The Orbán government doesn’t heed the warnings

There seems to be something every day that makes one wonder what’s going on in the heads of Hungarian government officials. At the time when Hungary’s relations with the European Union are at best rocky, when the Venice Commission has serious reservations about practically all the new laws passed by the government, and when the European Commission initiates one infringement procedure after the other against Hungary, the government is resolutely creating an atmosphere in which anti-Semitism is growing by leaps and bounds. The government moving farther and farther to the right. By now it is difficult to distinguish Fidesz from Jobbik.

The growth of this anti-Semitism cannot be separated from the steady shift to the right of the governing parties–Fidesz and its phantom coalition partner, the Christian Democratic People’s Party. I don’t have to go into the details here. I’ve already dealt with the growing Horthy cult, the inclusion of the writings of anti-Semitic writers from the interwar period in the core curriculum, the attempt to rebury József Nyirő in Romania and the strained Romanian-Hungarian relations, and finally with Elie Wiesel’s letter to László Kövér in which the Nobel Peace Prize-winning author and activist informed the speaker of the house of his return of the Grand Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary he received in April 2004.

In addition, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement on June 14 that expressed great concern over “the Hungarian government’s rehabilitation of fascist ideologues and leaders from World War II” and called on the Hungarian government “to unequivocally renounce all forms of antisemitism and racism.” And if that weren’t enough, on June 20 U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal published a statement on recent events in Hungary in which we can read that “the United States places great importance on combating anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination around the world…. [and] recently, I–like many others–have noticed a disturbing increase in anti-Semitic acts and statements by various individuals in Hungary.” After the usual round of polite niceties Rosenthal returns to the meat of her statement: “The recent rehabilitation of figures from Hungary’s past who are tainted by their support for Fascism and anti-Semitism contributes to a climate of acceptance of extremist ideology in which racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance can thrive.” She reminds the Hungarian government that it has “both an opportunity and an obligation to ensure a full and honest assessment of these historical figures as part of the national dialogue.”

To determine how seriously the Hungarian government is taking all this it is enough to read Viktor Orbán’s interview with Die Presse, the Austrian conservative paper, in which he takes absolutely no responsibility for the present situation and puts the burden on local communities. I also noticed with some amusement that Magyar Nemzet, a government paper, decided on June 18 to remember the 144th anniversary of Miklós Horthy’s birthday. What a nice round number! The article painted a positive picture of Horthy’s rule and his foreign policy while it was silent on the negative aspects.

Meanwhile the erecting of statues and renaming of streets continues. Nothing seems to divert the Hungarian government from this dangerous path. Another Horthy statue, this time a hideous looking bust, was erected in the village of Csókakő, and the square the statue stands on was renamed Greater-Hungary Square (Nagy-Magyarország tér). Getting closer and closer to the fire.

As expected, the two political sides have entirely different opinions on the significance of Elie Wiesel’s letter. Géza Szőcs, Fidesz undersecretary for cultural affairs who just resigned, is convinced that Wiesel’s gesture is part of a liberal conspiracy. Originally, when he went to Odorheiu Secuiesc/Székelyudvarhely to rebury József Nyirő, he didn’t realize “they [Hungary’s enemies, the liberals] would go that far to attack Hungary.” Otherwise, he defended Nyirő, about whose politics we learn more and more–and the more we learn the worse his views sound.

Magyar Nemzet, wisely I think, decided not to devote an editorial to the Wiesel letter. In Magyar Hírlap, on the other hand, an outrageous editorial appeared by László Szentesi Zöldi. The piece is entitled “Elie Wiesel úr és az ő keresztje” (Mr. Elie Wiesel and his cross). The upshot of the editorial is that “who gives a damn whether Wiesel gave back the grand cross or not.” Life goes on. People don’t even know who Elie Wiesel is; they don’t care “what kind of tribe he belongs to.” But they may ask, “did Gyurcsány give that darned medal to the right person?” Szentesi Zöldi’s answer is naturally that it was not the right person who received this honor because “when they picked Elie Wiesel they honored some kind of cosmopolitan attitude, unending negation, not a real life achievement.” Meanwhile Szentesi Zöldi knows so little about Wiesel that he talks about him as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature and compares him to Henryk Sienkiewicz and William Butler Yeats.

