Israel and the international Jewish community want deeds, not words

The controversy over the government’s plans for the Holocaust Memorial Year is not subsiding. It was a week ago that Mazsihisz, the umbrella organization representing about a dozen Jewish groups, said that they will boycott the project as long as the government insists on moving ahead with the current plans. Three issues were in contention. First, they disapproved of the appointment of Sándor Szakály, a right-wing military historian, as head of a new historical institute named Veritas. Second, they wanted to be consulted in connection with a new Holocaust Museum named the House of Fates and expressed some doubts about the suitability of Mária Schmidt as the overseer of the project. Finally, they violently objected to the monument to be erected as a memorial to the German “occupation” of Hungary on March 19, 1944. The monument depicts Hungary as an innocent victim of Germany, as a country that lost its sovereignty and was thus absolutely innocent in the murder of about half a million Hungarian Jews.

For a few hours people who are against the Orbán government’s attempts at falsifying history were ecstatic . They praised Mazsihisz’s courageous new leadership. But the next day the government made public a letter Viktor Orbán had received from Mazsihisz which created a huge storm within the Jewish community. It seems to me that the majority of people who publicly expressed their opinions believed that the top leaders of Mazsihisz had recanted on their earlier stance. Accusations of treachery could be heard.

What were the problems with the letter that made so many people unhappy? One was the style of the letter, which a lot of people found too servile. The repeated “Igen Tisztelt Miniszterelnök Úr” (Very much honored Mr. Prime Minister) was too much for those who think very little of Viktor Orbán. The other objection was the omission of Sándor Szakály’s name from the document. Did this mean that Mazsihisz was abandoning its insistence on the removal of the controversial historian who thinks so highly of the Hungarian gendarmerie, the ones primarily responsible for leading Jewish victims to boxcars to be shipped to Auschwitz? Some leading Jewish activists, like Tamás Suchman, formerly MSZP member of parliament, insisted on the resignation of András Heisler, Péter Tordai, and Gusztáv Zoltai who signed the letter.

I would most likely have been outnumbered with my own opinion that sending a letter, admittedly one less servile than the letter Mazsihisz sent to Orbán, was a good move. I talked about my feelings on the subject once already. The suggestion of establishing a House of Co-existence devoted to the symbiosis of Jewish and non-Jewish cultures in Hungary is a wonderful idea. I interpreted the absence of Szakály’s name in the letter as an indication that his appointment was not subject to negotiation; he had to go. As for the  monument, Mazsihisz asked that its very concept be revised. Their position was strengthened by the support of  the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’s Division of Philosophy and History which declared that the monument gives a false impression of the history of the German “occupation” and Hungary’s position vis-à-vis Germany between March and October 1944.

But this was not the only reason for public outcry. Ilan Mor, Israeli ambassador to Hungary, gave an interview to Heti Válasz, a right-wing weekly, on February 12. In this interview Mor announced that he “has no doubt about the good intentions of the government” and spoke critically of Mazsihisz. Unfortunately, the interview is not yet available in its entirety on the Internet, but Mazsihisz didn’t take too kindly to Mor’s remarks. Gusztáv Zoltai, one of the three who signed the letter to Orbán, responded that “although we think very highly of the Israeli ambassador, we are an independent religious community in Hungary. We have very good relations with the Israeli ambassador but he should not make declarations in our name. It is our job and we disagree with him.” Well, this is clear enough.

To c0mplicate matters, a day after Mor’s interview the Hungarian ambassador was summoned by the Israeli foreign ministry. The topic was rising anti-Semitism in Hungary, but Rafi Schutz, deputy-director-general for Europe, also brought up the Orbán government’s attempt to rehabilitate Miklós Horthy, “who was complicit in the mass deportations of Jews to Nazi death camps in 1944, which resulted in the deaths of around 450,000 Hungarian Jews.” The infamous monument didn’t escape the attention of the Israeli foreign ministry either: “Hungary’s whitewashing of history has included plans to build a massive monument commemorating the 1944 invasion of Hungary by the Nazis, which is seen as an attempt to portray Hungary as a victim rather than an active partner of the Nazis. … The recent trends of historical whitewashing raise concerns in Israel, particularly since Hungary decided to hold a series of events memorializing the Holocaust. While the Jewish state initially supported the decision, it now fears the trends throw such efforts into doubt as further attempts to rewrite history.” Rafi Schutz added that Hungary was chosen to chair the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) starting in March 2015, but doubts are now being raised “about Hungary’s ability to properly preserve the memory of the Holocaust.” Strong language.

