The Orbán government and the “Jewish question” by Karl Pfeifer

Karl Pfeifer is an Austrian journalist who as a child spent some time in Hungary and learned faultless Hungarian. His Hungarian friends call him Karcsi. You can read more about him here.

* * *

Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, is doing everything in his power to obtain legitimacy for his antidemocratic policies from the next World Jewish Congress that will be held in Budapest (May 5-7, 2013). Does the choice of Budapest signify anything given the daily reports of growing Hungarian anti-Semitism?

Naturally, the Hungarian government is doing its level best to “correct” this widespread perception. Gullible foreigners are fed all kinds of half- or untruths about the situation in Hungary. They minimize the extent of anti-Semitism in the country while exaggerating the government’s effort at attempting to curb activities of neo-Nazi groups.*

World Jewish CongressI was there when the Hungarian ambassador to Austria, Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky, declared in Vienna the other day: “If Hungary were a fascist country the WJC would not hold its congress in Budapest. One hundred thousand Jews live in Hungary and our prime minister made clear that he does everything in his power to defend the Jewish minority. I have never heard the Austrian chancellor say anything like that in the Austrian parliament.”** Now even the most ardent critics of the present government (I among them) never called Hungary a “fascist country.” And, thankfully, the Jews of Austria were never subjected after 1945 to the kind of verbal (and sometimes physical) threats as they are in present-day Hungary. Therefore the Austrian chancellor never felt he had to defend the Jewish minority in public.

The first question is how did the Hungarian ambassador arrive at the figure of 100,000 Jews in Hungary? According to the Nuremberg or the Hungarian racial laws of the early nineteen forties? Or does anybody seriously claim that there are 100,000 Hungarian Jews entitled to enter Israel and receive Israeli citizenship according to the premises of the Israeli law of return?

In the end it is a question of democracy. Can the state and its rulers decide the identity of its inhabitants? Should they have the right to define who is a Jew and to define Hungarian Jews as a minority? After all, Hungarian Jewry was never considered to be a distinct ethnic minority. Yet Viktor Orbán, in that speech the Hungarian ambassador was referring to, was talking about “our kind of Christian Democrats” as opposed to the Jews. Isn’t one’s personal identity a basic right of every citizen?

Hungarian right-wing media rehash the old claim that the Jews were responsible for Communist rule in Hungary. While the leaders of Hungarian Jewry use the old and failed method of appeasement.

In 1920, when French and British Jews lodged a complaint at the League of Nations about the law that restricted the number of Jewish students at institutions of higher learning, the Hungarian-Jewish leadership objected to foreign interference in the name of Hungarian patriotism. As a result of protests of the excluded students eventually the officials did lodge a complaint but added that the community concerned was not in a position to act freely: “… in view of the virulence of anti-Semitic agitation in Hungary, it will be readily understood that the Jewish community are scarcely free agents in this matter.” ***

So, when anti-Jewish laws were enacted  in 1938 the Hungarian Jewish leaders’ position was already compromised when they tried to get help from British and French Jews. They didn’t receive much assistance. The Hungarian-Jewish establishment felt it had to come to terms with the country’s rulers and to acquiesce in “moderating” anti-Jewish legislation, hoping that would forestall the harsher measures advocated by the extreme right-wing elements. As we know, this was to no avail. Harsher and harsher laws were introduced until the final solution reached about 70% of Hungary’s Jewry. Jews were alone within the Hungarian non-Jewish society, almost without any support by the liberal and progressive elements.

How do the rulers of Hungary deal with the “Jewish question” today? Here is one example of many. György Konrád, who by an almost miraculous chain of fortunate circumstances escaped the Hungarian Holocaust to become one of the most famous dissidents and authors of his country, the President of the international PEN club of writers and President of the Berlin Academy of Arts and Letters, celebrated his eightieth birthday on April 2. He received congratulations from all over the world, was officially invited by the politically conservative president of Germany for a personal visit at his residence. But nobody from official Hungary, not the president, not the prime minister, not the mayor of Budapest, not the lowest government official in charge of cultural affairs saw fit to send him even a friendly word. On the contrary, one of the chief functionaries responsible for national culture (or rather the lack of it) publicly stated that Konrád was no Hungarian writer at all, only erroneously seen abroad as such.

