Hungarian antisemitism: How to combat it?

I would like to share with you an opinion piece by Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus, whom I consider one of the sharpest commentators on Hungarian politics. In today’s issue of Galamus she wrote about the growing antisemitism in Hungary, a topic with which the liberal Hungarian media is preoccupied. The pro-government newspapers are naturally less so. While the liberals demand placing neo-Nazi Jobbik into quarantine, Magyar Televízió (MTV) allowed Márton Gyöngyösi to explain himself on its early morning program. Let’s further spread the “gospel” of hate.

The title of Mihancsik’s article is “Antisemitism: A short history of responsibility.” Actually, the word she uses, and what I translated as antisemitism, is “zsidózás,” coming from the verb “zsidózni,” which is an untranslatable Hungarian verb. It means talking about Jews in an unfavorable light. It also implies that the speaker regularly engages in anti-Jewish speech.

Mihancsik outlines her view of how and why Hungarian society ended up in a state where an openly racist neo-Nazi party, Jobbik, managed to get 800,000 votes in the last elections. Although a lot of people, especially on the right, denied the seriousness of the early signs of the growth of the extreme right, Mihancsik is convinced that it was this underestimation of the problem that was one reason for the present situation. In addition, in her opinion it was a grave mistake for the Hungarian right to consider communism and fascism equal dangers for Hungarian society.

A day after Márton Gyöngyösi’s speech in parliament there happened to be a conference about hate speech organized by the European Council in Budapest. Here Zoltán Balog, minister in charge of human resources, claimed that the hate speech of today is actually an inheritance from the communist dictatorship when “hate speech was organized by the state. For example, the state organized hatred against the kulaks. It is that hate speech that lives on today in Hungary and it is our duty to do something against it.” One could laugh if such nonsense weren’t so sad. Hatred of the Jews and Gypsies goes back to the Rákosi period? Organized by the communists?

Although Balog desperately tries to blame the communists for having people like Gyöngyösi in the Hungarian parliament, the more proximate blame lies elsewhere. Not only is Fidesz responsible for the state of affairs in Hungary today but also people like László Sólyom who simply refused to make a distinction between the dangers coming from the right and the left. Who can forget when Sólyom compared 168 Óra, a liberal paper, to kurucinfo, a virulent anti-Semitic website, and stated that “both are extremist”? LMP, whose leadership came out of a civic organization headed by László Sólyom before he became president, to this day claims that the “Nazi danger” simply doesn’t exist. The Hungarian left is simply using the ogre of Nazism before “every election.”

Speaker's cornerWhen in 1991 the liberals and socialists organized the Demokratikus Charta against István Csurka and his antisemitism, Fidesz, although then still a liberal party, refused to join MSZP and SZDSZ. By 1998 Viktor Orbán himself was using code words conveying antisemitic sentiments when he talked about people whose heart is in foreign lands (idegenszívűek). Surely, everybody knew that he was talking about Jewish cosmopolitan liberals. By 2002 Orbán was talking about “élettér,” the Hungarian translation of Lebensraum, a word carefully avoided by most people. And let’s not forget that Orbán considered Jobbik in its earliest days to be a youth organization of Fidesz. He looked upon these youngsters with fatherly care, as he himself said.

Those who underestimate the danger of the extreme right, in Mihancsik’s opinion, include Fidesz, László Sólyom, SZDSZ, LMP, and finally the “doctrinaire human rights protectors” who paid no attention to the content of words uttered. She considers András Schiffer one of these “fundamentalist defenders of human rights” who while working for TASZ, the Hungarian equivalent of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought for the freedom of racist and antisemitic speech and did everything to prevent any police action against the neo-Nazis.”

Mihancsik considers Schiffer “the most responsible man among active politicians on the democratic side for the defenseless state of Hungarian society against racism and antisemitism.” In her opinion, Schiffer’s attitude and actions  are “a much greater sin than any uncertainties, errors, mistakes, and weaknesses of all the socialist-liberal governments before 2010.”

Naturally, one can disagree with Mihancsik’s views, and I am sure that many of the readers will. Many people will find it unacceptable to limit free speech, however odious. Others will take the view that the American view of free speech is simply not applicable in Hungary, a country with a history that includes the deportation of 600,000 Jewish citizens. Or that has such a history of discrimination against the Roma. Others, as some of the SZDSZ liberals often repeated in the past, believe that the problem cannot be solved by legal means. The society’s attitude must change. The question is indeed very complicated.