Thus the Israeli government stood squarely behind Mazsihisz while Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, believing in the trustworthiness of the Hungarian government, criticized the organization for its stridency. I think Ilan Mor is too charitable to the government.

Yesterday Ronald S. Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, wrote an article that appeared on Népszabadság‘s op/ed page. Lauder is heavily involved in Hungarian affairs on account of his mother, Estee Lauder, who was born and brought up in a Hungarian Jewish household in the United States. Among other things, Lauder established the Lauder Javne School, a Jewish educational institution that houses a kindergarten, an elementary school, a gymnasium, and a conservatory. He was also involved in the project to build a resort complex with an attached casino at Lake Velence in Sukoró which was torpedoed by Viktor Orbán, then still in opposition.

deedsLauder’s article bears the title: “To unify, not to divide.” In it he announced that the decision of Mazsihisz is fully supported by the World Jewish Congress. He expressed his disappointment that instead of remembrance of the victims, the Hungarian government is trying to rewrite history. The year 2014 was an opportunity for Viktor Orbán to confirm his good intentions hitherto only expressed in words by deeds. László Kövér accused Hungarian Jewry of “standing by the left again.” The Holocaust for the Jewish people is not a question of left or right and the government must make sure that it is not.

According to Lauder, it is worrisome that the Hungarian government is sending out contradictory messages: it recognizes the country’s responsibility in the deportation of Jews on the one hand and, on the other, it wants to erect a memorial which is offensive to Jews. The picture that has emerged of Hungary in America, Europe, and Israel is completely negative.

Viktor Orbán remains silent.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Kavé
Guest

Considering that Viktor Orban wanted to come out in this election year appearing to be the great supporter and protector of Hungarian Jewish sensitivity in the 70th year anniversary of the Holocaust, I would say this is a major Public Relations Fail. Like 100 %. If anything can explain FIDESZ’ failure at expressing their policy intention to foreign audiences, this can.

I doubt that Habony,Becsik, or Kerenyi had much to do with crunching the details on this plan. Nope, this was the Great Conducator’s own idea. Great work, Viktor!

qaz
Guest

VO’s audience and voters who count are not the Jews, Hungarian or not. He speaks and acts for that audience and upsetting the Jews is probably a good thing in that respect; it is in line with Fidesz’s not too sublimal message about the anti-hungarian conspiration of the West, the bankers and the international Jewry.

So maybe this controversy is not bad for him in the context of the upcoming elections. It will always be possible to mend fences afterwards.

petofi
Guest

@ qaz

“…upsetting the Jews is probably a good thing in that respect…”–Of course it is.

Orban is playing a ‘deeper’ game than the opposition suspects: having brought down the wrath of Hungarian and International Jewry around his head has garnered the sympathy
of most Hungarians in the first place. As well, we can expect the the priests in the Sunday masses to again call for ‘protection of our Victor from international abuse’. Quite useful.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the election date was picked to coincide with the holocaust ceremonies. Victor’s plan seems to be to arouse emotional support from the faithful while distracting people from the real issues. So far, there has been no concerted attack on Paks
and the secrecy surrounding the agreement. Second, the question of Hungary’s future in
the EU hasn’t seen the light of day. And finally, and most importantly, has Orban not given
a ‘carte blanche’ to Russian interférence in Hungary to ‘protect their investment’?

All those issues seem to be submerged behind the holocaust issue, or the Simor issue, or whatever Fidesz/Orban can drum up. So far, the opposition–with the exception of Gyurcsany– is falling for it…