While some might be tempted to restrict Hungarian anti-Semitism to the Hungarian Nazis and their political party, Jobbik, and trust the promises of Mr. Orbán, they should know that the nationalistic, “völkisch” policy of the government will continue unabated after the ladies and gentlemen of WJC and journalists like myself graciously invited as reporters will have returned to their countries of origin.

*http://www.hagalil.com/archiv/2013/04/17/gyor/ In Győr a Nazi demonstration was allowed in the center of town on April 13 and the Nazi were escorted by the Hungarian police.

**Austrian public radio has reported on the statement of the Hungarian ambassador in Vienna. http://oe1.orf.at/programm/335405 and I published on the same at http://www.hagalil.com/archiv/2013/04/25/ungarn-symposium/

***The Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association, The Jewish Minority in Hungary (London).

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anglawbp
Guest

I, too, am extremely worried about the rise in antisemitism in Hungary and wish that the government would openly acknowledge and condemn the connection between antisemitism and Jobbik. It seems that, despite a number of statements condemning antisemitism in general terms, the government is reluctant to alienate Jobbik voters.

On the “who is a Jew” question, and in particular the question: “… how did the Hungarian ambassador arrive at the figure of 100,000 Jews in Hungary? According to the Nuremberg or the Hungarian racial laws of the early nineteen forties? Or does anybody seriously claim that there are 100,000 Hungarian Jews entitled to enter Israel and receive Israeli citizenship according to the premises of the Israeli law of return?” I tend towards self-identification as a yardstick. On that basis there could easily be 100,000 Jews in Hungary. The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ) estimates that there are around 120,000 Jews living in Hungary. (http://mazsihisz.hu/index.php)

gdfxx
Guest

“I, too, am extremely worried about the rise in antisemitism in Hungary and wish that the government would openly acknowledge and condemn the connection between antisemitism and Jobbik. It seems that, despite a number of statements condemning antisemitism in general terms, the government is reluctant to alienate Jobbik voters.”

One of Orban’s best friend being the notorious anti-Semite and founder of FIDESZ, Zsolt Bayer, and this person being seen at any FIDESZ party event smiling on Orban’s site, most recently at the FIDESZ anniversary, indicates that there is more to this than just the effort not to alienate the Jobbik voters. There are at least two possibilities (not excluding each other): there are plenty of ant-Semites among the FIDESZ voters and/or there is plenty of antisemitism among the FIDESZ leaders.

Too Late
Guest

Defend?
Orban must defeat the inciters.
Within his party, and in Jobbik.
Eliminate the culture that worships Horthy, Csurka, Wass….
Bayer must be fired.
Orban must end the verbal attack on EU, and on the leftwing Hungarians,
But he will not do that.
Lauder should transfer the Budapest meeting to Bratislava or Vienna.

Miklos
Guest

“the leaders of Hungarian Jewry use the old and failed method of appeasement.”
– old and failed method of appeasement? This is true Nazi talk Mr Karcsi!

Making peace is the only option for Jews and Hungarians living in Hungary. Of course, for you guys living abroad this is clearly not an option. Fuelling hatred is the way to go. Good luck with that. It clearly has less and less effect on Hungarian voters.

tappanch
Guest

1. Number of Jews in Hungary.
2011 census: 11 thousand self-identified. Every other number is speculative.

I know an extended family where there were 8 adult people in 2011, all Jewish halachically, but only one of them dared/wanted to declare his/her heritage to the Hungarian authorities.
Let us say, about four of them feel any connection.

2. I regard the inner circle of Fidesz apparatchiks common thieves who got power, and transformed Hungary into a Fascist state of the Mussolini style in the last three years just to prolong their power. They might not be particularly anti-Semitic or racist, but do use anti-Semitic, anti-Gypsy middle level cadres without hesitation. (Fidesz integrated Csurka’s MIEP party. For instance, Fidesz spokesman and mayor Mate Kocsis came from that direction).

