Postscript to the World Jewish Congress in Budapest by Karl Pfeifer

Is the World Jewish Congress (WJC) a gathering of useless busybodies (“gittegylet” in Hungarian after Ferenc Molnár’s novel, The Boys of Paul Street) as the liberal Budapest weekly Magyar Narancs claims? An association of useless busybodies could never have gathered 500 delegates in Budapest for the occasion.

Is the WJC an entity that controls the governments of Israel or the USA as Hungarian conspiracy theorists claim? You must have lost any sense of reality to believe that.

Well, insofar as there was a discussion inside the WJC whether it was right to hold a meeting in Budapest, I can state that the conference was a clear and definite success. Rampant anti-Semitism and racism in Hungary have become the center of attention of the international media. All the delegates and journalists received a 20 page brochure entitled “Anti-Semitic Incidents in Hungary 2012” documenting the present situation.

When Orbán spoke about the Hungarians and the “Jewish people” in Hungary, that might have sounded good to an Israeli right-wing delegate who said to me accusingly: “Your definition of a nation is definitively European.”

Last autumn Prime Minister Orbán defined the Hungarian nation as an ethnically pure group held together by kinship and blood rather than by language and culture: “We are born into the myth of the Turul-bird just as we are born into our language and our history.”  A crazy notion considering that there are no ethnically pure Hungarians. But it helps you to label all those who do not believe in the pagan foundation myth as “Jews”.

A few days before the congress took place the German journalist Keno Verseck interviewed János Lázár, the powerful head of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s office. “Lázár complained bitterly […] about the international criticism of Hungary, above all that ‘part of the world labels all of us as anti-Semites.’ It is ‘unethical,’ the 38-year-old said, when ‘injuries in politics and business life are retaliated against with accusations of supposed anti-Semitism.’”

Of course, Lázár did not and could not name any serious politician or journalist who has ever claimed all Hungarians were anti-Semites. Lázár’s statement was a demagogic variant of the paranoid theory that Hungarians are eternal victims of unjust prejudice. And the second part of his statement about the “accusations of supposed anti-Semitism” is the typical defensive counterattack which claims that anybody raising the issue of anti-Semitism is doing so in bad faith and dishonestly.

To quote from the brochure “Anti-Semitic Incidents in Hungary 2012 handed out at the meeting:

“[…] The growing number of violent physical incidents clearly shows the impact on “street anti-Semitism” made by the anti-Semitic utterances of Jobbik in the Hungarian Parliament or by the relevant crimes committed during World War II. In 2012, the media reported several cases where individuals suffered slight injuries because of their real or supposed Jewish identity. Furthermore, the proliferation of hate groups, speeches inciting violence and assault at neo-Nazi mass demonstrations and the military training of radical paramilitary skinhead groups are raising serious concerns. Finally, Jobbik is steadily becoming one of the most popular political parties amongst young people and the camp of its sympathizers aged between 18 and 37 is rapidly expanding. This constitutes a huge threat to democracy and social tolerance in the long run. Young people, who often lack a secure future perspective, are increasingly influenced and radicalized by popular neo-Nazi websites, such as kuruc.info, which publish illegal contents and the authorities have not yet managed to close down.

In 2012, the Hungarian Jewish community were not subject to complete marginalization. Some members of the Jewish community have started to flee their community and country, mostly to the neighboring country, Austria. Although the government has reiterated a clear statement that Hungary provides a homeland and safety for the Jews, just like for any other minority, Hungarian Jewry witness a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, including media-reported incidents, graffiti and disgraced cemeteries, hate speech in both political and social forums, verbal abuse shared on social networks or personal stories that might never become public.

Anti-Semitism is not a problem of the Jewry but of the Hungarian society and government. In Hungary, there is evidence to prove that more and more people outwardly express their dismay towards Jews than those who are indifferent towards them or who are perhaps Philosemites. It is precisely for these reasons that this report has been prepared in order to shed light on the extent of anti-semitism in Hungary.“

When WJC president Ronald Lauder apologized to Orbán after the conference for not having mentioned an interview given by the Prime Minister to Eldad Beck of the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth, where he promised not to form a coalition with Jobbik or to depend on its tacit support, the right-wing media celebrated victory.

Jobbik supporter--"Honor is my loyalty" The Telegraph / Photo Reuters

A Jobbik supporter–“Honor is my loyalty” The Telegraph / Photo Reuters

Yet how true Orbán’s statements are can only be measured if he ever needs to depend on Jobbik’s support to stay in power–be it after the elections of 2014 or later. I personally consider them part of his usual “pávatánc” (peacock dance), the deft if tortuous maneuvers by which he has managed, so far with considerable success, to be applauded abroad for his non-anti-Semitism while gathering support from the all too real anti-Semites of Hungary.

