Tag Archives: parliamentary committee on national security

Is Orbán an anti-Semite? Is Putin blackmailing him? A day of charges and countercharges

The Hungarian political arena was hyperactive today, so this post will be somewhat scattershot.

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó gave a press conference, followed by his ministry’s issuance of a statement demanding the resignation of Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans for “having accused Hungary’s Prime Minister and the country’s government of anti-Semitism.” Szijjártó insisted that the present government is in fact a benefactor of Hungary’s Jewish community, which “can always count on the respect, friendship and protection of the Hungarian government.” Yet Timmermans in an interview given to Die Zeit described Viktor Orbán as “clearly anti-Semitic” for “calling George Soros a financial speculator” in the European Parliament a week ago. Szijjártó retorted that the vice president was a coward for making the “strong and furthermore unfounded accusation” in an interview instead of face-to-face with Viktor Orbán.

The fact is that the government-induced Soros-bashing that has been going on for some time uses a vocabulary that is usually reserved in Hungary for anti-Semitic discourse: speculator, financial circles, globalization, multi-national business circles, and other similar epithets. Timmermans is not the first person to suspect that the government’s constant references to professions or occupations often associated with Jews are meant to awaken anti-Semitic feelings in Hungarians.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a journalist from a German radio station who asked me whether all these attacks against Soros have something to do with his Jewish background. That was her first thought.

György Konrád, the internationally recognized Hungarian author, wrote an open letter to Viktor Orbán, whom he knew personally from the days when Orbán was a liberal, accusing him of anti-Semitism. The letter was translated into English and published in The Tablet. Bálint Magyar, the author of many books on the “mafia state,” wrote a brief note on his Facebook page a few days ago in which he reported on the results of his Google search for the following word combinations: “spekuláns-tőzsde” (stock market) (27,400), “spekuláns-zsidó” (28,700), and “spekuláns-zsidó-Soros” (18,500). Clearly, the vocabulary of the government in connection with George Soros does resonate. I did my own search on “Jewish speculators” in  Google Images. And what did I find? The portrait of George Soros accompanying an article in The Greanville Post titled “Judeo-Centrism: Myths and Mania.” According to Fakenewschecker.com, “this publication is among the most untrustworthy sources in the media.” The article is pure anti-Semitic drivel. The portrait of Soros was put up to adorn this dreadful article only three days ago. So, it’s no wonder that people are suspicious of the language used by Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian government.

The search for “Jewish speculator” produced this portrait of George Soros

Once the foreign ministry finished with Timmermans, it was time to summon Canada’s ambassador, Isabelle Poupart, for a dressing down after she expressed concern over the fate of Central European University and academic freedom in general. She added that Canada “encourages a constructive dialogue” to resolve the matter. Nowadays even such a mild statement is cause enough for an ambassador to be dragged into the foreign ministry.

And that takes me to an article written by László Palkovics and published by the conservative Canadian National Post. The original title of the piece was “Calling out Michael Ignatieff,” a phrase that appeared in Palkovics’s piece, which was subsequently changed to “Michael Ignatieff is waging a media war against my government to suit his own ambitions.” In it, Palkovics accuses Ignatieff of “hijacking academic freedom in Hungary,” a curious interpretation in view of what has been happening in Hungary in the last four or five weeks. Although his alleged aim was “to dispel Ignatieff’s myths and set the record straight once and for all,” he simply repeated the lies that we have heard from government sources all along. Ignatieff responded to Palkovics’s accusations. He began by saying that “a battle to defend academic freedom is underway in Budapest and Canadians need to know what is at stake,” and he went on to point out all the factual errors in Palkovics’s article. I wonder what the reaction of the National Post editors was when they got the news today about the Hungarian government’s treatment of the Canadian ambassador. Perhaps Palkovics’s claims were not quite true after all.