3. Look at the perfection Fidesz performs the “divide et impera” in the trade unions, in the student organizations and yes, in the Jewish organizations as well.

Member
Eva S. Balogh : … no anti-Semitic statement ever left the lips of Viktor Orbán. That may be, but I don’t think that it is proof of anything. I just have a gut feeling, that’s all. They don’t have to make anti-Semitic statements. Others will do that for them. In the present Zsolt Bayer. And when they put prominent arrow cross sympathizers in the national curriculum, like Nyiro, or promote openly anti-Semite writers, like Cecile Tormay, that is also anti-Semitism. Or just recently recommendation of Ottokar Prohaszka, who was essentially the ideologue of the Hungarian nazis, for street name is clearly an anti-Semitic act because the so called academy surely acted on the orders from above. No they will never say it. They just do things that appeal to the anti-Semitic part of the society. For instance the declaration of the lost independence at the beginning of the German occupation in the preamble of their constitution is one of the glaring proofs of their anti-Semitism. It absolutely served no other purpose. This government is practically encourages anti-Semitism and hatred. Good examples of this is the reluctant reactions to anti-Semitic provocations like the “Give it gas” motorcycle march recently. The effect… Read more »
whyworry
Guest

Shame on the World Jewish Congress.

They not only invite the Prime Minister of a government friending Zsolt Bayer and awarding nazis, they also invite the friends of Iran. See Fidesz members of Parliament in the Irani-Hungarian friendship committee below:

President: Gyöngyösi Márton, Jobbik
VP: Dr. Gruber Attila, Fidesz

Members:

Babák Mihály, Fidesz
Dankó Béla, Fidesz
Egyed Zsolt, Jobbik
Dr. Gaudi-Nagy Tamás, Jobbik
Gulyás Dénes, Fidesz
Dr. Gyüre Csaba, Jobbik
Hegedűs Lorántné, Jobbik
Hegedűs Tamás, Jobbik
Kepli Lajos, Jobbik
Dr. Kiss Sándor, Jobbik
Dr. Lenhardt Balázs, Jobbik
Mirkóczki Ádám, Jobbik
Németh Zsolt, Jobbik
Pánczél Károly, Fidesz
Pogácsás Tibor, Fidesz
Potápi Árpád János, Fidesz
Rónaszékiné Keresztes Monika, Fidesz
Dr. Selmeczi Gabriella, Fidesz
Szabó Gábor, Jobbik
Szilágyi György, Jobbik
Dr. Szűcs Lajos, Fidesz
Vágó Sebestyén, Jobbik
Vona Gábor, Jobbik
Wittner Mária, Fidesz
Zagyva György Gyula, Jobbik

source: http://magyarnarancs.hu/diplomaciai_jegyzet/fidesz-jobbik-iran-84009

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Miklos :
“the leaders of Hungarian Jewry use the old and failed method of appeasement.”
– old and failed method of appeasement? This is true Nazi talk Mr Karcsi!
Making peace is the only option for Jews and Hungarians living in Hungary. Of course, for you guys living abroad this is clearly not an option. Fuelling hatred is the way to go. Good luck with that. It clearly has less and less effect on Hungarian voters.

Miklós the Nazis loved appeasement talk. On another website I am accused to be a “Marxist” and I am mentioned together with Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
I note that you do not consider Jews and “Jews” as Hungarians. That is racist talk Mr. Miklós.

LwiiH
Guest

Austrian chancellor never felt he had to defend the Jewish minority in public

I wonder if the Austrain chancellor ever felt the need to defend the spotted cow? Meanwhile I’m looking at “faggot jews” graffiti on walls.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

LwiiH :

Austrian chancellor never felt he had to defend the Jewish minority in public

I wonder if the Austrain chancellor ever felt the need to defend the spotted cow? Meanwhile I’m looking at “faggot jews” graffiti on walls.

in a democratic state of the EU it is the task of the police and the justice to defend all its citizens and those living in the state. No need for the Austrian chancellor to say such things in parliament. The question here is not graffiti on walls, but the following: Alone in Hungary the primeminister has a good friend named Zsolt Bayer, who is qualified today in the conservative German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, as one who is using “coarse feces-speech”. There is no other prime minister in the EU who has such a friend.