pond
Guest
Every ambassador is on good terms with any receiving government because the success of the job of the ambassador depends fundamentally on the generosity of such government. If the government does not like the ambassador then silently the ambassador can even be called back or just the sending country’s usual diplomatic efforts in the receiving country simply get ignored. Then the ambassador will not get very high marks in the next round of internal appraisals. I assume that no ambassador was ever praised internally for being too tough on the receiving country and never will be. It is thus clear that Mr. Mor, as could have been expected, simply cared about his own job (he will want to get promoted and sent to a better post next time around) and not about the local Jewish community, which for him is not a top priority as it is not his constituency. He did what was logical: he was locally praising the Hungarian Government and likely figured that if his bosses in Israel decide to get tough then that is their issue there, as far as he is concerned in Budapest he will continue to openly like Orban’s fantastic achievements and great… Read more »
Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner
Guest
Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner
I have fairly good contacts at the Cabinet level, largely because I seek to be constructive, and find solutions, rather than mire down in Op Ed. Wrote over 2 months ago that the IHRA presidency was threatened, and this would be a major setback far more problematic internationally than awards given back by Wiesel or, now, Braham. Mor is a fine and strong Ambassador give the confusions within MAZSI and their track record for 1. Politicizing the Jewish faith 2. Shooting themselves in the leg. Up until now, as the tragedy of the Holocaust was being addressed more honestly, it was also natural that economic ties with Israel also advanced hand in hand. This was reality-based and top priority/gain. Mor is NOT an opportunist, while leaders such as Gusztav and older guard at MAZSI have a clearest record of this, discolored by justifications from their own personal trauma, and the hunger for money “as the fountain of life (quote from Gyurcsany within Sip u headquarters). Lauder had apologized earlier, and this meant an awful lot in terms of tensions easing, but his recanting now is very, very bad news within the framework of a positive process, derailed by three-strikes and… Read more »
Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner
Guest
Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner
Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner : I have fairly good contacts at the Cabinet level, largely because I seek to be constructive, and find solutions, rather than mire down in Op Ed. Wrote over 2 months ago that the IHRA presidency was threatened, and this would be a major setback far more problematic internationally than awards given back by Wiesel or, now, Braham. Mor is a fine and strong Ambassador give the confusions within MAZSI and their track record for 1. Politicizing the Jewish faith 2. Shooting themselves in the leg. Up until now, as the tragedy of the Holocaust was being addressed more honestly, it was also natural that economic ties with Israel also advanced hand in hand. This was reality-based and top priority/gain. Mor is NOT an opportunist, while leaders such as Gusztav and older guard at MAZSI have a clearest record of this, discolored by justifications from their own personal trauma, and the hunger for money “as the fountain of life (quote from Gyurcsany within Sip u headquarters). Lauder had apologized earlier, and this meant an awful lot in terms of tensions easing, but his recanting now is very, very bad news within the framework of a positive… Read more »
tamas
Guest

Man, as I know them, the EU ambassadors will even believe this sh*t. They are usually that naive. I mean they have eaten from Orban’s (Martonyi’s, Szajer’s) hands a million times, so the chances are they will do so again.

Apparently, Orban promised to the Budapest-based ambassadors of the EU member states that this time really, really he will behave totally differently and not be the aggressive bullying jerk he is (only, we assume, he would like to have some sympathy until the elections). Like he will be a little angel. Promise.

Oh, yeah, Orban is completely misunderstood. Like he is not the aggressive egomaniac we have came to know him in the last twenty some years. No. He is a light hearted little puppy who so much loves the EU and Western-Europe. Only the Little Entent member states are still conspiring to make him look like a dictator.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140217_Orban_valasztasok_EU_kozigazgatas

Guest

Tamas, I don’t think the EU and its ambassadors will fall for this (Orbán being a good boy …). Just look at the report in the German SPIEGEL on how the government “helped” the survivors of the massacred Roma families …

Every report on the Hungarian government has been negative during the Fidesz years …
And the SPIEGEL is read by everybody, so it mirrors the sentiment in Germany.

The German government is very weary of Fidesz, the Social Democrats stronger, but also the Christian Democrats – they don’t want the EPP’s image to be damaged by its member Fidesz.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Thank you Eva for your brilliant analysis. Orbán wanted to be at the same time the “defender of Jews” and the leader fighting the presumed (Jewish) world conspiracy. Those who believe or make believe, that Orbán and his ilk who put the anti-Semitic and fascist writers Nyirö, Wass and Tormay into curriculum could at the same time do something against anti-Semitism are either or immoral. How can somebody believe that Szakály and Mária Schmidt are independent from Orbán? Why should Orbán fire Szakály, whom he nominated just recently to head “Veritas”? He could not do so without losing his face. Is Orbán going to profit from this? I doubt it. Most probably Jobbik is going to profit. Interesting how history seems to repeat itself. When the Hungarian government party decided to tackle the social problems of Hungary by solving “the Jewish question” with discriminatory laws in 1938, it wanted to get out the wind of the arrow cross sails. But It was the arrow cross people who came out strengthened at the elections of 1939. When Kállay became prime minister he learnt soon the lesson, that the MPs of the MEP were thinking as far as the “Jewish question” was… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Sorry wrote in a hurry either naive or immoral

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

“Viktor Orbán remains silent.” – Probably waiting for the end of this news cycle.

