Tag Archives: Zsolt Bayer

Viktor Orbán is playing with fire with those itchy Christian palms

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Zsolt Bayer reacted to a series of demonstrations with the following threatening words: “We will also be on the streets to protect what is important and sacred for us. And we will be very angry. So, for a while you can rant and rave, you can try to tear the parliament apart, the ministries, the Fidesz headquarters, the president’s office, you can attack the policemen, assault journalists—for a while. But then no longer. Then you will experience what it feels like to be persecuted and threatened. I’m telling you we are very angry. Is it clear?” LMP’s Bernadett Szél decided to file charges against Zsolt Bayer for “public incitement.”

Bayer is not the kind of guy who, once he has a “cause,” abandons it easily. He promptly answered his critics in an article published in Magyar Idők in which he recalled all the questionable actions of socialist politicians in 2002, as if they had anything to do with the issue at hand. Then, he continued, today’s demonstrators bellow “You will hang!” “To jail!” And they attack journalists. This is what can be called “incitement,” not his answer to all these provocations, which simply states “we will also go out to the streets.” Naturally, they will be peaceful as they always were in the past. His response to the “sniveling” Bernadett Szél is that they will not create a Hungarian Maidan. “I can promise you, and you can call this promise a threat.”

Zsolt Bayer was one of the organizers of those peace marches (békemenetek) which, according to Viktor Orbán, saved him when foreign powers tried to topple his government in 2012. In the past three years or so the organizers haven’t tried to stage a mega-demonstration because the last couple of times they tried, their efforts were flops. Therefore, I consider it highly unlikely that Bayer and his friends in CÖF, the government-sponsored NGO, will try to organize a large demonstration for their beloved leader, Viktor Orbán.

On the other hand, there are groups of people who are not so “peaceful” as the older recruits of the peace marches. These less than savory characters, some from the fan club of the Ferencváros football team, have a very bad reputation when it comes to exercising physical force on the streets of Budapest and elsewhere. They were the ones who attacked the building of the Hungarian public television station in September 2006. This was the first time that Fidesz used these football hooligans for political purposes, but they also showed up on other occasions, the most notorious being the time they prevented István Nyakó (MSZP) from submitting his application for a referendum on Sunday store closings.

Bayer is not the only one who is providing ideological ammunition to these groups. A relative newcomer is a certain János Somogyi, who describes himself as a “retired lawyer” and who is a regular commentator at Magyar Idők. His opinion pieces are viciously anti-American, anti-capitalist, and anti-globalist. He is a great supporter of Vladimir Putin and everything Russian. A few weeks ago he was still a supporter of Donald Trump, but who knows what will happen if Trump doesn’t fulfill his and Orbán’s expectations. His tone is aggressive and bears an uncanny resemblance to the articles published in the communist party’s official daily newspaper, Szabad Nép, before 1956. As far as he is concerned, the demonstrators are “pitiful characters.” Most of them are only misled, though others are “provocateurs in the pay of foreign powers.” They are a nuisance, and “many of us are running out of patience.” The demonstrations are getting to a point where retaliation can be expected. In order to describe his and others’ waning patience, he used the Hungarian equivalent of the word for a carnival strength tester, the high striker– “pofozógép,” punching machine. Actually, he uses the word “pofonosláda” (punching box), which I couldn’t find in the Magyar Értelmező Szótár. But what is important is the word “pofozó” or “pofonos”(punching, slapping) because, as we will see, János Somogyi’s inspiration for dredging up such a rarely used Hungarian word came from none other than Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary.

Three days before Somogyi’s article about the punching machine/box Viktor Orbán gave an interview to Kossuth Rádió’s Vasárnapi Újság. It was during this interview, while discussing the demonstrations, that Orbán talked about people’s hankering to strike out. The reporter, Katalin Nagy, told Orbán that some well-known provocateurs were planning to disturb the Easter procession around the Basilica. Although she is a “peaceful Calvinist,” hearing about such a barbarity was like a punch in the gut. How long must one endure all this, she asked. It was at that point that Orbán said that “many people’s palms are itching. Even the palms of those who otherwise are peaceful and upright Christians.” As I explained in an earlier post, an itchy palm for Orbán means a yen to hit someone or slap someone around.

And that takes us back to a bunch of skinheads and football hooligans who already made a brief appearance at one of the demonstrations but were soon removed by police. Now, these people are organizing a counter-demonstration, scheduled for tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. in “downtown Budapest :)” (I keep wondering what this smiley really means.) The organizers got a lot of requests for such a demonstration because people are fed up with the pseudo-civilians, George Soros, CEU (which is a janissary school), and with the demonstrations in general, which in their opinion are a combination of a pre-Pride march and Woodstock. They don’t want see either an Arab Spring or a Ukrainian Maidan in Hungary. They don’t want an army under the EU flag to influence Hungary’s domestic affairs. “Let’s retake the streets, so Hungary and Budapest can again belong to Hungarians.” Retaking the streets of Budapest sounds pretty frightening to me. The last time I looked, 226 people had indicated that they would attend and 674 are interested.

Tamás Poszpischek, organizer of the demonstration to retake the streets of Budapest

Who will take responsibility for the itchy palms of these good Christians? The extremist organizers, already at the Sunday demonstration, got into a heated discussion with some of the protesters while abusing Soros and Jews in general. Five or six people posed no threat then, but what if several hundred gather tomorrow in “downtown Budapest” for a “medicinal walk”?

Mária M. Kovács, a history professor at CEU, wrote about the itchy palms of good Christians on her Facebook page: “If István Bethlen in 1928 had said that the palms of the Christians are itching, there would have been a national scandal. The parliamentary opposition would have screamed, newspapers would have carried the news on their front pages, and most likely there would have been fist fights at the universities. But István Bethlen didn’t say such a thing.” Yes, this is how far Viktor Orbán has moved to the right. With his coded anti-Semitic remarks that no one even notices, the prime minister himself is leading the troops toward a possible physical confrontation.

April 21, 2017

Viktor Orbán’s plans foiled: The U.S. government won’t negotiate

Today Viktor Orbán named Kristóf Altusz, deputy undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to be the prime minister’s representative at the forthcoming “diplomatic negotiations” concerning the status of the “international universities” in Hungary. Considering that, among the international universities, only CEU’s status is being attacked, that would leave Altusz with a single task: to conduct “diplomatic negotiations” with the government of the United States. There is, however, a serious hitch here. Almost simultaneously with the announcement of Altusz’s new job, Hoyt Brian Yee, deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department, announced in Budapest that any negotiations that might take place in the future will have to be between the Hungarian government and the administration of Central European University. The U.S. government is not going to negotiate with the Hungarian government over the fate of CEU.