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Anna Bayer
Guest

EVA ez nagyon klassz

Sent from my iPad

Paul
Guest

“Others will take the view that the American view of free speech is simply not applicable in Hungary, a country with a history that includes the deportation of 600,000 Jewish citizens. Or that has such a history of discrimination against the Roma.”

Is this the same America that practically wiped out the Native Americans, used imported Africans as slaves, had officially sanctioned apartheid laws for many years and still has States where people are treated differently depending on their race or colour? Or have I missed something?

Petofi1
Guest
Paul : “Others will take the view that the American view of free speech is simply not applicable in Hungary, a country with a history that includes the deportation of 600,000 Jewish citizens. Or that has such a history of discrimination against the Roma.” Is this the same America that practically wiped out the Native Americans, used imported Africans as slaves, had officially sanctioned apartheid laws for many years and still has States where people are treated differently depending on their race or colour? Or have I missed something? You seemed to have ‘missed something’. Have you heard of Obama? The equivalent of electing a black man in the USA would be…let’s see…a jew to be Prime Minister in Hungary. Can you imagine that? No? Not know? How about 20 years on? Still no, eh? Not even remotely possible. The difference, Mr. P. is called ‘Progress’–America has progressed. Honest Abe Lincoln is one sterling example. We could also mention Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson and more. American society is evolving and changing and moving forward. Can one say that of present day Hungary with morons quoting lies from the 1880s? Or promoting 3rd rate writers from 70 years ago to be taught… Read more »
Minusio
Guest
I have always thought of Sólyom as an utter failure as a president or as a political animal. I would also basically agree that educated people should feel a greater responsibility for what is going on in their society. Being “doctrinaire” may be educated, but it is neither wise nor responsible. Being a German, I think there are limits to free speech when it comes to certain topics. But, in Germany, these limits rarely need to be enforced – fortunately. In the widest sense, this is a matter of education, too. However, I made another observation. There seems to be a steep and long learning curve for “freed slaves” to become sovereign masters of their own destiny. To a larger or lesser degree you can see this with most ex-colonies, but also with the ex-satellites of the Soviet Union. And then it depends on the right people at the right time. For example, the politician I think is the most convincing European at present is Prime Minister Tusk of Poland (after the unspeakable Kaczyński twins). In contrast, the Czech Republic under Vaclav Klaus is nothing to write home about (I regularly follow the English news of Radio Prague about their… Read more »
Member

@Petofi1

I’ll second your words.

Minusio
Guest

@ Petofi1. The US is always good for good inspirations – but also a country of huge waste of every resource you can think of. Yes, I still remember where I was when I heard that Kennedy was shot and what a shock it was. And I still prefer Obama to Romney. But he has been largely a big disappointment. I agree his underachievement was not all his fault but mostly that of the GOP that went bonkers. But still, I don’t like the drone war (“target killing”) or that he didn’t undo any of the hysterical homeland protection measures Bush (“Dubbya”) introduced.

And if we add what Paul mentioned, I think it’s best we leave the US out of this discussion. Or any other country, for that matter. Even the principality of Liechtenstein has it’s scandals, although nothing like France’s Algerian war or what surfaced yesterday on the BBC Worldservice about the Mau Mau uprising, or what Italy did in Istria, etc.

Let’s stick to dissecting Hungary to find out what doesn’t make it tick.

Member

@Minusio
Interesting thoughts about Meersburg and Hungary. Hungary was not independent between 1526 and 1918, its independent state was a dictatorship between the wars, and again became a subjected state with autonomy until 1990.

But who were in the “upper middle class” in Hungary? What is their definition?

There was the (nobleman – military officer – state employee) class that ran the state politically between 1920 and 1944 – they were wiped out by the Communist system.

There was the (factory owner – employer – banker) class that ran the country economically – they were wiped out by the Nazi system earlier.

Minusio
Guest

@ tappanch. I used “upper middle class” for want of a better term for that layer of society that is supportive of the interest of, or underpinning the state.

The Weimar Republic partly failed because this class was mostly still monarchist. For them a socialdemocrat was a smelly as a communist in the McCarthy era.

But – at least in Budapest – there developed a ruling class of limited democracy from the middle of the 19th century onward in which also Jews played an increasing role (although they were still discriminated). My daughter wrote a fascinating PhD thesis about it (“Jüdisches Budapest im 19. Jhdt.”)

But basically I meant that there is not enough of this “critical mass” of a civic society with a minimal political culture left to spark a lot of optimism. Probably the critical mass was very small (too small?) to begin with.

