László Kövér’s interview: On foreign threat and charge of anti-Semitism (I)
Yesterday an incredible interview appeared in Magyar Hírlap, a newspaper that often criticizes the government from the right. Fittingly, it was László Kövér, speaker of the house and a high party official in Fidesz who belongs to the right wing of Fidesz, who gave the interview to this particular paper.
The interview covered a lot of topics, and Kövér’s answers to the reporters’ questions tell us a lot about this man and his view of the world. I must say that this interview filled me with increasing anxiety about the direction in which the current government is leading Hungary.
Let us start with his view of the criticism of the Fidesz government from the United States. The occasion was the letter Viktor Orbán received from the fifty American congressmen and women concerning the growing anti-Semitism in Hungary. Kövér complained that “as a member of a small Central European country it is somewhat tiresome to hear all the admonitions by various personalities of some of the great powers.” According to Kövér, this has been going on for twenty-two years, and prior to that “another power’s leaders were reprimanding us, admittedly using different methods, but the mentality is the same.”
And the United States is more than annoyingly meddlesome. According to Kövér, there was a serious plan in Washington to remove Orbán from his position. “We can believe, for example, Charles Gati, the influential adviser to any given Democratic secretary of state, who in several interviews talked about the realistic possibility of Viktor Orbán’s removal as the result of a coup d’état.”
This accusation is a lie. Charles Gati gave an interview to Heti Válasz on January 17, 2012, in which the reporter of the weekly asked him in what manner Orbán could possibly be removed. Gati outlined five possibilities: (1) in 2014 Fidesz loses the elections; (2) Fidesz decides to hold early elections in 2012 or 2013 yet the party still loses; (3) the economic situation of the country further deteriorates and a part of the Fidesz leadership insists on the retirement of the Matolcsy-Orbán duo and therefore similarly to the Greek and Italian situation, a conservative, not a populist, government is formed; (4) this new government wanting to increase its legitimacy includes some real economic experts from both right and left, for example, Gordon Bajnai, Péter Ákos Bod or perhaps Lajos Bokros; and (5) civil war breaks out because of the people’s recognition that Fidesz’s promises were empty. But, Gati added, “God save us from such an outcome.” It was this interview that Kövér rewrote and accused both Gati and the United States of preparing a coup d’état against Viktor Orbán. And, by the way, Gati is not a confidential adviser to Hillary Clinton. They have never met.
Another topic, somewhat connected to the above, is Elie Wiesel’s letter to Kövér that I published in its entirety. I also wrote about the Israeli parliament’s decision to withdraw Kövér’s invitation to attend the centennial celebration of Raoul Wallenberg’s birth. As for the Israeli disinvitation, Kövér brushed the whole thing aside as if it were entirely his decision not to attend. One of the reporters suggested that in certain circles Kövér has become the “the Hungarian government’s anti-Semite.”
At this point Kövér gave a long lecture on the general attitude of the ” post-communist left” that must get accustomed to the fact that “in Hungary there are free elections and occasionally the conservative parties [actually " polgári pártok" in the original] have the temerity to win.” And as far as “the holder of the Nobel Peace Prize is concerned,” Kövér “never uttered a sentence saying that he must make space in his soul for hatred,” as Elie Wiesel did.
I don’t have a thorough knowledge of Elie Wiesel’s work, but I found it rather difficult to believe that Wiesel was properly quoted. In this connection I found the following interview with Winfrey Oprah:
Oprah: Did you ever hate your oppressors?
Elie: I had anger but never hate. Before the war, I was too busy studying [the Bible and the Cabala] to hate. After the war, I thought “What’s the use?” To hate would be to reduce myself.
Oprah: In your memoir Night, you write of the Hungarian soldiers who drove you from your homes: “It was from that moment that I began to hate them, and that hate is still the only link between us today.”
Elie: I wrote that, but I didn’t hate.
Is this what Kövér is talking about? Maybe, but if it is there is quite a bit of distortion in his description of Wiesel’s own feelings.
And finally, let’s see what Kövér had to say about József Nyirő, a writer about whom we talked quite a bit on this blog. Since then more evidence has surfaced that Nyirő was a wholehearted supporter of Hitler and the Third Reich. Although officially he was not a member of the Hungarian Nazi party (Arrow Cross), he was one of the few members of parliament who followed Ferenc Szálasi and his murderous gang all the way to Germany. Even after the war he was active in Arrow Cross emigré circles and even accepted a ministerial position in a “government-in-exile.” Although government officials promoting his “rehabilitation” claim that in his works Nyirő didn’t exhibit any sign of anti-Semitism, as it turned out this claim is also false. Ágnes Huszár, a linguist, analyzed his last novel, Silent Struggle (1944), in which she found plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Yet in this interview Kövér maintained that “everything that is being said of Nyirő is a lie.” If it were true, how could it be possible that even the Ceauşescu regime granted a pension to his widow?–asked Kövér. “From the work of Nyirő the love of mankind radiates and that’s why we honor him and not for anything else.” From the description of Ágnes Huszár, however, Nyirő’s “love” is restricted to Hungarians. Otherwise, he shows plentyof hatred toward the inferior Romanians and the alien Jews against whom the Transylvanian Hungarians are carrying on a deadly struggle for survival.
As we will see in the second part of this summary, Kövér’s own view of the relationship between the Hungarian minorities and the Romanian or Slovak majorities is very similar to Nyirő’s views in Silent Struggle. That is, I think, what attracts Kövér to Nyirő.
To be continued.