Assistant Secretary Yee was generous with his time and gave interviews to Index, Magyar Nemzet, and Magyar Idők. The first two are already available online, but I assume Magyar Idők is still contemplating how to package Yee’s messages for its faithful readers. Yee’s first message was that the Trump administration “fully supports” the university, which the Orbán government might not have expected. The second was equally important. He told Index that “although [he] can’t speak on behalf of the Hungarian government, [he] thinks, on the basis of his conversations, that they understand what is at stake.”

Yee’s claim that the university is “the success story of the partnership between Hungary and the United States” was a somewhat more subtle reference to the importance of the issue. Equally pointed was his claim that Budapest was chosen as the venue for CEU because, at the time of the founding of the university (1992), there was great hope that “this city might be the leader of the whole region’s development and that Hungary as a democratic, prosperous, successful country will be the model for others.” For many years that was actually the case, and now “the challenge is to keep this dynamic alive or, in other words, the city, the country should stand up for democracy, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of education.” The message here: the demonstrations are performing a vital task in defense of the future of Hungary.

While government officials behind closed doors are contemplating how to get out of a sticky situation, Fidesz’s radical right has been hard at work. István Lovas, whose favorite pastime is reading Sputnik News from cover to cover, charged that George Soros is trying to make sure that Viktor Orbán’s name will be on the list of dictators. He quoted Sputnik News: “the representatives of the [Hungarian] government believe that his fund receives money for ‘serving the interests of global capitalists’ which contradicts with [sic] Hungary’s national interests.” Lovas also quoted the Daily Caller, which claims that “leaked documents” from Soros’s Open Society Foundations reveal how Soros works “to defeat populist candidates and movements in Europe.” Naturally, Soros uses “a network of nonprofits and partner organizations across Europe to try and affect the outcomes in foreign countries.” And, in a longer piece written for Magyar Hírlap, Lovas tore into Donald Trump, who, he said, committed a war crime by ordering an airstrike after the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces. That piece of writing inspired a short note by Zsolt Bayer, the viciously anti-Semitic friend of Viktor Orbán who only recently received a high state decoration. He republished Lovas’s article, to which he added:

We are republishing here an important article by my friend István because, after reading it, it becomes clear why the U.S. State Department is sending thunderous warnings to the Hungarian government on account of CEU.

Why? Because in the U.S. State Department the old guard still serves, and there (also) Soros is the boss.

Let’s hope this will change very soon.

We can also point out that very soon we will also be on the streets to protect what is important and sacred for us. And we will be very angry. So, for a while you can rant and rave, you can try to tear the parliament apart, the ministries, the Fidesz headquarters, the president’s office, you can attack the policemen, assault journalists—for a while.

But then no longer.

Then you will experience what it feels like to be persecuted and threatened.

I’m telling you we are very angry. Is it clear?

Keep in mind that up to this point the demonstrations have been peaceful, and let’s hope they will remain so. But no one can guarantee that the protesters will remain patient and disciplined, especially in light of the government propaganda against their efforts, especially the cruder type that was the brainchild of Árpád Habony, Viktor Orbán’s mysterious adviser. They come out with “fake news” that even Donald Trump’s favorite rags would be proud of. For example, they said that George Soros personally paid for airline tickets for people all over the world to attend the rally in Budapest. And the propaganda tabloid 888.hu came up with headlines like “Soros’s men employ anarchists.” People, especially those who were among the 80,000 who demonstrated on Sunday, do get annoyed when they think the Hungarian government and its media take them for fools.

In closing, I would like to call attention to an article written by Péter Pető, formerly deputy editor-in-chief of Népszabadság and now managing editor of 24.hu. The piece was written after a few hundred demonstrators spontaneously gathered in front of Sándor Palace, the office of the president, after János Áder signed the bill into law. They threw white tulips that had been growing in front of the building at the police. The title was “Rebels with white tulips send a message to Orbán: Anything can happen.” Indeed. Anything can happen.

April 11, 2017

The moral and financial cost of the Hungarian hate campaign

Today Publicus Intézet came out with another poll indicating that most likely fewer than 4,136,313 people, the number necessary to have a valid referendum, will cast their votes for a meaningless question on “compulsory” migrant quotas that would allegedly mean the eventual forcible settlement of tens of thousands of refugees in Hungary against the will of its inhabitants. Publicus conducted two polls a week apart. The one released today shows 8% fewer people intend to participate in the referendum than a week ago.

What would the fate of Hungary be if the people don’t support the government in its heroic efforts to save Hungary and Christian Europe from the Muslim hordes? Zsolt Bayer, in an opinion piece today, describes the dire consequences of population explosion in Africa and Asia and Europe’s significant population loss in the past and most likely in the future. “We, the European natives, European white people” are threatened. What is waiting for Europeans is “complete annihilation.” It is just a question of time before “European, Christian, white civilization will disappear forever.” Perhaps Europe, the continent Bayer imagines, already no longer exists because if one goes to Vienna, Munich, Rome, Naples one can only weep. “Go to the steps of Sacré Coeur where blacks who overrun everything sell their junk….  Our gorgeous Europe of yesteryear can today be found only in Prague, Cracow, Warsaw, Bratislava, Kosice, Sopron and Eger. Because we are Europe today. Europe was driven back to the despised, ridiculed, vilified Central Europe. This is the Europe we must defend. At any price.”

This racist rant is what is pounded into the heads of Hungarian adults and children. Viktor Orbán shamelessly announced the other day that without his government’s heroic efforts to keep the refugees out of Hungary Europe would have fallen already. He has already spent incredible sums on building fences along the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian borders and employs 10,000 soldiers and policemen to guard them. In addition, in the last half a year he has spent a fortune on a hate campaign against the “migrants.” But, if we are to believe Bayer, when it comes to the defense of white Europe price doesn’t matter. So, let’s see just how much money Orbán has spent on the lead-up to this meaningless referendum.

The invasion of Europe according to Fidesz propaganda

The invasion of Europe according to Fidesz propaganda

According to estimates by atlatszo.hu, an NGO devoted to unearthing corruption and political wrongdoing, the Hungarian government so far has spent 15 billion forints or €48.6 million on this hate-filled campaign in a country of 9.9 million inhabitants. That is more than the €42.7 spent on both sides (stay and leave) of the Brexit campaign, where the organizers had to reach 64.1 million people. So the Hungarian government spent €5.00 per person on its single-sided campaign while the Brits spent only €0.66. Atlatszo.hu thus concludes that the Hungarian campaign cost the taxpayers 7.3 times more than the British campaigns did.

There is another way at looking at the numbers. The Hungarian government estimated that the upkeep of one refugee for a year would cost 1.56 million forints or €4,705 but the generous EU promised €6,000 instead.  If we divide the €48.6 million spent on the campaign by the 1,294 refugees Hungary would have been obliged to take, we arrive at the incredible figure of €37,642 per person. Or, in other words, about 7.5 years of their maintenance was spent on billboards, posters, and pamphlets filled with fear-mongering and incitement against the refugees, much of which went to loyal Fidesz oligarchs.

