The aftershocks of the Szentmihályi Szabó affair

The translation of  Péter Szentmihályi Szabó’s article on the “agents of Satan” three days ago on Hungarian Spectrum has reawakened international scrutiny into the real nature of Viktor Orbán’s regime. Immediately after the document’s publication letters started pouring into the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Italian embassy in Hungary asking the Italians not to accept Szentmihályi Szabó as Hungary’s envoy.

Yesterday morning the Jewish Telegraphic Agency published a short article in which they said:

Eva Balogh described Szentmihályi Szabó as a “raging” and “inveterate” anti-Semite. She quoted an article written by him in 2000 in the far-right Magyar Forum, called “The Agents of Satan,” which, though it doesn’t specifically use the term “Jew,” clearly describes Jews in classic anti-Semitic terms similar to those used in Nazi propaganda.

The Hungarian Jewish leadership did not immediately respond to the nomination. But a source close to the leadership of the main Jewish umbrella group Mazsihisz told JTA that the nomination was a “very unfriendly gesture from the government” during the year designated by the government as an official Holocaust Memorial Year.

Vox.com also noticed my post and quoted at some length from Szentmihályi Szabó’s infamous article, describing it as “pretty appalling stuff.” According to the journalist responsible for the article, this latest development is “especially troubling given that it happened in Hungary, where there has been a trend of anti-Semitism… [T]hough right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán condemns anti-Semitism, his government doesn’t have the best track record on it.”

And finally today the World Jewish Congress raised its voice in protest. Let me quote the text of the press release in full:

The head of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Thursday said that appointment of Hungarian far-right publicist Péter Szentmihályi Szabó as Hungary’s ambassador to Italy was “clearly an affront to Jews”. WJC President Ronald Lauder urged Italy to refuse the accreditation of Szentmihályi Szabó, who has penned anti-Semitic texts in the past.

“A man who suggests that Hungary’s Jews are ‘agents of Satan’, ‘greedy, envious, evil and ugly’ is not fit to represent his country abroad, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would be well-advised to withdraw this man as soon as possible and look for a person who is suitable for this job,” said Lauder.

“It is particularly sad and irritating that Hungary, which declared 2014 as Holocaust memorial year, is once again in the news with this sort of thing. How can an anti-Semite represent a government whose leader pledged a policy of zero tolerance toward anti-Semitism?” Lauder asked, referring to Orbán’s speech before the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest in May 2013. He said decisions such as this would do further damage to Hungary’s reputation abroad and “not inspire confidence that the Orbán government means business when it says it will fight anti-Semitism.”

The WJC leader expressed hope that, given Italy’s history and strong commitment to fight racial hatred and anti-Semitism, the Italian government would not accept an outspoken extremist and Jew-hater as a member of the diplomatic corps in Rome.

The appointment by Budapest of the 69-year-old Szentmihályi Szabó comes after a recent decision by the Hungarian government to build a controversial World War II monument that obfuscates Hungary’s role in the deportation of Jews to the Nazi death camps in 1944.

Meanwhile Péter Szentmihályi Szabó acts as if nothing has happened. Or at least he pretends that all this “noise” doesn’t bother him a bit. Rather, he seems to be proud of his name being bandied about in the Hungarian and the foreign press. He shared his reactions in his regular column in the far-right Magyar Hírlap called “Sarkosan fogalmazva,” which is perhaps best rendered as “Not beating around the bush.”

Actually, Szentmihályi Szabó exaggerates somewhat. Only about three dozen articles appeared about him, mostly in the liberal press. None in Magyar Nemzet or Válasz. Naturally, Magyar Hírlap, his own paper, reported disapprovingly that “Gyurcsány and Co. are asking Europe’s help in the matter of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó” and republished DK’s protest released by the party’s press department. In addition, László Domonkos, a journalist who since 1990 has written a number of books for far-right publishing houses, expressed his absolute delight that “István Csurka’s comrade-in-arms” received the honor of being able to represent Hungary in Rome. The late István Csurka was a self-professed anti-Semite who established MIÉP (Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja/Party of Hungarian Truth and Justice) in 1993. Domonkos, I might add, wrote a biography of Csurka (Kárpátia Studió, 2012). He is on the editorial board of Trianoni Szemle (Trianon Review) and a frequent contributor to Nagy Magyarország (Greater Hungary).