NWO
Guest
I strongly oppose the Government. I believe that Orban and his policies are systematically destroying Hungary. Also, there is absolutely no question that there are many persons within the larger FIDESZ circles there are people who are openly anti-semitic and also even more who are at best indifferent to anti-Semitism. Despite this and despite the fears of many inside Hungary, the Government-each time it has counted-has been fairly scrupulous in being anything but anti-Semitic. The Government continues to have good relations with Israel, and has taken (though not generally Orban) measure (symbolic or otherwise) when some outrage or provocation has occurred against Jews. It is reasonable to articulate fears about the far right and the general, growing anti-Semitism in Hungary. To lay this all (or mostly) on the Government is like the “boy crying wolf.” There are may reasons to despair about the future of Hungary and this Government’s corruption and policies, but anti-Semitism is not one of them. In fact, I believe on the purce crude political calculus, FIDESZ (at least at national level-perhaps not at local level) has realized that they have effectively lost the hard core anti-Jewish vote to Jobbik. As such, moving to the middle and… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest
NWO : As for Austria, excuse me, but the country has never reconciled to its complicity in WWII and the Holocaust. It has played the victim card to perfection. It also managed to elect a former Nazi as President and put an openly Nazi sympathizer into Government. Finally, it is not by accident that OPEC chose Vienna for its HQ. The city and country have been openly pro-Arab, anti-Israel for a long time. The Jews in Austria are largely the Orthodox who moved back after the war, BECAUSE the Austrians managed to save practically none of their Jewish citizens when it counted. Lectures are welcome, but not from hypocrites. I find the halftruths and untruths about Austria in your statement interesting. Here just one: Kurt Waldheim was never a member of the Nazi party. He was a captain in the Wehrmacht intelligence and present at places where war crimes were committed. However we have in Austria and in the EU nowhere a chief of government, whose good friend is a a man like Zsolt Bayer, who is publishing coarse feces-like speech. In Hungary this is the case and this was today again confirmed by Stephan Löwenstein in the conservative German… Read more »
NWO
Guest

It is absolutely your right to criticize anti-Semitism (and me as well). It is important to do so. I am sorry for your loss, and apologize for the lazy mis-characterization of Waldheim (which I knew). I am also painfully aware (living in Hungary as a Jew) that the environment is bad, but it is not helped by an easy conflating of the very common anti-Senmitism (including among those close to the PM) in Hungary and official Government policy. It does not help the cause to confuse these two things, as it did not help my argument to perhaps too easily attack not you personally, but Austria’s reputation and history.

LwiiH
Guest
Karl Pfeifer : LwiiH : Austrian chancellor never felt he had to defend the Jewish minority in public I wonder if the Austrain chancellor ever felt the need to defend the spotted cow? Meanwhile I’m looking at “faggot jews” graffiti on walls. in a democratic state of the EU it is the task of the police and the justice to defend all its citizens and those living in the state. No need for the Austrian chancellor to say such things in parliament. Right, and to my point, if there wasn’t a problem no one would be feeling the need to speak about it and to push propaganda that it’s not a problem. The question here is not graffiti on walls, but the following: Alone in Hungary the primeminister has a good friend named Zsolt Bayer, who is qualified today in the conservative German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, as one who is using “coarse feces-speech”. There is no other prime minister in the EU who has such a friend. The graffiti on the walls is a sign of the problem because it states that the rhetoric in the country is high enough that people now feel empowered or have become emboldened… Read more »
anglawbp
Guest

As has been demonstrated in the preceding comments, it is of no help to play “which is the more antisemitic country”. The fact is that antisemitism exists across Europe and anti-semites need very little permission to express their foul views.