A footnote to the attitude of Viktor Orbán’s government toward the Holocaust. Yesterday’s Le Monde reported that the Polish president of the Auschwitz Foundation, Piotr Cywinski, recently visited  the capitals of Europe asking for contributions for the maintenance of the camp. Some of the barracks are in very bad shape and need serious reconstruction. Professor Cywinski reported that he managed to collect 100 million euros from twenty-three countries. Even Turkey is among the donors. It was “only Hungary that offered nothing.”  Cywinsky has difficulty understanding the Orbán government’s attitude “when Auschwitz is the burial place of 400,000 Hungarians out of the 1.1 million victims.” So much for Orbán’s pious words at the World Jewish Congress in Budapest.–ESB

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83 comments

  1. Income distribution
    Income; 1987; 2003; 2007; 2012

    >200%; 6%; 9%; 7%; 8%
    50%-120%; 63%; 56%; 58%; 51%
    < 50%; 4%; 11%; 10%; 14%

    p. 26.

  2. In my opinion Ronald Lauder’s apology is a mistake.
    If Orbán was ever about to issue a statement to his own party or the Jobbik, he should have done it right there on the WJC conference, loud and clear, speaking Hungarian, what any of them – supposed to – understand.

    But he didn’t.
    Instead of he has spoken about how his government and his party will defend the “ethnic minorities” – as the Jewish Hungarians..!
    I assume, that the initial reaction of the conference based on this, then came along Mr. Lauder, who obviously hasn’t got a clue about Hungary and the Hungarian mindset.
    As I see it, to Orbán’s devote followers any information about what he may- or may not have said to an obscure newspaper in Israel, nothing but heresy, having spread by ‘the others’, the ‘you know who’, and anyway, who cares?

    While I’m aware of the international effects of that the conference has been held in Budapest and so on, domestically it was only a golden opportunity to Orbán to further polish his image, and life goes on as nothing happened.

  3. spectator :
    In my opinion Ronald Lauder’s apology is a mistake.

    Orban’s Demagoguery and Lauder’s Fecklessness

    Of course. Lauder should have said: “Why do you state that only to Hebrew-language newspapers in Israel, for foreign consumption, instead of loudly and clearly, in Hungarian, here in Budapest? (And don’t try to lay the blame on Jobbik alone: Without Fidesz complicity and complacency Jobbik could not get away with it.)”

  4. petofi :
    @Harmati Rita
    “..I don’t know why you hate us so much…”
    –because you are dumb
    –because you are sheep
    –because you can’t think
    –because you are up to your nostrils in the pure shit of nationalism
    –because you can’t see past your nose, and you’ll be crying the blues when the country will be broke and the Fidesz crooks will have split from the country for their country estates in France and Britain
    Outside of that, probably nothing wrong with ya–probably dance a nice csardas…

    And this remark is elagant and european like and sofisticated. Thank you very much for giving a lesson for us, dumb and sheep and nationalist and blind Hungarians, who are not able to see past our nose. we are very lucky to have a developed and educated and helpful Europe around us to help us to get out of our promitive way of living.

  5. The footnote is most telling: Viktor only pays were there’s a possiblity of some service or ‘return’…

  6. BTW, the photo is defintely was not taken in Hungary. Each of us know that the text in the tattoo is German and not Hungarian. Good try, liars.

  7. @Rita:
    That text is not German, it only pretends to be …
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meine_Ehre_hei%C3%9Ft_Treue

    No German would write/tattoo “heist” instead of “heißt” …

    And anyway you would go to jail for using this in Germany or Austria!

    “From 1947, the use of this motto or variations thereof was proscribed in a number of countries, notably Austria and Germany (article 86 of the Pernal Code on user of symbols of anticonstitutional organisations).”

    You have to try better next time …

  8. That guy was certainly photographed at a far-right demonstration held on Heroes Square in Budapest a couple of years ago. The photos were widely published.

    Heroes Square, Budapest, HUNGARY, that is, Rita … (and thanks for your civilised contribution to the debate and for your tolerance of differing opinions).

  9. Harmati Rita :

    BTW, the photo is defintely was not taken in Hungary. Each of us know that the text in the tattoo is German and not Hungarian. Good try, liars.