According to Szentesi Zöldi, Mr. Wiesel is deadly boring with his old stories from the middle of the last century. For young Hungarians this is history. “We don’t understand it, we don’t appreciate it, and I may add sadly, we are even bored by these same old stories.” Wiesel “gave back something he didn’t receive from the Hungarian nation but from his closest friends. Nothing has happened by the return of the decoration and this event will have no consequence.” Otherwise, Nyirő is a much more important writer than Wiesel.

Szentesi Zöldi is quite correct. Life goes on in Hungary. In Pécs, Mihály Károlyi Street will be renamed Albert Wass Street for a mediocre writer from Transylvania who was deemed a war criminal by the Romanian courts after the war. He was a man who until his death at the age of 90 in 1998 remained faithful to his Hungarist (Arrow Cross) convictions.

Meanwhile the Jobbik delegation of the Budapest city council suggested the erection of a Bishop Ottokár Prohászka (1858-1927) statue in front of a church in District XIII. The bishop is a very controversial man because of his rabid anti-Semitism; his writings and anti-Jewish propaganda had a considerable influence on Hungarian thinking of the interwar period. The bishop became a member of parliament in 1920 and in this capacity had an important role to play in drafting and passing the numerus clausus law of 1920 that limited the number of Jewish students in the universities to 6%.

Destinies circumscribed by numbers
The numerus clausus from the perspective of 90 years
Holocaust Memorial Center, Budapest

This is not the first Fidesz attempt to whitewash Ottokár Prohászka. In October 2008 Sándor Lezsák and Zoltán Balog, both Fidesz politicians, were involved in the erection of a Prohászka statue in Lakitelek, a large village, where Lezsák, a minor poet, began his teaching career in an elementary school. That event also created quite a stir. I wrote about it at the time.

Meanwhile László Kövér did answer Elie Wiesel, but no one wants to talk about it among the numerous government spokesmen. Put it this way, a “political scientist” who is a devoted Fidesz supporter only yesterday expressed his cinviction that Kövér was perfect for this task because he knows how to strike back. I do hope that our “political scientist” is wrong and Kövér did not attempt to strike back. It wouldn’t be a very good idea.

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Guest
Fercsi Ocsi
June 21, 2012 5:18 pm

Let us innovate. The stern remarks on the FIDESZ/JOBBIK actions, should be accompanied by a diplomatic reminder, to say the least that the rest of Hungarians have acquitted themselves brilliantly all the history.

Those Hungarians will hopefully rise again, and sweep the dirt spread by the FIDESZ/JOBBIK into the dustbin of history.

Guest
NWO
June 21, 2012 5:36 pm

Eva

I have no patience for this Government, and in particular i believe Kover is odious. Yet, under no circumstances is it reasonable to compare FIDESZ’s ans Jobbik’s record on anti semitism. By in large, for all of their manifold faults, this Government has been sensitive to Jewish feelings and to fighting anti semitism. Anti semitism is on the rise in Hu., and maybe the Government is not always out front enough. No doubt the Govt is playing a dangerous game trying to attract right wing support, but this has not led yet to out right anti semitism ( though as the Nyiro situation(s) shows, they still have an ideological blind spot. They however have never resorted to outright anti semitism or any type of support for such.

Guest
gdfxx
June 21, 2012 5:37 pm

Unless something changes drastically in the near future, if I were a Hungarian Jew living in Hungary, I would start packing.

Guest
gdfxx
June 21, 2012 5:39 pm

NWO: “They however have never resorted to outright anti semitism or any type of support for such.”

Well, this really makes me very happy. I guess this will happen at the joint meeting with Jobbik, when they will announce their merger…

Member
Some1
June 21, 2012 5:46 pm

gdfxx :
Unless something changes drastically in the near future, if I were a Hungarian Jew living in Hungary, I would start packing.

Where are you going to go when you are eight years old? Hungarian pension is not so great that you can support yourself anywhere else. How about your children and grandchildren. Not all Jewish girls married Jewish boys. There are many mixed families in Hungary. It is not as simple as packing up.