There can hardly be a Jew who has not been directly affected by loss of relatives, but I am not sure whether claiming a moral right to criticise antisemitism on the basis of one’s personal connection with the Shoah is helpful, either. The problem with the view that Jews have a particular right to criticise antisemitism is that it cuts both ways. It leads, in my view, to the sort of ‘acceptable’ antisemitism, often disguised as ‘anti-Israel’, which places Jews as uniquely responsible for the policies of the State of Israel on the basis that ‘Jews, of all people, should know better.”

Surely, all right-thinking people, Jews and non-Jews alike, should speak out loudly against antisemitism? It is not a moral right but a moral duty.

pro-Deak
Guest

Most of the readers easily ignore that Hungary is the land where Ferenc Deak was born, and worked.
It can be a different country and a different nation if guided correctly.
There is hope.
The problem is the betrayal of the country by the many political, economical, and religious leaders who sell out their nation to the crooks of the world.
Horthy sold it out to Germany, others to the Soviets, and now again to the worst enemies of humanities.
Unite the decent Hungarians, and cleanse the nation from its immoral individuals.

tappanch
Guest

Soccer hooligans broke the nose of the chairman of the Raoul Wallenberg Society yesterday, April 28th.

The story: on the Ferencvaros match, the fans (Orban’s Videoton or Kublatov’s Ferencvaros – I don’t know – both of them are Fidesz team now) praised Mussolini and
shouted “Sieg heil”.

Chairman Orosz disagreed, then the fans called him a Communist Jew and hit him.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130429_Megutottek_a_Raoul_Wallenberg_Egyesulet_e

tappanch
Guest

Look at the leading soccer teams:

1 Győr 25 51 – 28 52 — German automaker
2 Videoton 25 41 – 19 45 —- Orban’s favorite
3 MTK BUDAPEST 24 38 – 23 44 – chairman Deutsch, Fidesz MEP
4 FTC 25 41 – 27 39 — chairman Kubatov, Fidesz party director
5 Honvéd 25 38 – 33 39
6 DVSC-TEVA 25 37 – 25 39 — Fidesz strongman Kosa
7 Kecskemét 25 36 – 31 37 — German automaker
8 Paks 25 38 – 30 35 — state-owned atomic power station

Guest

For my past 10 yearly visits to Hungary, I have seen anti-semitic graffitti on walls–in district 8 as well as 2. There never has seemed to be any effort to remove it. And that fact condones it.

JGrant
Guest

anglawbp :
Surely, all right-thinking people, Jews and non-Jews alike, should speak out loudly against antisemitism? It is not a moral right but a moral duty.

It is not only a moral duty, but one of self-interest. I take it most people reading this blog would remember Pastor Niemoller? Once they have taken all the Jews, and then all the communists and then the socialists, then the liberals etc., etc. they will eventually will come for you. Nobody, other than those that lick the …. of FIDESZ and sell their souls to them (and sometimes not even them!!) are safe in a regime that Hungary is fast becoming. By the way, the interesting concept somebody raised about anti-Semitism thinly disguised as being anti-Israel is just a touch off the point. I agree that you cannot and mustn’t equate all Jews with the policies of Israel, but you can be critical of Israeli policies and actions and NOT be anti-Semitic. The proof of this are, if nothing else, the thousands of Israelis themselves that are against a lot of the policies of the present and many previous Israeli governments.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Research by András Kovács in Hungary indicates that openly antisemitic statements are appearing in opinion polls much more frequently nowadays than a few years ago. He attributes this tendency to the “Jobbik-impact”: because of the frequent presence of antisemitic public discourse at the highest political levels, citizens are no longer afraid to express their antisemitic views, breaking the former taboos. While it would be completely false to say that the governing Fidesz and Jobbik have the same ideological approach, the world view of the “radical wing” of governmental forces and the “moderate wing” of Jobbik are not really far from each other. And the current political environment is just reducing the distance: the “freedom fight”, as the Prime Minister calls it, for national sovereignty that results in many conflicts between the Council of Europe, the EU and its member states, the US and the Hungarian government results in a situation where conspiracy theories about coordinated Western attacks against the nation play a central role in government rhetoric. And even if the governmental side never uses antisemitic theories to explain the situation, the “syntax” of these theories is pretty similar and results in a similar world view, the only differenc being… Read more »
Guest

@Karl re those conspiracy theories:

I fully agree with you!