    Of course it was taken in Hungary. Don’t you see some of the red and white striped flags and part of a Hungarian flag on the right? It was taken by a photographer of Reuters. I hope you don’t think that a reputable press agency would use a picture taken in Germany to illustrate an article about Hungary’s Jobbik.

  10. Eva you are wrong, they are German actors in a German television program for children :-)))
    Mrs. Harmati Rita wil confirm this beyond doubt mwahahahaha 🙂
    Lovely Rita meter maid, May I inquire discreetly, When are you free to take some tea with me?

  11. So Rita, is the photo above from October 23, 2009 a good enough proof to you?
    There is even a Hungarian flag there.

  12. From the “manifesto” : “In 2012, the Hungarian Jewish community were not subject to complete marginalization. Some members of the Jewish community have started to flee their community and country, mostly to the neighboring country, Austria.”

    The emigranys are a miniscule fraction of the Israeli Citizens who live in Hungary.

  13. So Louis, it’s “Israeli citizens” again – very interesting!

    What about “Hungarian citizens” in the neighbouring countries ? How should they be treated ? How many of them are fleeing to Hungary ?

    You trolls never cease to amaze me – and probably every reader here!

  14. Eva, I admire your moderate reactions! The stupidity, denial and (seemingly)unawareness of certain people here is beyond imagination.

  15. FransJ :

    Eva, I admire your moderate reactions! The stupidity, denial and (seemingly)unawareness of certain people here is beyond imagination.

    Luckily they are few. Here and there these creatures appear and then disappear.

  16. well Eva, here in Hungary they appear, however they refuse to disappear. Unfortunately it is the contrary, “they” increase in numbers and are shouting louder day by day!

  17. FransJ :

    well Eva, here in Hungary they appear, however they refuse to disappear. Unfortunately it is the contrary, “they” increase in numbers and are shouting louder day by day!

    We are very lucky here. The intellectual level of the regular contributors is very high. I’m very, very proud of this. Especially when I read the Hungarian comments or even comments in English on politics.hu.

  18. Eva S. Balogh :

    FransJ :
    Eva, I admire your moderate reactions! The stupidity, denial and (seemingly)unawareness of certain people here is beyond imagination.

    Luckily they are few. Here and there these creatures appear and then disappear.

    Yes, Éva, luckily. In contrast, Pusztaranger had to introduce a screening system because the site was flooded by neo-nazi spam including links to right-extremist websites. On your blog there are only the occasional trolls. Interestingly, and that also goes for letters to the editors of German and English newspapers, the more emotional they become in defending Hungary against those perceived attacks, the worse their German or English is.

  19. Eva, the intellectual level is nice but at the same time the problem here, intellectual level doesn’t work. One cannot combat stupidity with that. In 2006 the coalition did not get this, unfortunately and still the opposition is trying to fight in a decent way. In 2004 I read Haffners Geschichte eines Deutschen and recognized, this is what is happening here and now.

  20. The Fidesz Law Factory works at full capacity.
    Some of the 14 new bills submitted this afternoon:

    1.
    http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/11105/11105.pdf
    60/H (3)

    If Hungary bans an internet address whose server is abroad, the country of the server is given 30 days to take it down. After 30 days Hungary will block the address.

    I hope Eva will not be banned.

    2.
    Simplified public tenders (my guess it will be more difficult to catch cheating)

    http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/11112/11112.pdf

  21. FransJ, perhaps we have different ideas about “decent way” but when you are approaching the political arena from a low intellectual level, perhaps you need not be surprised that you get afterwards also policies from such low intellectual level and the whole society turning to a low intellectual level. If people believe that the nastiest approaches are necessary to win elections or stay in power (by whatever means), this is also what they will experience. (This is what we observe in Hungary currently.) Where should change come from? “Combating stupidity” to arrive at indecency, what a gain! For me Hungarian democrats cannot but try to spread more civilised manners between their compatriots, because otherwise you stay trapped in the combative mode of Hungarian politics of the past decade or more already, without vision other than “fights” and “attacks”, and on a downward path not only in their intellectual level. You have to address the wories of the majority of the citizens and try to reach as many people as possible, but to expect nearly no intellectual capacities in your compatriots for me sounds as the gateway to autocratic government.

  22. Kirsten, thank you, you are fully right and touch upon the core of the problem, I try to find a balance between the 2.