Member
Some1
June 21, 2012 5:50 pm

Some1:

gdfxx :
Unless something changes drastically in the near future, if I were a Hungarian Jew living in Hungary, I would start packing.

Where are you going to go when you are eight years old?

I MEANT EIGHTY YEARS OLD. lol

Guest
gdfxx
June 21, 2012 5:55 pm

Some1 :

gdfxx :
Unless something changes drastically in the near future, if I were a Hungarian Jew living in Hungary, I would start packing.

Where are you going to go when you are eight years old? Hungarian pension is not so great that you can support yourself anywhere else. How about your children and grandchildren. Not all Jewish girls married Jewish boys. There are many mixed families in Hungary. It is not as simple as packing up.

I really wish I had a good answer to this, but I don’t have one. The eighty year old ones are the most vulnerable from all point of view. The Garda members will not try to beat up a 20 year old judo champion.

Guest
June 21, 2012 5:57 pm

What does it take to show that a government is antisemitic? Street-naming in Pecs seems to be so. It is being allowed. This is approval, unspoken as it is.

Guest
Koeszmeod
June 21, 2012 6:27 pm

Also I would quote the poem of László L. Simon, new cultural state secretary who writes about ” f…d a…s of Jewish bitches”
this man is a member of the Hungarian government and head of the cultural committee of the Parliament.
Zoltan Balog: we can find several racist anti-Roma quotes and his comment to Elie Wiesel was outrages as well
Zoltan Kovacs who said that the Holocaust is the tragedy of the Jews, Trianon is the tragedy of the Hungarians.
Gal Andras Levente who wanted to remove Horthy and the second Vienna award from the Holocaust Center in Budapest

We all wish it wasn’t true, but these high level Fidesz politicians are not different, they follow Jobbik’s agenda.

Guest
Ms KKA
June 21, 2012 7:15 pm

May I please refer you all to Eva’s March 17,2012 blog post entitled “Canadians launch protest against the Hungarian hate parades” for a complete rundown on the powers behind the FIDESZ throne…it doesn’t get any more blatantly, and very vocally, anti-Semitic than that!!!

Guest
June 21, 2012 7:26 pm

“They however have never resorted to outright anti Semitism or any type of support for such.” The key here is that you have to use the word “outright”. You are effectively acknowledging that they are using/allowing every other form of anti-Semitism except outright statements. Government spokespeople and Orbán himself have made many anti-Semitic comments, these are usually cloaked in code words and phrases (“dark forces”, “tribe”, “Hungary haters”, “liberals”, “external enemies”, etc) but their listeners know exactly who they mean. But, even if you dispute that, it is surely enough that they haven’t condemned anti-Semitic statements and actions immediately and in clear, unambiguous terms? When someone says or does something clearly anti-Semitic, it is not enough (for instance) just to talk about tackling “extremism”. Fidesz and Jobbik are not separate entities, they are two unfixed positions on a continuum based on nationalism, racism and crude, simplistic right-wing popularist politics. You have only to look at how easily Fidesz voters flirt with supporting Jobbik to see that. And, come the next election, if the polls are accurate, Fidesz is quite likely to need Jobbik as a coalition partner – we’ll see just how much separates them then. As I’ve said before,… Read more »

Guest
SameachMeod
June 21, 2012 10:46 pm

koeszmeod: We all wish it wasn’t true, but these high level Fidesz politicians are not different, they follow Jobbik’s agenda. Ezek ugyanazok, ahogy Brodi Janos irta.

Why not step out of the usual trap?

1. Remind Hungarians how great the times were when Ferenc Deak governed the national fate.

2. How many gifted artist contributed to the Hungarian theater and cabaret, who were not welcome by the Horthy fascism.

3. And the future can be again nice.

Guest
LwiiH
June 22, 2012 3:01 am

They have no idea who Albert Wass is. They don’t know why the city management changes the street names. They don’t like it. The Fidesz leadership just goes ahead.

To some extent, I don’t care what they my street…. just don’t change the name. It’s very disruptive and potentially very expensive. Think of all the databases that now need to be altered to account for the change.