Now let’s move to a topic that has been the talk of the town for at least two weeks: Ferenc Gyurcsány’s repeated statements that he was approached by unnamed men who claim to have hard evidence of Viktor Orbán’s unlawful or perhaps criminal financial activities, which would make the prime minister the subject of blackmail. The blackmailer, according to the story, is none other than Vladimir Putin. This would explain the sudden and otherwise inexplicable change in Viktor Orbán’s foreign policy orientation. Prior to 2010, he was a fierce opponent of anything to do with Russia and Putin, but after that date he became Putin’s Trojan horse inside the European Union.

Gyurcsány gave tantalizing interviews. Every time he appeared he offered up a few more details. He indicated that although he saw the documents, they were not in his possession. But he claimed that if Orbán sued him, then those people holding the documents would be compelled to release them and testify. At one point he gave Orbán 72 hours to make a move, which of course came and went without Orbán doing anything. Many people were skeptical of Gyurcsány’s revelations in the first place, but after the Gyurcsány “ultimatum” had no results, more and more people became convinced that the story was just the figment of Gyurcsány’s imagination. After all, they said, Gyurcsány uses these kinds of tricks to call attention to himself and his party.

Since the appearance of László Botka as MSZP’s candidate to be Hungary’s next prime minister, the left-of-center parties have been fighting each other instead of Viktor Orbán and Fidesz. Botka’s bête-noire is Ferenc Gyurcsány. He declared on many occasions that Gyurcsány cannot have a political role. In brief, he would like to have the votes of Gyurcsány’s followers without Gyurcsány. Two days ago Botka in an interview decided to join forces with those who consider Gyurcsány’s revelations bogus. “Gyurcsány must leave politics if he has no proof of the Russians’ having information about financial transactions that can be connected to Fidesz and personally to Viktor Orbán.”

MSZP’s position was that the allegation was simply not credible enough to hold hearings on it in the parliamentary committee on national security. Chairman Zsolt Molnár (MSZP) decided not to call a session to discuss the matter. Bernadett Szél (LMP), also a fierce opponent of Gyurcsány, agreed. As they put it, they’re not getting involved in a political soap opera.

That was the situation until today, when Bertalan Tóth, leader of the MSZP parliamentary delegation, announced that his party will after all demand hearings on the issue. Both Viktor Orbán and Ferenc Gyurcsány, he said, will be invited to testify. Molnár added that he wants information from the civilian and military secret services as well. Gyurcsány responded promptly, saying that he would attend as long as Viktor Orbán also makes an appearance, which, let’s face it, is unlikely. However, he is willing to personally and officially hand over all information in his possession to the chairman of the committee.

Depending on the nature of the information, this development might have very serious consequences. The only thing that is not at all clear to me is why the MSZP leadership suddenly changed its mind and now supports a further probe into the issue. One possibility is that they came to the conclusion that since Orbán will not attend, Gyurcsány would also refuse to testify. In that case, it would be patently obvious that his stories were inventions. Perhaps that would ruin his political career, which would make their job of getting rid of him simple. I’m sure they were not expecting Gyurcsány to offer to share all the information he has about Orbán’s possible criminal activities. What will happen if the accusations are credible? That may improve his standing, which would not be in the interest of MSZP, whose popularity, despite Botka’s month-long campaigning, is stagnating. MSZP has embarked on a dangerous journey, and no one knows at the moment where it will end.

May 5, 2017

Skinheads here, skinheads there

Never a dull moment. Yesterday, a convicted felon was elected to serve as one of the five deputies to the president of the Hungarian parliament. An outcry followed in opposition circles, especially since Viktor Orbán himself voted for the appointment of Tamás Sneider (Jobbik). A few hours later Magyar Nemzet found a skinhead in MSZP: Zsolt Molnár, who served as chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security in the last four years and who was supposed to continue in this capacity in the new session. What a coincidence!