Publication of the Committee on European Affairs responsible for the nomination of  Péter Szentmihályi Szabó

Publication of the Committee on European Affairs which was responsible for the nomination of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó

And finally, let me talk about an article written by Attila Ara-Kovács, a journalist and former diplomat, in Magyar Narancs where he has a regular column, “Diplomáciai jegyzet” (Diplomatic Notes). His latest piece is on Szentmihályi Szabó’s appointment. Its title is “To Rome with Love,” a reference to the Woody Allen movie of the same name.

Ara-Kovács, who is very well informed, suspects that there are serious differences of opinion over the direction of Hungarian foreign policy within Fidesz circles. The more conservative members have been worried about the worsening relationship between the Orbán government and the West. The first sign of discontent appeared in 2012 when it became clear that Orbán was taking Hungary in a direction that these conservative supporters or diplomats found injurious to the interests of the country. Turning to the East was bad enough, but when this new orientation culminated in the Putin-Orbán summit and the subsequent loan agreement, this was too much for these people who not surprisingly harbor anti-Russian sentiments from the days of the Kádár regime and are suspicious of Putin’s intentions. Then came what Ara-Kovács calls “the massacre” in the Foreign Ministry when about 200 people arrived from Tibor Navracsics’s Ministry of Administration and Justice and Péter Szijjártó’s Office of the Prime Minister. Naturally, a lot of old hands were fired to make place for the newcomers.

And now we come to the question of the source of the leak about the nomination of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó. Parliament is not in session, but the chairman of the Committee on European Affairs called the members together for an extraordinary session to discuss this particular nomination. The chairman of the committee is Richárd Hörcsik, who has been a member of parliament ever since 1990 when he belonged to the right-of-center Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF). Neither the Demokratikus Koalíció nor Együtt-PM is represented on this committee. There is one Jobbik member and two MSZP members. It turned out that both MSZP members, István Józsa ad Bertalan Tóth, were absent. Thus, the news that spread like wildfire about the committee giving its blessing to Péter Szentmihályi Szabó’s nomination must have come either from Jobbik or more likely from one of the Fidesz members of the committee. It looks as if this nomination was too much for somebody who seems to be worried about the foreign policy direction of the third Orbán government.

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Member

Bravo Eva! I always knew that your perceptive insights and tireless chronicling of Hungary’s devolution under Orban and his Fidesz/Jobbik cronies would become ever more important and influential. Keep up the superb work. All democratically minded friends of Hungary are counting on you…

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Interesting insight on the leak. Oddly (?), the Italian media don’t seem to care at all.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Edit: the new daily Pagina99 reported it online yesterday.

http://www.pagina99.it/blog/6531/Un-antisemita-a-Roma.html

Member

Antisemitism Worldwide, 2000/1 By Stephen Roth, Stephen Roth Institute http://goo.gl/ROjDzq

P.I.Hidas
Guest

It is not very clear that what happened in committee and how internal opposition manifested itself.

PetoFia
Guest

I am waiting for pal Petofi to send in his July 25th, Friday report.
I am hoping that we all, including our excellent and very sympathetic “some1”, will applaud the extraordinary contributions of the great Petofi. Let us unite in harmony, to lift the veil on the dark manipulations of the illegitimate Hungarian regime.

In the final days of the Horthy fascism, ideological extremists were running the show, murdered Jewish and liberal Christian Hungarians, looted their homes, and supported the German defense against the Soviet army by sacrificing our people and our beautiful capital, Budapest.

In the final days of the current edition of gulyas fascism, the regime is looting all available resources again, and there are daily discriminations against Jewish, Roma, and liberal targets.

What has changed? Not too much. Lies are the main tools of this crude regime, too. It has been bringing shame to conservatism and patriotism.