I think we can also apply a little, don’t apply to malice what can more easily be attributed to incompetence. OV and crowd seem very intent on the money and securing routes to all this money in the future, locking down criticism and so on. All of these other things are almost distractions or annoyances which is why they make the vague statements against what ever’s happened sometimes long after they should have. Their eye is on the ball, the money ball.

Guest
NWO
June 22, 2012 3:14 am

gdfxx :Unless something changes drastically in the near future, if I were a Hungarian Jew living in Hungary, I would start packing. GDFXX- For what it is worth, I am Jewish. And I spend a considerable amount of times with other Jews. Like all Hungarians they are not happy. Like many Hungarians, those that are considering leaving are doing so for economic reasons or the belief that other places offer better futures for their families (not because they fear pogroms). And Eva-to your comment-I would agree that there are for sure anti semites within FIDESZ and Orban feels the need to try and keep his appeal on the far right (something he is failing to do BTW), but your comment is wrong. Fundamentally, as we all know, the problem is with the society. People are desperate. The economic situtation is appalling, and there is little reason to believe it will improve. Hungary has become increasingly irrelevant (anyone who lives in the country feels it). In these circumstances, radicalism and the need for scapegoats manifest themselves. Sadly, as the sense of civic responsibility is so weak, these things breed easily in Hungary. The answer for me is not more laws outlawing… Read more »

Guest
June 22, 2012 3:37 am

NWO , it seems you are totally right. Just look at these comments on pol.hu:

” I .am being censored by the moderator for speaking out against the Zionists!

I am in America and the J*WS have brought ruin to this country just as they did in the twenties.

They own and dominate the media,banking and administration, as well as the federal reserve. They are behind the new world order. They have come back and you are right to fear them.”

The old fear and hate again. So as the economic situation in Hungary weakens the scapegoats are easily identified.

Just told my wife about that “Greater Hungary Square” – she shook her head, unable to believe that this could happen right now.

PS: Of course we also have people in Germany who talk about “Großdeutschland” – but you know this type of “Nazi-speak” is very rare.

Guest
petofi
June 22, 2012 6:20 am

re NWO: “Fidesz fails miserably…”

Are you sure?
Noone in his right mind would follow Orban’s policies if he had the good of the country
at heart. It takes no genius to see that Orban’s continued obstinacy with the EU has condemned the country to hopeless debt. This ‘szabadsag harc’ is worth this?

Or, is there something else going on?
Orban’s smiling, joking nonsense in the parliament–while snubbing the EU once again–reminds one of what Nero must have been like while Rome burned.

It must now be plain that Orban is a psychologically sick human being: he seems to enjoy
Hungary’s suffering. But whom is the destruction of Hungary serving?

Guest
enufff
June 22, 2012 6:20 am

NWO :

The answer for me is not more laws outlawing anti semitism (these don’t work) but far better economic policies, leadership that projects a positive vision of the country that is credible, and deep investment into REAL education reform. WIthout out these, the country’s population will continue to decline and the population will continue to stew in their own misery. In all of these things that really need to be done to change the course of the country, FIDESZ fails miserably. This is what they need to be faulted for.

Exactly!
The govt. spends so much efforts / money on commissioning new statues, creating new memorials , changing street names & digging up ashes!! etc. It is like a hobby for them collecting these useless “assets”

To finance their hobby we, the people, have to pay max. 27% on food, bring our own toilet tissues to half ruined hospitals and many more inefficiencies in their management.

Guest
Monty Palmer
June 22, 2012 8:20 am

I don’t know if the Vigszinhaz still puts on productions of Osztanc but if they do I wonder what this decade will entail. It will be a sad act. I am concerned for my Hungarian wife and daughters (mostly Hungarian :-)). We are not Jews, but that does not change the fact that we don’t like to see our countrymen degraded by anyone let alone fellow magyarok, and this side of the Hungarian collective psyche (which was never far from the surface I might add) is one I was hoping not to have to explain to my children outside of a historical context.