It was on October 23, 1992 that Hungarian TV viewers could see a rather large far-right crowd, skinheads and others, who ultimately managed to prevent President Árpád Göncz from delivering his speech on the national holiday. People were shocked at this first sign of a far-right movement in Hungary. Magyar Televizíó, the only television station in existence then, filmed the event. After they aired their report, government officials accused the producers of falsifying the event. 168 Óra, a weekly magazine, ran a long story on the demonstration decrying the appearance of neo-Nazi ideas among Hungarian youth. The magazine published several pictures to accompany the story. As it so happened, on one of the pictures was a young hooded man. He was just a high school student at the time but, according to his classmates, he was deeply interested in politics and, as they recall, he sympathized with the right. According to one old friend, he was an MDF (the government party) supporter, while another remembered that he was a follower of István Csurka. (At the time István Csurka was still a member of MDF, so the two recollections are not necessarily in conflict.) The young man was none other than Zsolt Molnár, today a very important man in MSZP.

As Zsolt Molnár recalls, he was excited that his picture appeared in such an important publication as 168 Óra. He even boasted about it to his family and friends. He made sure that there were several copies to go around. But this was an isolated incident of “fame,” followed by years of obscurity as he went to law school, worked first as a prosecutor and then as a lawyer in private practice. Ten years later, it seems, he decided that his true place was in MSZP. In 2004 he became a party member and from there on his political career was uninterrupted and hugely successful.

Molnár naturally doesn’t deny that he was present at the anti-Göncz demonstration, but he denies that he was a skinhead. His accusers claim that skinheads in those days wore hoodies–I guess to cover their bald heads–and Molnár wore one. Molnár claims that he covered his head because it was raining. I checked the weather forecast for October 23, 1992 and, yes, it was raining. In fact, it rained in Budapest for four solid days. Not only, he says, wasn’t he a skinhead; he claims that he didn’t even know any skinheads. He was only a Honvéd (Kispest) football fan; they called themselves “the Ultras.” Honvéd was Ferenc Puskás’s club, by the way. Even his former classmates deny that he had anything to do with skinheads.

Zsolt Molnár with his youthful picture and plenty of hair

Zsolt Molnár with his youthful picture and plenty of hair

The timing, as always with Fidesz, is perfect. MSZP refuses to vote for Tamás Sneider because he was a skinhead? And what about your Zsolt Molnár? He was a skinhead too.

I can’t help wondering whether the Molnár affair is the third “sin” of MSZP that Fidesz people promised to uncover. The first was the infamous Baja video and the second the Gábor Simon case. (In passing, a quick update on the latter. Since the initial flurry of  accusations and counter-accusations, there’s not been a word about the case. Gábor Simon is still in jail, but no one is interested in his case. According to his lawyer, he has been interrogated only once since his arrest on March 10, and we just learned that his infamous African passport doesn’t exist. Or, at least, it is not in the possession of the prosecution.) Is it possible that Fidesz got wind of Molnár’s picture a long time ago and just waited for the best possible moment to use this evidence? I think that’s a likely scenario. If this was indeed the third strike and if the promise of three strikes against MSZP is true, perhaps we will be spared more discoveries of MSZP “wrongdoings”–at least for awhile.

In any case, MSZP is scrambling again. Molnár has asked for another security clearance, the so-called C-type, which is the most thorough. He had already been checked out twice before and no problems were uncovered. However, even if he passes with flying colors, it might already be too late to salvage the situation. DK spokesman Zsolt Gréczy admits that Sneider’s case is a great deal more serious than Molnár’s demonstrating against President Göncz and yelling “You have lied enough!” Molnár, in his opinion, was just a misguided youngster. However, “if the Hungarian left wants to be an alternative to Fidesz, we must be consistent, which may require difficult decisions. Therefore, the Demokratikus Koalicíó thinks that Zsolt Molnár should not be the chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security.”

The opposition parties continue their squabbles. DK is taking a position against MSZP in this case, while Együtt2014-PM is outraged that MSZP joined Fidesz-KDNP, Jobbik, and LMP in nominating Sneider to the deputy-president position. Mind you, MSZP wasn’t exactly generous toward their former allies. They could have helped E14 and DK have their own parliamentary delegations, but they didn’t. Oh well, as I said, never a dull moment.