Now, perhaps it would be interesting to have a look at the calendar of public events for the Holocaust remembrance year in weeks to come.

tappanch
Guest

National debt with divergent numbers, in 10^9’s of HUFs:

Situation on December 31, 2014.

according to the National Bank:

liabilities of the central government: – 25,598.8
change in gross liabilities since Dec 31, 2012: 6.28%

net assets of the central government: -19750.5
growth of net liabilities since Dec 31, 2012: 12.85% (!!)

net assets of social security: +344.6
net assets of local governments: +954.7

combined net assets: -18.451.2,
growth of combined debt (- net “assets”) since Dec 31, 2012: 7.50%

gross “consolidated” debt: 23,067.8
growth of gross debt since Dec 31, 2012: 3.01%

according to the Treasury:

gross debt of the central government: 21,998.1
growth of gross debt since Dec 31, 2012: 6.17%

Manipulation to make the gross debt look smaller on December 31:
12.06: 22,728.0
12.13: 22,645.1
12.20: 22,365.5
12.23: 22,434.8
12.31: 21,998.1 (local minimum)
01.24: 22,862.1
01.31: 22,842.0
02.07: 22,899.3 (all-time high)

tappanch
Guest

correction:
growth of net debt (- net ASSETS) of the central government
since Dec 31, 2012: 12.85% (!!)

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

wolfi :
Tamas, I don’t think the EU and its ambassadors will fall for this (Orbán being a good boy …). Just look at the report in the German SPIEGEL on how the government “helped” the survivors of the massacred Roma families …
Every report on the Hungarian government has been negative during the Fidesz years …
And the SPIEGEL is read by everybody, so it mirrors the sentiment in Germany.
The German government is very weary of Fidesz, the Social Democrats stronger, but also the Christian Democrats – they don’t want the EPP’s image to be damaged by its member Fidesz.

Sure. At the same time the EPP’s prospects for the upcoming election dont look good at the moment. Member parties may lose seats in FR, IT, SP and PL, and even if the Left isn’t winning yet, the new majority in Strasbourg may hang by a thread.

Why would they risk displeasing Fidesz and its 14 seats? Especially as, at least in the West, EPP member parties are threatened on their right flank…

tappanch
Guest

Chairman of the Jewish communities Mr Heisler:
“We are still waiting for premier Orban’s answer.”

http://nol.hu/belfold/20140217-orban_nem_valaszolt

Mr. Paul
Guest
Lauder “was also involved in the project to build a resort complex with an attached casino at Lake Velence in Sukoró which was torpedoed by Viktor Orbán, then still in opposition.” I remember it a bit differently. It was LMP that was leading the charge against Sukoró. LMP took every opportunity to campaign against the “corruption and secrecy of” the Sukoró project, they were still a very small party at the time and needed the publicity. They even initiated legal prosecution regarding this matter against Sukoró and/or Gyurcsány (“hivatalosan feljelentést tettek”). On the side of the government Péter Oszkó the finance minister was also very critical of Sukoró. see this article from 2009 for example: http://www.nol.hu/gazdasag/oszko__jogi_lepesek_kellenek_a_sukoroi_telekugylet_tisztazasara Péter Oszkó of the Bajnai government initiated a court case to have the land swap (telekcsere) investigated. Finally this legal process ended with declaring the land swap illegal and the contract null and void (semmis). This land swap was the whole basis of Sukoró, because they wanted to use this land to build something. As it turns out the contract was null right from the start (as the courts declared it). Lauder’s name itself is politically charged in Hungary because of the many years… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Orban’s implicit answer in his speech yesterday:

“How do they dare to tell us what we should or should not do, or what or how to commemorate things?”

“honnan veszik a bátorságot, hogy megmondják, mit tegyünk, mit ne tegyünk, illetve mire és hogyan emlékezzünk?”

http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1010996-orban-honnan-veszik-a-batorsagot-hogy-megmondjak-mit-tegyunk/

tappanch
Guest

I can see a book title in front of me:

“My metamorphosis from a young Liberal to an old Nazi” by Viktor Orban

tappanch
Guest

or rather:

“My metamorphosis from a young Communist to an old Nazi” by Viktor Orban

petofi
Guest

“However 2014 the situation is different, there is no big European state behind Orbán.”