tappanch
Guest

The sculptor of the Nazi eagle (Reichsadler) monument promises to sue the creators of the facebook page ridiculing his work.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/P%C3%A1rk%C3%A1nyi-Raab-P%C3%A9ter-M%C5%B1v%C3%A9szoldal/1528374940715653

http://www.hvg.hu/itthon/20140725_Feljelentest_tesz_a_Szabadsag_teri_szobor

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
Gergely
Guest
In 1945 Russia succeeded to put Hungary into its orbit — with the active help of the West (Yalta). For a 1,000 years Hungary had nothing to do with Russia, except when the Russian army invaded Hungary at the behest of the Austrians in 1849, but Russia did not occupy Hungary then. But otherwise Russia was not on the radar for most Hungarians, there were minimal historic connections compared to the Ottomans or Poland or even Italy, for example. Russia or the Soviet Union is just one continuous empire in varying legal forms. The Russian politicians after 1945 have gotten used to the idea that Hungary is ‘theirs’ and they will not let Hungary get off the hook so easily, especially now that Russia is rebuilding its empire. The West may not like this scenario but Russia can afford not to care, as they have the very oil/gas on which the West depends and, needless to say, it has the nukes. Russia is now actively seeking to occupy and influence other than through outright occupation territories which Russia lost after 1990. I am willing to suspect that Russia even actively influences the public opinions and politics in the many Southern… Read more »
Bowen
Guest

I am also a bit surprised that there hasn’t been much news coverage internationally about that silly cartoon eagle that’s been installed in Szabadsag Ter. But then again, the world’s press have had much more important things to cover in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Back in 2001, a British press officer was sacked after 9/11 when she was caught saying that now was a good time to ‘bury bad news’ about the UK government’s expenses scandals. I’m pretty sure something similar is happening in Hungary right now.

And also of course, “Hungarian government does something appalling racist and anti-democratic” isn’t exactly surprising news any more.

Guest

I agree with much of Gergely’s comment re Russia, just hope that Hungary will leave/be thrown out of the EU only after I’m dead …

We might change our plans though and live in Germany continuously – but what about our young ones? Of course, if they had the chance they’d come and work in Germany or Britain or the Netherlands like many of their friends …

However “the West betraying Hungary” is not correct imho – Horthy sold Hungary to Nazi Germany and everything after that logically followed …

If Hungary hadn’t been an ally of Germany it might have found a solution similar to Austria maybe.

Guest
London Calling! Gergelyyour ‘history’ rings true – very compelling. To my complete astonishment, after the election, we met a young mother in our village near Gyor who said that she wanted to be under the protection of Russia as nobody would mess with them. Of course Gyor returned a 63% vote for Thuggesz, but I believe the village vote was much higher – and the triumphalism and sheer joy was palpable in the village shop and in the streets around. However I believe she would have voted for Jobbik. This was a young woman with two children, desperately poor, voting for her and her family’s future – believing that Russia held the key to a (prosperous?) future. What about the occupation until 1989? What about the rape of the woman – and of the country after the war? What about the wholesale transfer of machinery, food and industry to Russia – thieving? Didn’t she get any sense of what happened with the Russians in her education? Even now I can’t fathom what President Thug is doing with the Russians- as they become the new sanctioned Pariah’s, like Iran. I’m just (still!) reading a book about the history of Central Europe… Read more »
Member

Regarding tappanch’s link: even if you dnot speak Hungarin, please take a look on the photo illustration of the article. No kidding Orban, lazar or anyone form their “band” did not have the nerve to officially inaugurate this “masterwork”. They cannot afford any bad publicity any more.
http://www.hvg.hu/itthon/20140725_Feljelentest_tesz_a_Szabadsag_teri_szobor

Istvan
Guest
In relationship to Charlie’s interesting post. The best analysis of the US military of Russia can be found in “POLITICS AND ECONOMICS IN PUTIN’S RUSSIA” published by United States Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. This was written before the invasion of the Crimea, but it actually anticipates that possibility. Simply put the essays in this book depict a nationalist and expansionist Russia that must be confronted. I would say that those of us closest to the US military and intelligence services perspective don’t share Charlie’s optimism on Obama policy of economic isolation of Russia will result in regime change or reform in Russia in the long run. Putin will aggressively attack before he is critically weakened. The problem is the US military is exhausted from our occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan, we currently lack the resources to build up forces in the front line states in the Baltic and Poland. Germany has committed almost no military resources to confronting Russia as has NATO. I have little doubt that the US is providing some level of covert support to the Ukrainian military in its current offensive, just as Russia is providing to its separatist allies. Hungary’s military is a… Read more »
HiBoM
Guest

I emailed the news organisations quoted in the article myself and pleasing to see they took notice (although I hope I was just one of many who wrote to them). I suggest people keep on writing until he is withdrawn (and I am sure he will be eventually)

Bowen
Guest

It’s a bit of a circus in front of The Monument in Szabadsag Ter today. Big line of police standing by. Kids playing in the fountain. The usual candles and signs in front of the monument. Someone has put up a big EU flag and Kretakor have reinstalled their mirror blocking the view of Gabriel. Someone has put up loudspeakera blasting out Balkan party music.