The greatest calamity of course is not the money spent but the damage done to the soul of the Hungarian people. A year ago, when refugees were pouring into the country, between 7,000 and 8,000 a day, anti-refugee sentiment was relatively moderate, somewhere between 45% and 55%. Today this figure is close to 85%-90%. It is heartbreaking to hear that schoolchildren call each other “migrants” as a pejorative term. One nine-year-old asked his mother whether he could carry a pocket knife when the migrants come. And a little girl who couldn’t even pronounce the word “migráns” envisaged being killed when they arrive in Hungary.

Here are some bizarre official and semi-official pronouncements on the refugee question. A well-known rock star claimed that “it’s 1,000% sure that they will rape all the women. They came here to occupy this land but they don’t want to work. I will not dare to let my children and grandchildren outside.” The deputy prime minister, Zsolt Semjén, came out with this brilliant observation: “If we make a mistake now it can never be remedied. If many hundreds of thousands of Muslims come here we will never be able to get rid of them, and our children will attend school with girls with hijabs and we will have to live under the threat of Sharia law.” In Nógrád County an organization sent out a short message that said “we hold on to our pork, good wine, and a little pálinka,” which naturally are threatened by the migrants.

I don’t know how long it will take to undo the damage Viktor Orbán’s political ambitions have inflicted on the country. I’m afraid it may take decades, especially if this man is allowed to continue his dictatorial rule for many more years.

October 1, 2016

Hatemongers in their own words

With three weeks to go until the Hungarian referendum on refugees, the government campaign has intensified. A host of politicians and government officials, from ordinary backbenchers to the president of the country, the president of the parliament, and all the cabinet ministers, have been mobilized to spread fear of the “migrants” at town meetings. Members of the pro-government media have also been enlisted to support the government’s efforts to achieve a valid, successful referendum, which allegedly would thwart the plans of the European Commission to foist masses of unwanted people of an alien culture on Hungary. And Viktor Orbán is ready to employ the basest instruments of coercion, including blackmail.

Let’s start with his speech at the opening session of parliament on September 12. After accusing the European Union of planning to relocate “migrants” to cities under socialist leadership, he warned local politicians that “it will be decided [by this referendum] whether there will be and, if yes, where the migrant settlements will be, so [local leaders] should watch out and make sure that large numbers of people go and vote.” He added that if the local politicians don’t like this message, they shouldn’t blame him because he is only relating the words of Martin Schulz. Of course, this is not at all what Schulz said when he visited Szeged in March, one of the few socialist strongholds in Hungary. He simply said in an interview with Stern after his return from Hungary that there are places in the country which, unlike the Hungarian government, do not reject migrants. He brought up Szeged as an example of a city where “any migrant would be safe to go.” But then came an op-ed piece in the right-wing Magyar Hírlap by Ottó Nagy, who charged that László Botka, the socialist mayor of Szeged, had made a secret pact with Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, promising them that if and when he becomes prime minister he will accommodate migrants in Szeged.

Orbán emphasized that this nationwide referendum is also thousands of local referendums, meaning that the government will judge each city, town, and village according to the outcome of the referendum. If they don’t manage to turn out the (correct) vote, they will see what will happen to them. In plain English, he is blackmailing local leaders, who in turn will most likely blackmail the inhabitants, who already fear the migrants more than the devil himself. The word is spreading: if you don’t go and vote “no” or if there are too many spoiled ballots, your city, town, or village will have thousands of migrants who will rape your girls and blow up your churches.

Not surprisingly, local governments with left or liberal leaderships were outraged, especially because the story was immediately picked up by the pro-government media. Even Fidesz mayors found it too bizarre for words. Others, often Fidesz-supported independents, objected to the pressure coming from Fidesz to add their names to the government’s locally distributed campaign literature.

I’ve already written about the pressure being applied to the Roma population, who are told that if Hungary has to admit refugees they will be deprived of government assistance. In the first place, by now there is hardly any government assistance given to anyone. Most unemployed Roma do public work for a meager salary. So, that is an idle threat. But what is a serious matter is that their eligibility for public work is determined by the mayors, who can easily pressure the local Roma to make sure they vote the right way. Otherwise, no public work. As usual, the Orbán government found its man, Attila Lakatos, the Gypsy “vajda,” a kind of leader-judge within the community, who was willing to put out the call to his fellow Gypsies “to defend our children, families, work, and the country in which we live.” He is convinced that if the “immigrants come here we will have to worry about our daughters, wives, and children because they will be unsafe.” Soon enough a number of anti-government Roma mayors got together to reject the government’s hate campaign, but I’m afraid their voices will be drowned out in the din of government propaganda reaching the majority of the Roma population.

Among the journalists of the pro-government media Zsolt Bayer is the most popular. Every locality wants him to deliver one of his inspirational lectures. His first stop was in Kecskemét, the city where Mercedes-Benz has its plant. Ironically, he delivered his hate-filled speech in the auditorium of the Piarist high school. The place was filled to the brim with people who greeted him with extended applause. After delivering the government’s favorite conspiracy theories about the forces behind the recent migration, his parting words were: “Those who don’t go and vote or who vote “yes” are traitors who cannot be called Hungarian.”

hate

Bayer’s fellow extreme right-wing journalist, András Bencsik, editor-in-chief of Demokrata, a far-right weekly, is another important spokesman for the government. Bencsik’s paper is not a Jobbik publication, though you would never know it by reading the articles published there. Bencsik and his staff are steadfast supporters of the Orbán government and Fidesz. He, alongside Bayer, was one the chief organizers of the Peace Marches staged in defense of Viktor Orbán, whom foreign governments allegedly wanted to remove from power. The marches, which were supposed to be spontaneous affairs, turned out to be government-sponsored, government-organized demonstrations to which thousands of people were bused from all over the country. Viktor Orbán was extremely grateful. He later claimed that without the organizers he would have been unceremoniously ousted. Bayer, Bencsik, and a few others saved him. So, we are talking here about an important Fidesz and Viktor Orbán supporter.

Bencsik wrote an op-ed piece titled “Where shall we put them?” He begins by explaining that if the referendum is valid and successful, there is a good likelihood that regardless of how much the Brussels bureaucrats “resort to subterfuges, they cannot disregard the highest expression of popular sovereignty.” So then the migrants will not be coming to Hungary.

But what if there is not a sufficient number of votes and the referendum is not valid? We will find ourselves in an interesting situation. According to the plans of the Union’s bureaucrats, in the first round Hungary will have to settle 13,000 people, but they have already put forward another proposal which doesn’t specify an upper limit. So, if the referendum is not valid and the judges in Strasbourg [where Hungary attacked the decision of the settlement of the 1,294 migrants] decide against us, then whether we like it or not, the migrants will be coming. Yearly at least 13,000.

