I will proceed chronologically. On April 2, immediately after Pál Schmitt had finished his resignation speech, László Kövér, the speaker of the house, sternly glanced toward his left and in his usual schoolmaster fashion told them that “the very fact that these ladies and gentlemen can sit in this parliament is undeserved [méltatlan].” The applause on the right was ear shattering; the Fidesz-KDNP members’ behavior resembled that of wild fans in a soccer stadium. What caused the outburst? There was some snickering during Schmitt’s speech which, given its content, wasn’t terribly surprising. After Kövér’s “reprimand” and the frenzied applause members of DK and some members of MSZP left the chamber in protest.
And this is the same man who according to reliable sources is Viktor Orbán’s favorite to replace Schmitt as president of Hungary. Unless someone can knock that idea out of Orbán’s head–and I truly hope it happens–this man will become the president whose person, according to the constitution, is the embodiment of national unity.
I assume that the large Fidesz and KDNP caucuses would be much happier if the opposition simply didn’t exist. These guys on the left are bothersome. Occasionally they make useless speeches no one is interested in, write proposals no one reads, and there are times when they snicker.
It seems that even Kövér realized he had gone too far, and a couple of hours later he apologized. Not directly, but through an intermediary. Better than nothing.
The second scandalous affair occurred today. A Jobbik MP, Zsolt Baráth, delivered a short speech entitled “The 130 years of Tiszaeszlár.” The Tiszaeszlár case of 1882-1883 was the last time in Europe that people were charged with ritual murder. I would heartily recommend that Viktor Orbán keep this in mind the next time he portrays Hungary as the forerunner of European civilization and democracy, a country whose lead all others will follow.
The story, very briefly, is that on April 1, shortly before Passover, a fourteen-year-old servant girl disappeared. Word in the village was that people had last seen the girl, Eszter Solymosi, near the synagogue. Eventually suspicion centered on the large Jewish community in Tiszaeszlár and the field was narrowed based on the testimony of one of the members of the Jewish community against his own father and others. Sometime in June they found the body of a young girl who may have been Eszter. The so-called witnesses were intimidated or even beaten to give testimony that was favorable to the prosecutors. Eventually charges were brought against fifteen people.
The defense of the fifteen people was taken up by Károly Eötvös, a member of parliament and a lawyer. After a grueling two-week trial the accused were acquitted. To anyone who knows even the slightest thing about observant Jewish life it should be crystal clear that kosher dietary rules strictly forbid eating anything tainted with blood.
The memorial of Károly Eötvös in Tiszafüred, erected by the Hungarian Jewish community
To this day, however, Tiszaeszlár is a pilgrimage destination for the Hungarian anti-Semitic right. A Hungarian couple living abroad donated money to set up a memorial in honor of Eszter Solymosi which became a gathering place for MIÉP, Jobbik, the Hungarian Guard, and other far-right organizations.
Now comes a Jobbik MP, Zsolt Baráth, an elementary school teacher. According to his autobiography he studied, I assume as a hobby, “the theory of foreignness” (idegenelmélet). I’m not kidding. During the course of studying this mysterious theory it slowly dawned on him that “everything is connected to everything.” He came to realize that “certain forces intend a future for Hungary that [he] cannot accept.” Fairly clear, I think.
So, Zsolt Barát rose for a five-minute announcement after the scheduled agenda. He recalled that it was 130 years ago that Eszter Solymosi was murdered. He recalled the story of last seeing Eszter at the synagogue. He then quickly moved to the trial. Here he claimed that the judge knew that the Jews were guilty but “because of pressure upon him he had to acquit them.” Where did this pressure come from? From the international Jewish community. That’s why one cannot name the murderers of Eszter Solymosi to this day. After the speech there were a few people who applauded, presumably from the Jobbik caucus.
It seems that János Fónagy, undersecretary of the Ministry of National Development and a Jew, has the unpleasant task of answering these Jobbik anti-Semitic harangues in the Hungarian parliament. The last time he was called upon was when Előd Novák (Jobbik) during the discussion on the law on religions complained that too many Jewish religious groups were recognized by the state when their numbers don’t justify it. Fónagy on that occasion turned to Novák and said “I don’t know why you are so surprised that there are so few people who can be found in the largest synagogue of Europe when it was your spiritual kin who killed 600,000 of our compatriots.”
This time Fónagy didn’t manage to be so eloquent. Even his first sentence was somewhat ambiguous because he began by saying that he doesn’t know whether he should answer Baráth in the name of the government or in his own name. In any case, Fónagy stressed that Jobbik is an anti-semitic, neo-Nazi party. Therefore, Jobbik shouldn’t be surprised at its condemnation by the more sober segment of Hungarian society and the world.
Of course, the condemnation of the world is not directed against Jobbik alone. The fact that Jobbik got into the Hungarian parliament with 17% of the votes cast two years ago reflects badly on Hungary itself. And the world also seems to realize that one Jobbik demand after the other is being satisfied by the government party. Viktor Orbán badly wants to get the Jobbik votes, and to this end he is ready to make compromises with an outright Nazi party.
A dangerous game, that’s all I can say.