Oh yeah? Last I heard, Russia claims to belong to Europe…

karak
Guest
tappanch #17: Thanks, spot on. “How do they dare to tell us what we should or should not do, or what or how to commemorate things?” “honnan veszik a bátorságot, hogy megmondják, mit tegyünk, mit ne tegyünk, illetve mire és hogyan emlékezzünk?” That is what I have been saying. “How dare the Jews tell how the righteous conservative Hungarian should commemorate our nation’s history?? Where do they take their courage from? No, Hungary will never give in to them.” Unfortunately the dog is barking, the caravan is moving on. If Orban wins, the probability of which is 75-80%, just because from Nate Silver book we know that even if an election looks like a slam dunk for one party, once out of 5-6 such elections the underdog wins, then the German occupation memorial will be built, as well as the House of Fates, and Szakaly and his friends will continue to strengthen their credentials and advance in the Hungarian historic discourse (many will become doctors of the Academy of Sciences and get various other positions so they entrench themselves). Make no mistake. I remember what a huge debate there was among analysts, investors, who was gonna be the new head… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

tappanch :
Orban’s implicit answer in his speech yesterday:
“How do they dare to tell us what we should or should not do, or what or how to commemorate things?”
“honnan veszik a bátorságot, hogy megmondják, mit tegyünk, mit ne tegyünk, illetve mire és hogyan emlékezzünk?”
http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1010996-orban-honnan-veszik-a-batorsagot-hogy-megmondjak-mit-tegyunk/

According to MTI, “they” are “the West, the bankers, big business and the foreign press”…

tappanch
Guest

What about this – the united opposition cannot start the election campaign today, since the National Election Bureau messed up their “recommendation sheets”, and only theirs:

http://nol.hu/belfold/az_osszefogas_jeloltjei_hetfon_nem_tudtak_megkezdeni_az_alairasgyujtest

Ovidiu
Guest
petofi : Orban is playing a ‘deeper’ game than the opposition suspects There is no “deep-game” game here, it is a total mess which has grown to the point that now there is no good way out of it for Orban. Orban did not expect such opposition, he gambled and hoped that the local Jewish community will “swallow” it, that they will “fold” and keep quiet out of fear for the long-term (as long as Orban will be in power) consequences for the community if they react. Such an outcome would have meant “no costs” for Orban, while as “gain” it would have meant dragging the Jewish community (local and intl,) along into participating in this masquerade of the “occupation-story” ; and thus validating the story through their very participation ! Orban is a gambler at heart, he likes tense situations and he engineers them.Zemesé avilág.He bets on others “folding” first because they become intimidated by the long term consequences if they stand their ground (because this is now “bad” for the local Jewish community too, “bad” no matter if they win or lose in this “occupation monument” dispute, from now on there is no turning back and no hope… Read more »
Kantor nyomoz
Guest

tappanch:

Accident, only an accident.

I believe Fidesz’ and Mr Paul’s explanations. Aka technical difficulty.

Sometimes it does really happen, you know.

Granted, these glitches do seem to happen more often to the opposition, but that is no reason to be suspicious.

Mr. Paul
Guest

tappanch :
What about this – the united opposition cannot start the election campaign today, since the National Election Bureau messed up their “recommendation sheets”, and only theirs:
http://nol.hu/belfold/az_osszefogas_jeloltjei_hetfon_nem_tudtak_megkezdeni_az_alairasgyujtest

What was the mess up? The Unity does not want the name “Unity” (Összefogás) name on the sheets. Instead they want MSZP-DK-PM-EKP-MLP each to appear on the sheets. AND they want a particular order in which these will appear. The order was messed up in some districts and alphabetical order was used instead of the order requested by the parties. According to the article they will get the corrected sheets today.

Mr. Paul
Guest

Kantor nyomoz :
tappanch:
Accident, only an accident.
I believe Fidesz’ and Mr Paul’s explanations. Aka technical difficulty.

If you are referring back to the ATV broadcast issue it was ATV’s explanation. ATV stated numerous times both in broadcast and over the internet that they were having technical difficulties. And they apologised for their mistake. Several times. In addition they broadcast Gyurcsany’s speech 40 minutes later, they put it on their website, and they broadcasted it again the next day once more. What more do you want from them? Fidesz never commented on this issue.

So in light of the above the correct sentence would have been

“I believe ATV’s and Mr Paul’s explanations. Aka technical difficulty.”

But it wasn’t as bombastic as hard-hitting correct? You just had to replace ATV with Fidesz. It sounds so much better. It’s not true? What does it matter if it good, right?

Mr. Paul
Guest

“What does it matter if it SOUNDS good, right?” a word was left out from the previous post

wpDiscuz