Guest
KUbv
June 22, 2012 10:01 am

I am enjoying reading the intelligent posts attached to this blog entry.
Just to mention my fundamental observation: Too many Hungarians yearn for a liberation from the memories of their own suffering under Kadar, or the tales of the pained relatives who underwent persecution.
This is an deep wound in the Hungarian meme, and Orban remains their hope of taking some revenge on the nasty Kadarists.
This may sound as a joke, since Orban and most of his supporters were good carrierists under Kadar.
These injured people would not notice the contradictions in Orban, they can remain asleep for a long time, because theu are afraid to give up their trust in Orban.
The language of Orban is enough for them to feel better.

Guest
June 22, 2012 11:08 am

Several commenters indicated that there is an idea of Jews emmigrating from Hungary because of the current political situation. I wonder if the reverse was true at any time in the past and what may have been the cause?

Guest
Respect Beauty
June 22, 2012 11:34 am

Jobbik supporters are younger and better educated than some of the other parties. But my experience with Fidesz/Jobbik supporters is that they have no idea how offensive they can sound to others. One big example is that they probably don’t consider it anti-semitic to honor Nyiro or Csurka. I really don’t understand how they understand anti-semitism.

My advice on how to combat the Fidesz/Jobbik blindness to other opinions is to use that blindness as an advantage. There are (hopefully) a lot of people who supported Fidesz in the past because they like the positive image they portray of Hungarian culture. These past Fidesz supporters don’t necessarily hate Europe and don’t want the country isolated.

I would like to challenge Fidesz/Jobbik with a positive image of Hungary- a Hungary that is more than a victim, a country that welcomes diverse ideas and people (including Jews, Roma, Methodists, etc.), and a country with good relations with its neighbors.

Guest
June 22, 2012 11:36 am

London Calling!

Mutt……. over to you!

Regards

Charlie

Member
June 22, 2012 11:58 am

CharlieH :
London Calling!
Mutt……. over to you!
Regards
Charlie

Haha … In a meeting the whole day. Anybody? Wolfi? He’s such an easy target …

Guest
gdfxx
June 22, 2012 12:22 pm

Louis Kovach :
Several commenters indicated that there is an idea of Jews emmigrating from Hungary because of the current political situation. I wonder if the reverse was true at any time in the past and what may have been the cause?

Obviously, they showed up to suck the blood of Christian Hungarians.

Member
June 22, 2012 12:44 pm

Louis, Louis … What have you dug up from the internet again?

Were these the Israeli voting squad that helped the MSZP to win in 2006? Or the businessmen, who planned to build an underground pipeline to steal Hungary’s water reserves? Or simply Moses missed a turn on the other side of the Red Sea?

Haven’t you been told not to touch the Google button when you’re alone … ??

Guest
June 22, 2012 1:26 pm

Louis Kovach asked: “Several commenters indicated that there is an idea of Jews emmigrating from Hungary because of the current political situation. I wonder if the reverse was true at any time in the past and what may have been the cause?” Yes there was a time in the XIX century, when Hungary was much more tolerant than Russia and Galicia. Then a large number of extremely poor, mostly religious Jews were forced to leave and many moved to Hungary (and to other countries westward from their original living quarters). They brought with them their often strange rituals (not Christian blood drinkin!!!) and mysticism that was even foreign to the Jews who already lived in Hungary. Their integration was difficult, their “strangeness” was poignant. Trends changed shortly after and anti-Semitism became the norm. Strangely (well not in my opinion) their being extremely poor, rather than the stereotype rich and omnipotent Jew, contributed to the spreading of dislike. Sadly, even among the already established Hungarian Jews. Hence the discriminating expression, Galician. But dislike change to hatred and translated into laws in the XX. century. Followed by deportations, which was executed by such zealousness by the Hungarian authorities that Eichmann himself surprised… Read more »

Guest
June 22, 2012 1:34 pm

Respect Beauty
“Jobbik supporters are younger and better educated than some of the other parties”
I seriously doubt that! Look at some videos, (I am risking being labeled as prejudice) the main supporters do not look like they have any education. I am not saying that there are no educated idiots, and hoodlums, there are plenty. But the majority who voted for them are not well educated.
The biggest problem I see in your commnet is that you are addressing FIDESZ and Jobbik, like they were the same. And I fear that you are correct. But I hope, beyond hope, that you are wrong.

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