way, Semjén who finished theology, was a student of Scheiber. He is now an associate professor at the Catholic University, teaching sociology.

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Semjén Zsolt also made the news back in 2005 when he alluded to the SZDSZ in a speech saying “If someone wants their teenager son to get his first sexual experience with a bearded man, they should vote for the SZDSZ.” (
FIDESZ and the KDNP are driven by some very savvy communications advisors, and are masters at planting talking points and manipulating media strategies. The present activation of themes like the Magyar Garda/Antisemitism/Antifascism “debates” are ways of controlling the divisive levels of discourse in the media, and by extension, in Hungarian society. FIDESZ has spent the last year going after the Socialists and SZDSZ with absurdly pit-bull intensity on the off chance that the democratically elected government would tire and simply hand the reins of state to Mr. Orban. Sometimes their rhetoric reaches truly absurd heights, and sometimes it drops down to truly nauseating depths, as in this case. If the foreign press reports on it, which of course the foreign press will, the right wing simply accuses the Governemnt of soiling Hungarian prestige abroad. It is patently absurd, yes, but such is the nature of rightist political discourse in Hungary these days.

Dr. Minorka

Semjén said the following:
My real problem with the SZDSZ that they are not really Jewish. Real Jewish people follow Moses. Be a Jewish (orthodox Jewish, whose positions are the same of the orthodox Christian) when it is not popular (questions of same sex marriage, etc. ).
It is mad, but hardly anti-semitic.
“Sándor Keresztes. If I were in Semjén’s shoes I wouldn’t talk much about him. Historians discovered that he was working for the secret service after 1956.” This is untrue. He forced to sign a paper (in the prison!) promising that he will notify the political police about any activities against the state. That is all, I mean this paper. But this fact is absolutely unimportant concerning Semjen’s speech.
“Semjén Zsolt also made the news back in 2005 when he alluded to the SZDSZ in a speech saying “If someone wants their teenager son to get his first sexual experience with a bearded man, they should vote for the SZDSZ.””
Bearded man means quiet obviously: aged man. The issue was lowering the age for a legitimate sexual relationship between same sex persons.