Anti-Semitism Flourishes In Hungary

June 26, 2012 Topic: European Union Region: Hungary

Anti-Semitism Flourishes In Hungary

Hungary is steadily isolating itself. The latest blow to the country came with Israel's decision to disinvite Laszlo Kover, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament, from a ceremony honoring Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who rescued tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, that will take place in July. The move is more than justified. Hungary is witnessing an upsurge in nationalism and anti-Semitism that is cause for alarm. It is now chic to disparage and attack Jews.

Kover has been disinvited because he took part recently in a ceremony for the anti-Semitic writer Jozsef Niro, a member of the far right during World War II. The president of the Israeli parliament Reuven Rivlin said, "We in Israel were appalled by the shocking news that you chose to participate in the event honoring the memory" of Niro. Elie Wiesel has already returned an award from the Hungarian government in protest. Kover is unrepentant. He responded to Rivlin that Niro was "no fascist, no war criminal." This is semantics. As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports,the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC recently cited anti-Semitic excerpts from Niro's parliamentary speeches during World War II. Words are also weapons.

Nor is this all. The second largest party in Hungay, Jobbik, has ventilated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Based on some incautious remarks by Israeli president Shimon Peres about Jewish real estate investors, members of the party such as its foreign affairs spokesman Marton Gyongyosi have been warning of the "colonization" of Hungary. Gyongyosi has also suggested that it is hardly surprising that such efforts would prompt "people to feel that Jews are not welcome here." The Jewish Chronicle initially reported that he expressed doubts about the number of Hungarian Jews that perished in the Holocaust. 

Meanwhile, as the Economist has noted in "Does Hungary Have A New Hero?", the country is going gaga over its old fascist leader Miklos Horthy. Statues and plaques are being erected to the old boy. A thousand Hungarians, a number in paramilitary uniforms, showed up at the village of Csokako to dedicate a statue to him, the Economist writes. How long before the murderous Iron Cross, which replaced Horthy in the final stages of the war, is publicly lauded?

Fifty American lawmakers have sent a letter to Hungary expressing their dismay. Whether it is a result of nostalgia for the past, suppressed nationalism, a bad economy, or all three, Hungary's leader Viktor Orban has done nothing to quell the newly virulent anti-Semitism. The American Congress is right to warn Hungary that its disgusting behavior, its farrago of old hatreds and conspiracy theories about Jewish power, is not going unnoticed. What actions will the European Union, so quick to criticize Israel, take?