Member

Dear Eva,
Kumin, one of Orban’s propaganda guru said that during his talks in Washington DC, US officials expressed their satisfaction with the developments in Hungary.
Is this true?

http://hvg.hu/vilag/20121130_Kumin_meguszta_a_legneccesebb_temat_Ameri

Member

Paul :
Is this the same America that practically wiped out the Native Americans, used imported Africans as slaves, had officially sanctioned apartheid laws for many years and still has States where people are treated differently depending on their race or colour? Or have I missed something?

You have. There is a black man in the White House and not the opposite.

Now that you mentioned America’s checkered past I would say one way to combat racial hatred is to acknowledge it as it happened. The Hungarian society is lightyears from this. Actually the new trend, thanks to the Orban government, is the opposite. What can you expect when their newly crafted constitution declared intentionally that Hungary is not fully responsible for the deportations because of the German occupation.

The most important thing to combat antisemitism in Hungary is getting rid of the Orban government. This government is teaching nazis to your children by putting them in the national curriculum. There are also a slew of blatant violations of the present Hungarian laws, like not going after the kuruc.info.

By the way I understand our nazi “friend” Bela Varga in Healdsburg closed his Hungarian spice shop. Oh, well, I wonder what happened.

Member

An interesting research topic would be to find out the percentage of Jewish voters among the 6.5% of the total population or so that were allowed to vote before ww1. (One had to pass either an income/assets hurdle or a educational one). I would not be surprised to find that as much as 1/4 of the eligible voters were Jewish.

How did this percentage change from 1920 to 1938? By the May 1939 election, per 2nd anti-Jewish law, almost all Jews were disenfranchised.

Member

@Minusio

Do you have a link to your daughter’s dissertation?

Minusio
Guest

@ tappanach. Here it is: http://books.google.ch/books/about/Jüdisches_Budapest.html?id=7JIEnoukBwEC&redir_esc=y

Tell me if the link doesn’t work.

Meanwhile the book has been reviewed twice (favourably).

Minusio
Guest
Sziv Sziv Sziv
Guest

Let us continue building a bridge between the decent conservative and liberal Hungarians, to rescue the nation.

The conservative ones will have to digest that there are decent people produced by the socialist era.

The liberals will have to appreciate the fervent love of the conservative people for their nations.

Out of such mutual understanding, we may forge a good and constructive Hungarian European nation.

Member

@Minusio
Thanks!

Minusio
Guest

@tappanch
You’re most welcome!

BTW, I think Google copied most or all of the book without permission. I don’t know if it’s still online. The publisher is suing Google. But you know how it is these days.

Via Éva we could exchange email addresses. She has my permission (herewith).

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
The article of Mihancsik is brilliant thank you Éva for the translation In 1996 Népszabadság published an article of János Kis “Szólásszabadság és náci beszéd” (free speech and nazi discourse) the liberal philosopher said: “nem jól védik sem önmagukat, sem a magyar demokráciát, akik a szólásszabadság korlátozásában keresnek menedéket a szélsöjobboldali veszélytöl” Kis and the advocates of free speech believed that by limiting the free speech in Hungary the camp of democracy sends the message to society that it does not have confidence it it’s just case and in it’s political strength. Some of the loudest advocates of free speech for Hungarian nazis were of “Jewish descent”. They hoped that this fact will be forgiven and forgotten by Hungarian nazis. As it happened their party SZDSZ was called a Jewish party and the Hungarian main stream was either itself antisemitic or tolerated antisemitism. So János Kis and his friends can be accused not to have really known their own country. They were to become again what in communist times was called “rootless cosmopolitans”. They just projected in their keen dreams American conditions to Hungary and are coresponsible for the situation today. Of course nobody should have the illusion that legislation… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Z. Mihancsik has written another excellent article about the demonstration to take place tomorrow. For those reading Hungarian
http://galamus.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=177912

Petofi1
Guest
Minusio : @ Petofi1. The US is always good for good inspirations – but also a country of huge waste of every resource you can think of. Yes, I still remember where I was when I heard that Kennedy was shot and what a shock it was. And I still prefer Obama to Romney. But he has been largely a big disappointment. I agree his underachievement was not all his fault but mostly that of the GOP that went bonkers. But still, I don’t like the drone war (“target killing”) or that he didn’t undo any of the hysterical homeland protection measures Bush (“Dubbya”) introduced. And if we add what Paul mentioned, I think it’s best we leave the US out of this discussion. Or any other country, for that matter. Even the principality of Liechtenstein has it’s scandals, although nothing like France’s Algerian war or what surfaced yesterday on the BBC Worldservice about the Mau Mau uprising, or what Italy did in Istria, etc. Let’s stick to dissecting Hungary to find out what doesn’t make it tick. People forget that the US is a country of 315 million: that’s not an easy number to govern and take care of.… Read more »
Minusio
Guest

@ Petofi1. I think you have clearly shown that numbers don’t matter.