How will they be divided among 3,000 Hungarian localities? These people cannot be locked up in camps because they are citizens of the Union. Clearly, they will be dispersed according to how the people in each locality voted. The towns where many people went to vote and the ratio of “nays” was high may not receive one single migrant or perhaps only a few. But where this question was not important enough for the inhabitants and they didn’t bother to answer the referendum question, in those places surely the people will not mind the arrival of happy Muslim families. There will be plenty of them.

In those towns the girls will not go out after dark. Or, if they do, they will have to be followed by three male members of the family with pitchforks in hand. Girls will not go to discos; they will not bicycle in shorts; they will not leave the house on New Year’s Eve. They will celebrate the new year in the cellar; they will not dare go to the swimming pool, but if they do, they will not wear a bathing suit. Young boys will not walk alone on the street because, after all, it is a different cultural milieu and one never knows.

All this is no joke but is taken from daily occurrences in Western Europe. There will be parts of towns where first at night, but later even during daytime it will not be advisable for a Hungarian to enter. And in time there will be explosions, assassinations, constant tension, jitteriness, and so on.

This is what’s at stake in the referendum that will take place in three weeks. Either Europe will be the victim of forcible change of epic proportions and a thousand-year-old civilization will irretrievably fade away or Europe will resist the pressure and defend itself.

This is a typical anti-refugee message of the Orbán government. It is one thing to read in general about the intensity of Hungarian government propaganda and an entirely different thing to be confronted with an example of the message the Orbán propagandists have been delivering for well over a year. Whipping up hatred day in and day out on state television and radio, even during the Olympic Games, the government has succeeded in gripping the population in a state of mass hysteria. And the effects of this indoctrination will not disappear after the referendum. They will linger for many years to come, reinforcing and amplifying an already lamentable Hungarian xenophobia.

September 18, 2016

The Orbán government under fire

Viktor Orbán was named “Man of the Year” at the Economic Forum held in the Polish city of Krynica. He was chosen from a list of dignitaries, politicians, and scholars that included Pope Francis, but the devout Polish Catholics preferred the herald of hate over the messenger of love. They can be proud of themselves.

Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) and the strong man behind the Polish government led by Beata Szydło, and Orbán Viktor declared a “cultural counterrevolution” in the European Union. While, earlier, the former Soviet satellite countries had tried to make up for the time lost in the deadly embrace of Moscow, the Visegrád 4 countries discovered that their backwardness is in fact an asset. They have set out to spread the gospel of a better Europe across the Continent. As Orbán put it, “the European dream moved to Central Europe.” It seems that they would like to remake Europe in their own image.

As The Financial Times editorial argues, this “cultural counterrevolution” stands against the tolerance, human rights, and liberal democratic values that are the cornerstones of European culture. Their attempt to create an axis against the rest of the EU is a dangerous game and an immoral one as well because they are using the difficulties the Union is currently facing to their own selfish political ends. In addition, wittingly or unwittingly they are serving Vladimir Putin’s mission to extend Russian influence westward.

While the Visegrád 4 countries are proud of their firm stand on the refugee issue, others are horrified at the inhumane treatment of the refugees by the Hungarian authorities and at the East European countries’ unwillingness to cooperate in trying to find a solution to the problem at hand. One of these people is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who delivered a speech at a gala in The Hague on Monday:

I wish to address this short statement to Mr. Geert Wilders, his acolytes, indeed to all those like him—the populists, demagogues and political fantasists…. What Mr. Wilders shares in common with Mr. Trump, Mr. Orban, Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hofer, Mr. Fico, Madame Le Pen, Mr. Farage, he also shares with Da’esh. All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion – living peacefully in isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence and war. A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever. Europe’s past, as we all know, was for centuries anything but that.

The proposition of recovering a supposedly perfect past is fiction; its merchants are cheats. Clever cheats….

History has perhaps taught Mr. Wilders and his ilk how effectively xenophobia and bigotry can be weaponized. Communities will barricade themselves into fearful, hostile camps, with populists like them, and the extremists, as the commandants. The atmosphere will become thick with hate; at this point it can descend rapidly into colossal violence….

Do not, my friends, be led by the deceiver. It is only by pursuing the entire truth, and acting wisely, that humanity can ever survive. So draw the line and speak. Speak out and up, speak the truth and do so compassionately, speak for your children, for those you care about, for the rights of all, and be sure to say clearly: stop! We will not be bullied by you the bully, nor fooled by you the deceiver, not again, no more; because we, not you, will steer our collective fate. And we, not you, will write and sculpt this coming century. Draw the line!

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó responded promptly, accusing Zeid bin Ra’ad of “half-truths and lies” with which he tries to manipulate public opinion. “Because of these pronouncements he has become unfit to fill any position at the United Nations. He has completely ruined the reputation of the office of high commissioner for refugees.” The problem is that Zeid bin Ra’ad is the high commissioner for human rights and not refugees. Our instant diplomat still has a lot to learn.

populism2

Zsolt Bayer also noticed that this gentleman with a strange-sounding name said something unflattering about Hungary’s great prime minister and so attacked him in an article in his series “Intolerable.” After describing the horrors of the Islamic State, Bayer expressed his outrage that Zeid bin Ra’ad compared populists like Trump or Orbán to this terrorist organization. With this speech “the Jordanian prince demonstrated that, despite being a prince, he has not as much dignity as a pig, in addition to being as stupid and thick as a slop bucket.” There can be another explanation according to Bayer: “Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights of the United Nations, is a paid agent of the Islamic State. So, he is not a stupid pig but an ignominious, abject traitor, a miscreant who sold his conscience for money. By and large these are the two possibilities.”

Zeid bin Ra’ad’s speech wasn’t the end of the criticism of Hungary coming from the United Nations. Yesterday the UN held a High-Level Forum on Antisemitism where U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power delivered a speech. She spent a considerable amount of time on Hungary as an example of a country where public outcry against anti-Semitism has borne fruit. Hungarian papers described the length of the time Power spent on Hungary as 1.5 pages out of 4. Actually, it was more than that. Of the 2,225-word speech 935 were devoted to the Hungarian situation. Here are the relevant parts of the speech:

This brings me to the third challenge I want to highlight today. We must underscore the fact that antisemitism poses a threat not only to Jews, but to the principles of pluralism, diversity, and the fundamental freedoms that we hold most dear. Time and again throughout history, we have seen that when the human rights of Jews are violated, the rights of others are not far behind. This is true in the case of individuals – as we have seen how the people who troll Jewish journalists and disseminate antisemitic memes on social media also routinely target minority groups such as immigrants and, increasingly, refugees.

It is also true for governments. Consider the case of Hungary, where in 2015, a foundation planned to build a statue honoring Balint Homan, a government minister who championed antisemitic laws in the thirties and who, in the forties, called for the deportation of Hungarian Jews, an estimated 420,000 of whom were murdered in Auschwitz and other camps. And just last month, the Hungarian government bestowed one of its highest honors on Zsolt Bayer, a virulently antisemitic columnist. These actions have occurred against a backdrop of growing antisemitism in the country, reflected in part by the rise of the extreme ethnic nationalist Jobbik party, which refers to the Holocaust as the “Holoscam.”