It really all is ridiculous and it’s great that the statue just gets totally lost behind all this and turned into one big nonsensical joke behind its barriers and overweight security goons.

D7 Democrat
Guest

“No kidding Orban, lazar or anyone form their “band” did not have the nerve to officially inaugurate this “masterwork”.”

Unless it is 100% stage/managed Orban no longer appears at any function where he may encounter the general public never mind the risk of encountering democrats.

The reason? He is perhaps clever enough to know the reaction; it was quite interesting for me when I attended the Scorpions *Freedom* Concert in June celebrating the fall of communism. Beforehand various relevant films were shown to the crowd- when Orban’s 89 speech came on the screen, there were large boos and even more insulting for The Chief Shepherd, loud guffaws of laughter. The man himself didn’t have the balls to turn up in person.

buddy
Guest

Looks like Fidesz found a face-saving way to get out of this mess with Szentmihályi Szabó: the man now claims he doesn’t want to be an ambassador.
http://www.hvg.hu/itthon/20140725_nem_akar_nagykovet_lenni_sz_sz_p

So is this the end of this affair? Looks like it might be.

Member

Re comments by Bowen and D7 Democrat
It really makes you wonder who is voting for them?

I thin the idea that you “must protest” is a kind of lost, at least in Hungary. COF events are successful as they pay people to attend, and it is like a May Festival.
For goodness, Orban even had to pay for people to clap after his speech on March 15.
The “real protests” seem to be all organized by Jobbik or Fidesz.
Certainly many people avoid any “counter-protests” as Fidesz allowed Jobbik to install fear into people (protesters addresses are published publicly), and because Fidesz systematically intimidates those who protest against Fidesz (many people were arrested and/or id’d at Szabadsag Ter, and at the Fidesz Party Headquarters). I never seen or heard that anyone at the COF demonstrations that is paid by Fidesz been asked by police to show id.

On an other note: WHat happened to the overspending of Fidesz at the election? It was established that they broke the law, but we yet to hear anything.

gdfxx
Guest

Gergely:”To Russia’s credit and this fact does not escape the Hungarian right-wingers, Russia is indeed the sole country in the world which presently dares to stand up to the West/US (see the Snowden case when even China blinked). ”

Let’s not forget the minuscule China…

gdfxx
Guest

wolfi: “However “the West betraying Hungary” is not correct imho – Horthy sold Hungary to Nazi Germany and everything after that logically followed …

If Hungary hadn’t been an ally of Germany it might have found a solution similar to Austria maybe.”

My opinion too. Just look at Romania also, somewhat farther East than Hungary.

Member

buddy
July 25, 2014 at 11:02 am
Looks like Fidesz found a face-saving way to get out of this mess with Szentmihályi Szabó: the man now claims he doesn’t want to be an ambassador.

Right. He does not want. Not any longer. It is very unlikely that the news that they will nominate him would of get out if some document did not exist that he is interested. I think when they nominate someone, they ask the person first. What a joke. Now if only the Memorial on Szabadsag Ter could say that “I do not want to be there”, an other Fidesz problem would go away.

gdfxx
Guest

Eva:”Yes, I think that’s the end of the story. Perhaps the Italian government gave a signal to the Hungarian foreign ministry that they cannot accept SzSZ.”

I think it is the Hungarian Spectrum that ruined it for them. Congratulations!

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Bowen
Guest

@ Some 1. Bear in mind that the police are everywhere in Szabadsag Ter, actively videoing people. Essentially, if you decide to protest, then the state is watching you.

D7 Democrat
Guest

That’s one disgusting Nazi correctly despatched and an Orban humiliation into the bargain- civilized Europe (and Hungary) can still impose limits on his regime.
A good day’s work;) Prof. Balogh.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Szabó will not be ambassador. Probably the Italiens told them, they would not like to have him.
It is difficult for the PR people like Fellegi to sell Orbanistan in the USA. The fish stinks from it’s head.

HRevolForr
Guest

Good job, Hungarian Spectrum.
This exercise can repeated daily.
Let us trigger an avalanche which can sweep away the current Hungarian regim.

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