But I agree on another point you made: “The US example is useful in several ways but one really important one is that ‘positive’ elements exist and are a force. Where are these positive elements in Hungary?” What you call “positive elements” I have thought of as the “critical mass of a civic political culture”. It is evident that there are ‘positive elements’ in Hungary, at least in Budapest. But are they a force? Do they reach the critical mass?

Guest
The following observation may not help Hungary but it might shine a light on how difficult this evolution of democracy is: At some times in Germany after the last war the “Neo Nazi” party NPD got more than 10 % at local elections and there is a “Bodensatz” of at least 3 or 5 % disgruntled people (not necessarily antisemites) who always vote for them or others like the DVU, the Republicans and other right wing extremists. I still remember when in Baden-Württemberg (imho the home of German Liberalism) some time in the 70s the NPD with their hate propaganda won around 12 % of the seats in parliament – what kind of horror that was, to think about your neighbours: Did they vote for these loonies and why ? It’s taken a long time, most of my life time actually, for Germany to become a real democracy – why should development in Hungary (and the other former satellites) be quicker ? Especially considering that their economic situation is by far not as good as the German one which almost looks like paradise still. And Bert Brecht once wrote: Erst kommt das Fressen – dann kommt die Moral! From the… Read more »
Member

@Dear Wolfi,

I also believed in slow progress. Democracy had been progressing, very slowly, but in one direction from 1957 to, say 1999. But as Kerenyi enthusiastically explained, in a closed meeting, to Fidesz fans before the 2010 election, the Fidesz plan is to undo ALL the progress in the last hundred years, and Orban openly said after the election than his ideal is to go back before the age of enlightenment. [I am not joking]. He added confidently that there are people in the high echelons of Europe who would like to emulate him.

So in Hungary, what we are witnessing is not the evolution of democracy, but an atavistic, forced return to the age of mental darkness. It is easier to steal from stupid people – this is what the Fidesz Fuehrership envisions.

Member

Here is a video of Kerenyi’s remarks about the Fidesz grand plan made in early 2010 that came to light only in November 2011:

http://magyarinfo.blog.hu/2011/11/09/kerenyi_imre_2010_marciusaban_ha_kormanyra_kerulunk_visszacsinalunk_mindent

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
This is a pan-european phenomenon. In Western Europe around the turn of the millenium most far-right parties have (almost) abandoned anti-jewish discourse in exchange for anti-arabic/oriental/african rants, disguised in islamophobia. It doesn’t mean that antisemitism has left the political stage: it has moved to the far-left movements, in the name of both ‘anti-zionism’ and fighting the ‘banksters’, the IMF and so on. In Central Europe, where the base target of xenophobia cannot be an extra-european immigration which doesn’t exist, most far-right parties target the Jews and the Roma. When it comes to the far-right, the european divide has become abysmal: the Hungarian Jobbik may still, for instance, invite Mr. Gollnisch (a French euro-MP and former contender to Mr Le Pen’s succession) in Budapest…but his French party certainly won’t boast about it, for most of its voting base would never understand how much the Jobbik loves Tehran ! The same divide would probably be observed on the far-left… except there’s no far-left in Central Europe. But the hate speech is exactly the same, wherever it comes from. Basically, ‘the Jews’ are said to have ‘too much power’ (in the financial system, in international relations, etc.) while ‘the Roma’ (in the East)… Read more »
Hang Voice Stimme Real Life
Guest
Hang Voice Stimme Real Life

Petofi1 v. the rest.
The difference is pragmatism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Petofi1 is real!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Out on the street.
The rest is just recycling written info.
Eva is doing a great job, but is she leaving the walls of Bethany often?
I am afraid to be a reporter you have to travel.
Who visited any other countries in the past 4-5 years?
Hungary should be evaluated by live Hungarian reporters.
Like Moldova Gyorgy in the years of 1956-1990…
I am just back from Germany, and also saw New York, Brooklyn, New Jersey after Sandy, and Virginia Beach earlier.
Travel, to stay in touch with the world. Today, I will go to Beacon, NY, to hear the voices of the land of Pete Seeger. The streets of Beacon are littered by sweet but bitter anarchists. Closet revolutionaries. Full of good intentions, and of lots of bad ideas.