You read a lot of them “constipation theories” (my Copyright) on pol.hu – and you also have there this continuous spectrum between the “mildly conservative Fidesz” and the outright Nazis …
At first I was shocked but now I understand that connection. Those code words “banks”, “Globalists”, “Western Liberals” all mean the same.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

wolfi :
@Karl re those conspiracy theories:
I fully agree with you!
You read a lot of them “constipation theories” (my Copyright) on pol.hu – and you also have there this continuous spectrum between the “mildly conservative Fidesz” and the outright Nazis …
At first I was shocked but now I understand that connection. Those code words “banks”, “Globalists”, “Western Liberals” all mean the same.

More on subject matter http://www.deconspirator.com

JGrant
Guest

@Karl – You are absolutely spot on! Not only that there are more and more anti-Semitic comments in parliament, in the media and in a lot of other fora, but it is the fact that there is no response from the authorities in condemning and punishing them, or if there is a response it is about a week later in a mild, therefore meaningless form, is what is empowering the closet racists.

It is needless to say that the fact that 45 years of so called communism hadn’t managed to eradicate racism, only pushed it underground, is an endictment of that system, but open, brazen anti-Semitism and racism has only come out of the cupboard in a big way in the last three years. All that “peacock dancing” around actual stements or not is pitiful and pathetic in the extreme. The facts as you look around yourself anywhere in Hungary speak for themselves.

Guest

OT but really interesting:

That posting by http://www.occuworld.org/

Whoever posted this (Was it you, Eva ?) – Thanks a lot!

There’s too much interesting info here – even for a pensioner like me …

buddy
Guest

Karl Pfeifer :
Research by András Kovács in Hungary indicates that openly antisemitic statements are appearing in opinion polls much more frequently nowadays than a few years ago. He attributes this tendency to the “Jobbik-impact”: because of the frequent presence of antisemitic public discourse at the highest political levels, citizens are no longer afraid to express their antisemitic views, breaking the former taboos.

Interesting you mention this, as my wife’s elderly aunt recently started making anti-Semitic comments to me, though in the past I’ve never known her to say such things. Of course she prefaces every such statement with words like “I’m not an anti-Semite, but you know who’s responsible for the problems with [fill in the blank] in this country…” I was shocked and disappointed in her, and wondered if there was some reason why she felt free to say these things now.

to peace through hard protest
Guest
to peace through hard protest

Buddy: I was shocked and disappointed in her, and wondered if there was some reason why she felt free to say these things now………

It is so simple.
The trick is empowerment.
The aunt absorbed the not so subtle antisemitic messages of bayer/orban/vona, and felt empowered to blame the jews for all.

the aunt’s intelligence is questionable.
the future is dark.
some blood will flow … like in yugoslavia.

prevent it, go on the barricades! fight this madness!

Miklos
Guest

Like everywhere else, you have true racists and anti-Semites in Hungary too. Like everywhere else they are in minority. You can’t argue with them, you can’t change their views. What’s rising in Hungary has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It has to do with politics. You have Jobbik on one extreme.
Then you have the likes of Agnes Heller, Gyorgy Konrad, Akos Kertesz, Eva “the red” Balogh, Paul Lendvai etc. etc. all of them from Hungary, all of them Jewish and all of them campaigning abroad (why not in Hungary), pushing their political agendas and shouting the words anti-Semitism, fascism, nazism at a democratically elected Hungarian government and people like crazy.
People have become completely weary and immune to these words. Saying “Anti-Semitism” is almost like a compliment nowadays in Hungary. It simply means that you disagree with these people mentioned above calling you a nazi or an anti-Semite every day, day and night.

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