In addition to being profoundly alarming in and of itself, this growing antisemitism has gone hand in hand with rising xenophobia and other forms of bigotry. Hungary’s prime minister has openly declared his desire “to keep Europe Christian” by barring Muslim refugees who come seeking sanctuary from mass atrocities and persecution, and he’s fanned popular fears by claiming that all terrorists in Europe are migrants. And both Homan in the thirties and forties – and Bayer in recent decades – mixed their antisemitism with the hatred of other minorities; Bayer once wrote of the Roma, “These animals shouldn’t be allowed to exist.”

Yet from Hungary we can also draw important lessons about how to effectively push back against antisemitism – and it is with this point that I wish to conclude. The planned statue to Balint Homan was never erected. A widespread coalition of Hungarian and international organizations, faith leaders, and governments came together to signal their opposition – persuading the Hungarian government to withdraw its support. I’m proud that American civil society organizations and government officials were part of this effort – including many of you here in civil society, and including U.S. Envoy for Combatting and Monitoring Antisemitism and the U.S. Envoy for Holocaust Issues, both of whom are also here with us today. Their engagement is one of the many reasons we continue to urge other countries to create a ranking position for monitoring and combating antisemitism within their own governments. But these envoys were far from the only U.S. government officials involved in the effort; as President Obama said recently, our government made clear that the statue was, “not a side note to our relations with Hungary – this was central to maintaining a good relationship with the United States.”

And while the Hungarian government may have given an award to Zsolt Bayer, organizations, civil society groups, and governments have rightly expressed their disapproval and dismay. So have more than 100 individuals who have received honors over the years from the Hungarian government – including some of the country’s most renowned economists, historians, politicians, poets, filmmakers, and scientists – who have returned their awards in protest.

Let me close, then, by reading from a few of the statements that they gave upon returning their awards.

Former parliamentary commissioner for the rights of national and ethnic minorities Jenő Kaltenbach wrote: “With this you rendered dishonorable and unacceptable both the award itself and the one bestowing it. How you hold yourself to account for this is your business. How I choose to live with this is mine.”

András Heisler, the president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, wrote: “I value diversity, not destructive extremism. As a civil activist I received the award, and as a responsible Hungarian citizen I am returning it.”

City mayor Tamás Wittinghof simply posted a picture of his award on Facebook with the caption: “Now we say goodbye to each other.”

And Hungarian-American Katrina Lantos Swett, who many of you know, who had received her award for setting up an organization in Budapest to defend minority rights, said she could not share an award with a man who “deserves censure, not honor, for his loathsome writings and speech.” Katrina named the rights organization she founded after her father – Tom Lantos – the only Holocaust survivor to have served in the U.S. Congress, and a lifelong champion of human rights.

These efforts – which I find very moving – show us that when governments are willing to stand up and speak out in the face of antisemitism, rather than stand by, even hatemongers take notice. And when civil society groups and citizens partner in these efforts – and make clear that such hatred poses a threat not only to Jews, but to the pluralism, rights, and freedoms that we hold as sacred – these efforts are exceptionally more effective.

Imagine, for just a moment, how much violence – against Jews and other minorities – might have been avoided if similar efforts had been undertaken in the past. Imagine all of the hatred and suffering that we can prevent if we come together in such an effort today.

The last time I checked, no government response had been posted. A couple of independent media outlets reported on the speech, which elicited mostly hateful comments. Some commenters believe that Power is totally ignorant of what’s going on in Hungary despite her flawless description of the Hóman and Bayer cases. Others think that Jews and/or members of the domestic opposition are behind Power. Some go as far as to say that Jewish complaints usually follow a brilliant Hungarian move, so they should rejoice. And, of course, there are those who think that the United States has no business whatsoever poking its nose into Hungary’s affairs.

I assume Szijjártó will issue an official response shortly, and I can hardly wait for Bayer’s comments.

September 8, 2016

Mária Schmidt’s “Israelification of Europe” and Mária M. Kovács’s review

Well-known pro-government “intellectuals” often create blogs on which they write articles paid for by the Orbán government. Mária Schmidt, by contrast, offers her services gratis. She doesn’t need the few thousand forints the Orbán government coughs up. She is a wealthy woman who got even richer thanks to the good offices of the current administration.

On her blog, “Látószög” (Viewing Angle), she and a handful of other people post regularly. She herself writes at least one article a month, sometimes two. Her August piece is devoted to her favorite topic of late, Islam’s threat to Europe. The title of her article is “Israelification of Europe.”

Budapest Sentinel translated the full article, for which I’m most grateful because it has stirred up quite a controversy. I’m reprinting it below.

♦ ♦ ♦

Mária M. Kovács, history professor at Central European University, wrote a short article about this Schmidt piece with the ironic title: “The Bayerization of Israelization.” A year ago an article appeared in The Times of Israel by Emmanuel Heymann, a young Israeli who has written extensively on international relations, titled “The Israelization of Europe is under way.” In it he talks about waves of Muslim immigrants who “have enriched old Europe and positively transformed European societies.” But this immigration “also brought with it new challenges, most notably in integration and assimilation.” Religious enclaves in larger European cities have sprung up and many of the newcomers don’t feel part of their adopted countries. In addition, terrorism has reached the European continent and there are security concerns. Israel has had to face similar challenges throughout its existence. Perhaps now that radical Islam has reached Europe, Europeans will have more sympathy for Israel’s handling of its own problems. Israel and Europe share similar values, the values of liberal democracy, and Europe will also have to recognize that these values are incompatible with the “totalitarian political ideology of Islam.”

Mária Schmidt’s “Israelization of Europe” sends a very different message. Her Europe, as Mária M. Kovács aptly describes it, “is Zsolt Bayer’s frightening, dehumanized world full of demons.” In this world everybody is threatened by foreigners, people of other races and religions. No individuals exist in this world, only groups. And every group is homogeneous, with a common goal and common will.

Not only are the alien groups homogeneous; “the political leaders and members of the intellectual elite are also uniform.” In her view, the “whole European mainstream is made up of aberrant and mentally ill people who are so stupid that they can barely wait to be enslaved.” They want to “become victims” in order to escape from the guilt they feel for Europe’s past.

For years Zsolt Bayer has been saying almost the same thing. In Bayer’s Europe events are directed by conspirators. Immigrants who want to conquer Europe and all the European politicians, churchmen, and intellectuals who don’t share Bayer’s and Schmidt’s worldview are in effect collaborators.