Guest

Well I can’t vouch for the others here but we live about half time in Germany and the other half in Hungary and also travel a lot in Europe and once a year to the USA – and everywhere we try to mingle with the Natives …

So we have very interesting discussions not only with friends and relatives – one of my sisters lives in England now after having lived in Hungary, Ghana, Nigeria, Oman, Hongkong etc (her husband works for one of those dreaded Multinationals …)

And I’m sure that many of the commentators here have even more international experience!

Chris S.
Guest

In the late 1990s, during a March 15 demonstration, two men held up a sign comparing then-prime minister Gyula Horn to Pol Pot. They were arrested and jailed, because the state alleged they were effectively calling the government fascist.

Laws restricting free speech are so easy to abuse. Laws restricting free speech so easily backfire.

It’s easy to imagine that, if only the Hungarian state had chosen to crack down hard on its far right – to suppress their media, arrest their leaders, and so on – then anti-Semitism and racism would be far less of a problem than they are today. But even if such a crackdown had its intended effect (which I doubt), surely some of its *other* consequences would have been quite harmful.

Minusio
Guest

@ Chris S. There is no country that has no restrictions on free speech. It’s worthwhile reading the Wikipedia entry under ‘Freedom of speech’ and, if you read German, under ‘Meinungsfreiheit’. Even in the US you will be punished when you shout “Fire!” in a theatre. But there are many more instances and grounds that effectively restrict your absolute freedom of expression… In Europe, especially Germany, Switzerland and Austria, there are explicit laws that prohibit race discrimination, antisemitism and denying the holocaust. In my mind, these restrictions are justified, and I haven’t seen them backfire yet.

NWO
Guest

A blanket hate speech law is not the answer. As we know well, the sanctity of law in Hungary under life of 2/3rds Parlimentary control, is not valuable. What is needed is a change in the culture and economic prospects of the country, AND moral and political leadership by leading politicians and cultural/religious figures in the country. What has the top Cardinal in Hu said in response? What have the important other religious figures said? And where has been the Prime Minister providing leadership? His silence is deafening as usual!

Member

OT: Gyurcsány wins lawsuit against right-wing daily over plagiarism charge
I hope Kovach and the “others” are reading this.
“The Capital’s Court of Appeals on Thursday obliged the daily Magyar Nemzet to print a correction to an article published on April 30 entitled, “Ferenc Gyurcsány Plagiarised,” the Democratic Coalition (DK) has announced.
The court upheld a ruling handed down by a first instance court and ordered the daily to print a correction as it was unable to credibly prove its claim.
The court refused to accept the position expounded by the daily’s lawyer that it was only the expression of an opinion and not a statement of fact, the DK added.”
http://www.politics.hu/20121130/gyurcsany-wins-lawsuit-against-right-wing-daily-over-plagiarism-charge/

Well, of course you cannot really find the above news on Hungarian portals, contrary to the news that, Pazmany Peter Catholic University considers the plagarism charge against Semjen closed.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Minusio

European laws are still relatively efficient in protecting ordinary citizens from being the target of other ordinary citizens’ hate speech.

However, no European state can control what’s being published through the web, either in the form of structured speech or simple social networking. As a consequence, the coded language once used by public figures wanting to avoid prosecution is now widespread, and it can evolve and adapt quickly. Plus, its users are given the opportunity to present themselves as victims of censorship (‘look, we’re obliged to resort to coded language, we can’t call a spade a spade anymore’).

These laws have become useless in the political arena. There’s no need to repel them as they still help in everyday circumstances; nevertheless reinforcing them isn’t a solution any more. It will not protect those who need it (which are not only those who are the direct targets of hate speech, but all those who care about it). Instead, it will only create more coded language, and reinforce.the victimary postures.

Minusio
Guest

@ Marcel Dé.
It is true that the web causes problems in enforcing laws against libel, hate speech, etc. But it is possible. Latest example: The wife of former German president Wulff was successful at forcing Google to delete any association with her name and prostitute and call-girl.

I think the European laws are still effective in preventing hate-speech and encitement.

As for coded language, I guess wolfi is right: You will always have a bottom-layer of society (he called it “Bodensatz”) that is extreme right or left, xenophobic, anti-semitic, anti-islamic, etc. Every country can call itself lucky if this layer is not more than 5-10%. It’s a matter of education (or lack of).

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