  23. Kirsten, I’m afraid I don’t agree. In a situation of almost zero-discourse and widespread labelling, by intellectual and non-intellectual alike, of dissent as ‘unpatriotic’ at best … and in a situation where there is no seriously shared media, the opposition only have any chance by adapting to the situation that exists here, and, unfortunately, learning from their opponents. Gyurcsany spent years civilisedly explaining his policies and THAT speech … but he was only speaking to the converted.

  24. Exactly Ivan, That is the problem, the smart ones hear, the stupid ones do not even listen. Therfore a combination of similar aggression and intellectual approach is needed. Due to the “leaked” speech GYF was made the bad guy whereas he was the good guy in 2006, he wanted to clean up the mess. But what am I doing here is what I wonder about it is somewhat like FB, too virtual. 😦 Or??? The real thing is in our circles of friends, acquaintances and in the streets, but who does not feel fear to be beaten up on an unfortunate day?

  25. FransJ :
    well Eva, here in Hungary they appear, however they refuse to disappear. Unfortunately it is the contrary, “they” increase in numbers and are shouting louder day by day!

    Come on liars, can’t you see the louder they get the more rediculous they look.
    I really don’t like to generalize but I”m often struck by how Hungarian have difficulty differentiating between nationality and ethnicity and how this trait is used as a weapon.

  26. Ivan: “the opposition only have any chance by adapting to the situation that exists here, and, unfortunately, learning from their opponents.”
    FransJ: “Due to the “leaked” speech GYF was made the bad guy whereas he was the good guy in 2006”

    Gyurcsany was betrayed by his own people. And MSzP was unable to improve matters in Hungary to the extent that people would have found defending the third republic an effort well worth it. MSzP was unable to end corruption, and it also hesitated to open up the archives of the socialist period, faithful to the more general ambivalence when it comes to facing one’s country’s past. What is now presented as a struggle between democrats and “monarchists” or Horthyists, is for me more of a continuum. Some people on the “left” are nearly equally quickly abandoning “democracy” or “working for the public interest” when it comes to their own sinecure. The democratic credentials of MSzP I consider to be quite weak, and not only because I doubt generally that a post-communist party could be capable of a credible turn to democracy. It needs a rather different set of people, and if you have these people, it is unnecessary or even detrimental to the party’s credibility to consider oneself in the tradition of a Communist party.

    What is now considered “left” apparently because OV is “right” has only few programmes of real value, and it is also unable to agree on more common ground than that OV should go. (Even that only half-heartedly by some.) So what kind of ‘battle’ is that? I have not yet got the impression that this is a battle about ideas other than a very basic definition of “goods ones” and “bad ones”, where the less engaged public chooses the momentarily stronger side because of lack of any other characteristic they can make out in this “battle”. The “opposition” can of course learn from OV (as it “learned” already about the “necessity” of a nationalist programme), but not only (in my impression) is this leading nowhere because he has nothing to teach except from a brutal power play, but also this cry for equal ruthlessness is for me reflecting the lack of ideas on the part of the opposition when it comes to programmes, visions AND actual procedures that could (as a first step) create a cooperative behaviour within the opposition. Törpilla in the other thread wrote “The majority gets the impression that it is only these self-absorbed intellectuals who can afford to be bothered by gay rights, homeless people and the opression of romas”. This is Fidesz propaganda, no doubt, because if people want they can find out that the programmes of some opposition groups are broader than this. But for me this is not a proof of that that the opposition has not yet been ruthless enough in selling their programme to the public, as is suggested here. I do not see a credible programme of the opposition, because for credibility they have to prove first that they can be cooperative and arrive at joint, workable solutions among themselves.

  27. wolfi; “So Louis, it’s “Israeli citizens” again – very interesting!

    What about “Hungarian citizens” in the neighbouring countries ? How should they be treated ? How many of them are fleeing to Hungary ?

    You trolls never cease to amaze me – and probably every reader here!”

    The “manifesto” did not complain about Hungarian citizens leaving the country, but only about those of Jewish persuasion. I presume that those of Israeli citizenship residing in Hungary are rarely Muslim persuasion, but Jewish. Thus using citizenship was very appropriate based on the “manifesto”.

    In regard to trolls, I have repeatedly stated that I am using my own name while the underground trolls hide behind pseudonyms….Amazement here, amazement there……

  28. Reblogged this on BackChannels and commented:
    “Last autumn Prime Minister Orbán defined the Hungarian nation as an ethnically pure group held together by kinship and blood rather than by language and culture: “We are born into the myth of the Turul-bird just as we are born into our language and our history.” A crazy notion considering that there are no ethnically pure Hungarians. But it helps you to label all those who do not believe in the pagan foundation myth as “Jews”.

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