“The Europe of Heymann and Schmidt don’t resemble one another. Heymann’s Europe is multi-faceted and able to handle political debate. Bayer’s and Schmidt’s Europe is led by sick, aberrant people with whom one shouldn’t, in fact mustn’t, find consensus. For Heymann the foundation of mutual understanding are the principles of liberal democracy. For Schmidt liberal democracy cannot be the foundation of understanding and empathy. The ideas of Heymann become an inexorable attack in Schmidt’s hands. She turns Heymann’s call inside out and attacks the very European and Israeli values in whose defense Heymann wrote.”

♦♦♦

Revisionist historian Mária Schmidt warns of the “Israelification of Europe”

Schmidt Maria3

“If people living in a given area are unable to defend their lands, they are going to lose them. Meanwhile they are forced to share their acquired and accumulated possessions with the invited or uninvited settlers, which leads to calculable social tensions. Because every community exists by the grace of its borders, and works by distinguishing between insiders and outsiders.” – Mária Schmidt, historian

Translation of Terror House director Mária Schmidt’s op-ed piece “The Israelization of Europe” posted by Látószög (Viewing Angle) on August 26th, 2016.

“If we want to be generous, we need borders.” – Paul Sheffer

When I first traveled in Israel, before the first intifada, in spite of being a blonde woman I walked alone in Jerusalem’s old town. Later, as I visited every ten years, I noticed that everyday life there became more tense, and the feeling of safety came to be in short supply. The little bus we took six years ago with friends and family for excursions in the Holy Land was stopped every 500 meters by soldiers who came on board and inspected it. The horrific security procedures at their airports have already become normal in other parts of the world. In spite of how painful it might have been for Jews who had broken out behind the closed walls of the ghetto, they had no choice but to encircle the territory of Palestine with border walls in hopes of controlling and identifying terrorists, whose ingenuity and determination grow day by day. Those who take Israeli lives with knives, with swords, with bombs, with guns. Those Muslim fanatics, who don’t value worldly life, and who believe their acts of evil to be tickets to paradise.

We are on the road to the Israelization of Europe. This is clear by now to everyone except the left-liberal elite. How and why are they anesthetizing themselves? How much will they give up to show that they are carefree, acting in good faith, and “humane”? We’ve already learned that no one is stupid for free, especially those who are used to getting paid handsomely for it. (It’s not an accident that Gerard Schröder became a lobbyist for Gazprom after he had signed an enormous contract with the company as Chancellor. It wasn’t an accident that Barroso ended up at Goldman Sachs after he had shown that he was sympathetic to their problems during the 2008 financial crisis. Tony Blair, the Clintons, the Bidens, the Kerrys, etc., all receive millions of dollars for their services as lobbyists, advisers, lecturers, or from the mandates of their sons and relatives.) I wouldn’t be surprised if in time we receive news of a new “accommodations” where one of our current “migrant-lovers” ends up in the services of Soros, or some Saudi company.

But until then let’s look a bit more thoroughly at exactly what we’re facing. Let’s try to answer the following question: Why has the West, so ashamed of its past, so effortlessly glided over Muslim colonization of a significant part of Europe which has for centuries meant threat, invasion, and the loss of millions of lives? Hungary lived for 150 years under Turkish rule, which hindered development and led to a demographic catastrophe (of 4.5 million Hungarians, only 1.5 million remained by the end of the Turkish occupation, many of which were slaves) which had to be remedied with the mass settlement here of foreign ethnicities. Spain, southern France and the Balkans were under Muslim domination for centuries. Because Islam, when it could and can, and where it could and can, came and comes as a conqueror.

“Every virtue, if taken too far, becomes immoral.” – Bernhard Vogel

Islam is one of the world’s religions. Its followers are found in every part of the world. In many places theocracy is operating at the same time as secular power. Elsewhere, following the principle of separation of church and state, they focus on moral and religious questions. In its past and present, the same kinds of acceptable and unacceptable elements are found in Islam as are found in Christianity. Why is it that Christianity has for decades been in the crosshairs of criticism, and recently on a daily basis is exposed to attacks by the advanced West, while, according to these same critics, it wouldn’t be suitable and in fact isn’t permitted to criticize Islam? In its disorientation of the late ’60s and early ’70s, the Western left-liberal intellectual elite found a new object of adoration in the Third World. They came across the Palestinians, and took them, and the whole region and Islam with them, into their patronage. They compensate with condescension their turning of a blind eye to the qualities of Islam which the Western world would not tolerate, and thus don’t consider them equal parties. This all means in practice that they use a double standard. The first is maintained for the European left, which considering the sinful nature of communism, sympathizes with all manifestations of left-wing terrorism. The other is for the “exploited” and “oppressed” Third World, where for them the denial of equal rights before the law for women and sexual minorities is no problem, nor are acts of terrorism as political pressure. This standard the other side of the political spectrum imposes on us and institutionalizes with incessant intellectual carpet bombing.

The Western elite is convinced that the turban-wearers and burnoose or robe-wearers’ minds are not developed, and that Muslims are reliant on their patronage, for which they expect gratitude. They do not presume that Muslims think in long-term strategies, and that they thoroughly plan and precisely implement their steps. The occupation of Europe is an old project of theirs, the implementation of which is launched through excessive demographic relocation, placing ideological pressure on the shoulders of the West with their conscious and aggressive political and economic power, and above all, with the threat of turning off the oil tap. They buy weapons from the West which they use against each other and against the West, and they buy cutting-edge Western technology while flooding Western cities with migrants. They use a part of this migrant community as a fifth column, as hidden terrorist cells, as pressure points, and as a political “ace-in-the-hole.” Whenever and for whatever they need to. Western progressive intellectuals are truly playing the role again of the useful idiot, as they were in service of the goals of Lenin, Stalin and Mao. If in anything, in this they are practiced.

In Hungary in 2013, 19 thousand asylum-seekers were registered. In 2014 their numbers grew to 43 thousand, and last year to 177 thousand. The numbers speak for themselves. And we aren’t even a migration destination country!

This kind of large, quickly expanding foreign community with a different culture, different language and different religion is impossible to integrate. It wouldn’t succeed even if they weren’t arriving with instructions and intentions to demand their own schools, and churches, and separate cemeteries, and ritual butchers, and community centers, so that they can keep and care for their own customs and live uninterrupted in their own closed world and develop their own communities. Of course, the accepting state would be responsible for financing all of the above. Additionally the Quran schools and prayer houses, and the preachers who are responsible for the replacement, recruitment and activation of the extremists, will be paid for in large part by the Saudis. The internet culture and social applications which support and allow separation and the exclusion and outlawing of dissent will also move toward the closing off of their own groups. With the help of their satellites they will have their own television stations, so that they can receive in their own language the ideological ammunition to shame and reject the way of life of those receiving them. No other voice reaches them, only the noise of their own group’s extremists. So they have less and less chance of integration; the majority live on welfare and stay poor. Of course, it’s not the kind of poverty they knew back home in their leaky houses, but the meaning of this will quickly slip away, since in their new homes they will have become affluent. But this standard of living will remain unattainable for most of them, because their lack of language skills or professional skills will make them incapable of getting a good and therefore well-paid job. The spirit of Western tolerance will describe a whole new generation on an ethnic or “cultural” basis while assisting in the emergence of an inferior religiously and ethnically based social class. 26 percent of Somalis, 34 percent of Iraqis, 42 percent of Afghans and 62 percent of Iranians had employment before the great migration waves. Today the statistics are even more abysmal.

“The opposite of good is good intentions.” – Kurt Tucholsky

Chancellor Merkel doesn’t fret on these questions. “We can do it!” (Wir schaffen das) she says, while thinking of what kinds of logistical steps are needed to spread all over Europe these migrants who still don’t want to assimilate. But she is indifferent to how the regularities of coexistence might be formed, because she represents the kind of Germany which is ashamed of its past, ashamed of its present and can hardly wait for, as a citizen of the globalized world, for someone, say, the Muslims to conquer them and absolve them of their Nazi past, of their eternal perpetrator status, which by themselves they are unable to let go of, unable to move past. (Adolf liked Islam too, and did business with his uncle Arafat, Chief Mufti of Jerusalem.) How great it would be, if they could finally play the role of a victim! Well, wouldn’t it be an enviable status? They don’t look for an answer to the question, that if to them Western Christian culture is worthless, because in the European Union’s proposed constitution they couldn’t even refer to it, and if Europe is not Christian anymore, then what is it? What is the community of values to which the newcomers must adapt, that they must accept, embrace? What do we require of them? How will they have to form their communities so that we will be able to live with them? Or will we adapt to them? Do they have no such duty? Where does the practice lead where we excuse the terror attacks that threaten the existence of our communities as psychological disorders? And if this doesn’t satisfy popular opinion, then comes the common mantra: that misery and the colonial past are responsible for terrorist acts. However, as they advertise it: “This is a war led by Allah between Muslim nations and the infidel, pagan nations.” The command is clear. “Kill the infidels,” as Allah said. “Then destroy the idol worshipers wherever you find them.”

We’re familiar with this spurious intellectualization. But we also know that the poor things aren’t terrorists, and they know other methods of suicide that don’t involve the destruction of others. We also learned that some people can take up arms to war and kill in God’s name, for its defense, or its diffusion. Hatred of unbelievers or followers of other faiths was not foreign to our culture in our past. Today, however, we fight religious wars in the form of culture wars, and we fiercely continue bloodless struggles. In this war, the “tolerant”, that is the left-liberal elite and their lackeys, proclaim that they don’t differentiate between cultures and values. In other words, there is only one type of culture and one type of value system, and that is theirs. With their full arsenal they propagandize that those who are arriving here have the same values, intentions and ambitions as they do, and they consider the same things useful and valuable as they do. If our values and culture are no different than theirs, then how can we expect them to adopt them? The equality of women, for example? I wonder if the Western left-liberal elite is simply stupid, or if some suicidal tendency has taken away their common sense and is spreading like an epidemic in Europe’s “credible” institutions, think tanks, universities, and in the air-conditioned left-liberal witches kitchens? And where are they coming across Soros’s dollars? The progressives have a particular tendency for guilt. They consider victims everyone who comes from a different part of the world or who has different colored skin, and they swoon that now finally they can prove how good, humane, tolerant, and multicultural they are! They look in the mirror and their very humanity looks back at them. Great! They can finally be proud. Because the Dutch, Germans, Swiss, etc. have not been able to be proud lately, because of all the sins of their ancestors. However, if they had been proud on an occasion or two of something like, say, a European Championship football match, they would have fallen immediately into the sin of nationalism, which is already almost racism, an unforgivable sin punishable by excommunication! This is how Western Europe is populated, brimming with fine good people!

The last 68-ers, the progressive party’s dying mummies.” – Houellebecq

In certain areas of Africa and the Near East, it took decades for people living there to get off their carpets and out of their tents, leave their dirt roads and cross into the age of skyscrapers, supersonic airplanes, television and internet. In a few years they had to be pulled forward centuries. This is a huge task, a burden, but also an achievement. This kind of turbo-modernization results in a state of shock, which the severing of tribal ties and forced integration into the alienating world of big cities only makes worse. Islam, in this context, provides a solid ground for those masses who end up in a disorienting world. Because Islam is law, rights and instruction. Roots and guidance. Patterns of behavior and a value system. In the context of someone coming to Europe, all of this could not be made any more important and indispensable for someone also having to deal with linguistic, racial and cultural differences. This all increases almost to the point of unbearability the identity crisis those migrants will face who left their homes for the false promise of an easy and successful life, and also for those who came by their own will. Upon arrival they will find that the kafirs, the unbelievers, the antisocial, barbaric, unclean, uncircumcised, depraved masses will not accept them. They will humiliate them with some kind of immigration procedure, they won’t give over their wives and daughters to them, the food and drink will not be what they are accustomed to, and the money they give them won’t be enough to provide them immediately with what they need to live comfortably. They will always be expecting gratitude from them everywhere, and expect that they should know what good people they are for having accepted and helped them. However, they know, and have learned, that if they were actually good people, then they would be Muslims.

In the tribal culture in which most of the influx was socialized, women are property to be bought and sold. The family, the tribe, the man’s good reputation and honor, are all dependent on the obedience and good behavior of the women in the family – meaning, her virginity and marital fidelity. This explains the practices of female genital mutilation and the death penalty for extramarital sexual relationships. Wearing of the headscarf, hijab and burka are compulsory. All of this, spiced with forced marriages and polygamy, is incompatible with the culture of gender equality practiced in the West. While the left-liberals supposedly advocate for same-sex marriage, the denial of basic human rights for sexual minorities by Muslims goes unnoticed. As does the European Jewish community, whose existence, independent of the Palestine-Israel conflict, is a thorn in their eyes. Let us not forget that most migrants’ mentality and worldview remains tribal, regardless of whether they also use 21st century technology developed in the West.

Let us note the argument of the migrant-lovers. They reference humanity, that is, morality, and at the same time demographic and labor needs. They argue that guarding the borders is impossible, and also that international laws dictate that we let everyone in. These are all lies. The fences raised on our borders meant noticeable and immediate relief from the pressure of immigration. They were forced to alter their itineraries, and the entry into Hungary’s territory became ordered, regulated, and lawful. These refute the empty dreams of the liberals that the borders are unnecessary, dreams that are contemptuous of the limits of democracy. If people living in a given area are unable to defend their lands, they are going to lose them. Meanwhile they are forced to share their acquired and accumulated possessions with the invited or uninvited settlers, which leads to calculable social tensions. Because every community exists by the grace of its borders, and works by distinguishing between insiders and outsiders.

The protection of EU borders is entrusted to Erdogan by Merkel and the union leaders panting at her heels, as they entrusted Kadhafi with Libya and Morocco, to crack down ruthlessly on African immigrants if need be. We wash our hands, and we pay. This way we stay good people and can educate everyone on democracy, humanity, and Europeanness.

I agree with Konrád György, that “after Nazism and communism, Islam is the third totalitarian ideology which seriously threatens Europe.” I also agree that “today’s refugees are not singular people who desire to be European citizens. Rather they are a faceless mass, which will in time develop into a parallel society. Along with the growth of their confidence, conflicts will also proliferate, because the Bible accepts the Quran, but the reverse is not true. Europe cannot be good and moral if it is also weak.”

The progressive intellectuals disregard all of this, without exception, and support Muslim migration. Because they feel that finally their opinion matters, and they can see themselves as important and as chosen, like they once did in the Maoist, Trotskyist and Communist movements, in the sit-down strikes and demonstrations of ’68. In the leftist salons they always spoiled that part of the intelligentsia which unscrupulously served progress, whatever class-warrior or multicultural costume they wore at the time. The progressives, who by now have become the politically correct Western mainstream, have for us caused the greatest damage by wanting to deprive us, European citizens, of our self-esteem and self-confidence. And this can hardly be approved of.

September 4, 2016

Katrina Lantos Swett returns her Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit

Népszabadság reported this morning that Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Tom Lantos Foundation and Institute for Human Rights and Justice, returned her Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit. With her gesture the number of those who expressed their disgust over the decoration of Zsolt Bayer by returning their own awards has increased to 109.

Katrina Lantos recalled that her father was the only Holocaust survivor who served in the U.S. Congress. He was a real Hungarian patriot who, despite all the tragedies he witnessed, “never lost his love for the country. For three decades he did all he could for Hungary.” She herself continued in this tradition and tried to pass the linguistic and cultural traditions of her family on to the younger generation. She was hoping to give the Knight’s Cross to her children one day and is sorry that by returning the decoration she will not have this opportunity. “The Hungarian government bestowing the Knight’s Cross to Zsolt Bayer stained this noble decoration.” She added that if her father were alive he would ask the government “to take back this unearned decoration from Bayer.” I should add that Judit Járai, the Washington correspondent for the Hungarian Telegraphic Agency (MTI), didn’t find Katrina Lantos’s announcement newsworthy.

Katrina Lantos Swett

Katrina Lantos Swett

A few words about the foundation and the institute that is being financed by the Hungarian government. Tom Lantos died suddenly in 2008, and shortly after his death it was proposed to establish a foundation and institute in his memory. But by the time the institute began to take shape there was a change of government. The new prime minister, Viktor Orbán, had had a somewhat strained relationship with Tom Lantos. The last time he asked for an interview in Washington, Lantos made him wait for three days, and at the end of the meeting there was no joint press conference. Orbán left and Lantos had a few measured words to say about their differences.

As was expected, the Tom Lantos Institute’s board was composed primarily of Fidesz faithfuls whose views were a far cry from Tom Lantos’s. For example, Maximilian Teleki of the Hungarian American Coalition based in Washington and Kinga Gál, Fidesz EP MP. The Hungarian American Coalition is a decidedly right-of-center organization that has always favored Fidesz. Just to give you an idea of their bias, here is a story in which I myself was involved. One day sometime in 2002 I read that the Coalition had paid for about 20 members of the Hungarian parliament to spend a couple of weeks in Washington to take a closer look at American democracy in action. They all turned out to be Fidesz PMs. When I asked the then president of the Coalition why they invited only Fidesz MPs, he told me that the socialists and the liberals had turned down the invitation. It was a lie, as I found out in no time from the leader of the socialist parliamentary delegation.

So, the Tom Lantos Institute has been a controversial project from the beginning, mostly because of Viktor Orbán’s insistence on making it a party foundation. After all, he must have figured, it is his government that sponsors it and therefore it is his. This is how his mind works. The fact is that the government has given a fair amount of money to the institute. The institute’s website has no detailed information about its finances. All we know is that under “Donors and partners” they list only two donors: the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. We know that in 2009 the institute received 3 billion forints from the government to cover expenses for five years.

The staff consists of nine full-time associates, of whom five are researchers. The other four deal with finances, communication, and administrative duties. Otherwise, the focal points of the institute’s activities are “Jewish life and anti-Semitism,” “Roma rights and citizenship,” and “human and minority rights.” The institute’s publications are mostly texts of lectures delivered at conferences organized by the institute.

In 2011 Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, visited Budapest specifically for the opening of the institute. At that time I received a letter from a very reliable source who called himself “Diplomat Anonymous.” He begged Clinton not to go to Budapest. I published the letter in its entirety at that time. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s especially painful to hear that you may be coming here to bless the opening of the Tom Lantos Institute (TLI). I didn’t know the late Congressman well; we only shook hands once in Washington. But I know that he fought against prejudice, he fought for human rights. Yes, to his great credit, he cared about the Hungarian ethnic minority in the neighboring countries, and the Institute may well publish books or pamphlets on that issue. But what about media freedom here? What about anti-Semitism? Will TLI address these painful issues? I predict that it will not – it cannot — because the Orbán government authored this very restrictive media law, and it doesn’t believe there’s anti-Semitism in Hungary. As for the Roma issue, which is the most agonizing social problem here, please ask an aide to check out the background of Rita Izsák, TLI’s new Director. In the Roma community, of which she’s a member, she’s known as Uncle Tom. She will respect the wishes of the government, which, after all, is TLI’s sole financial backer.

Since then Rita Izsák has left the institute. In 2013 Anna-Mária Bíró became the new director. She hails from Transylvania, where in the 1990s she was adviser to the president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania or, as it is known in Hungarian, Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség (RMDSZ), a right-of-center party. Most of the researchers are young women. Just recently the institute hired a young Hungarian program manager for Jewish life and anti-Semitism and a publications and communications officer from New Zealand. It is hard to pass any judgment on the work the institute is doing based on the scant information that is available.

But let’s return to the president of the Hungarian American Coalition, Maximilian Teleki, who was interviewed by Népszabadság in connection with Katrina Lantos’s return of the Knight’s Cross. He expressed his astonishment at the government’s decision to give a decoration to Bayer and added that “many of us supported some if not all steps of the Fidesz government. We especially approved of their announcement of ‘zero tolerance’ against anti-Semitism. Now we ask ourselves how they are able to go against their own pledge. Two steps forward and one big one backward?” Mr. Teleki, who by the way doesn’t speak Hungarian so his knowledge of the present political situation must be limited, came to the conclusion that the political views of Jobbik and Bayer are identical. Well, just for his information, Bayer is a member of Fidesz and without the blessing of Viktor Orbán he would not be able to publish the smut he does. The members of the Hungarian American Coalition should wake up and admit to themselves that, at least since 1994, they have been supporting a party and a government which no real democrat with a modicum of conscience should. Make a clean break instead of constant excuses. It doesn’t reflect well on the Hungarian American Coalition.

September 2, 2016