The Hungarian right’s latest: The Soros-Clinton-Obama axis

In liberal circles almost everybody is certain that the warnings of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will not inspire Viktor Orbán to abandon his relentless pursuit to make the very existence of independent civil groups impossible. In fact, the smear campaign has only intensified in the last couple of days.

Official Hungary is quiet on the subject unless one can take seriously the comments of a newcomer to the ministry of foreign affairs and trade, Undersecretary Mónika Balatoni, who just can’t get over the fact that “western Europeans don’t understand us,” the freedom-loving people of Hungary. After all, already in St. Stephen’s time Hungarians “chose Christianity.” And there is Tibor Navracsics, whose “European commitment cannot be questioned.” This is, of course, merely a repetition of Szijjártó’s reference to freedom-loving Hungarians.

It is true that the Christian Democrats chimed in by repeating the government’s claim that Obama’s criticisms are groundless. In their opinion, the attack on Hungary is taking place because the Hungarian government opted for Christian democracy instead of liberal democracy. Jobbik naturally is on the side of the government with the difference that they say what the Orbán government does not want to: The president of the United States “openly admitted that his country constantly interferes in other countries’ internal affairs.” Since Obama talked about the United States’ national security, which is served by the existence of strong civil groups, Hungary in turn should restrict the foreign-financed groups which pose national security risks to Hungary.

But the real dirty work is being left to the government media and so-called  pro-Fidesz “political scientists.” In the political scientist category there is Gábor G. Fodor, “strategic director” of the Fidesz think tank Századvég. According to him, Obama’s speech was not about Hungary and other authoritarian regimes but about the United States. The speech shows the weakness, not the strength of America. After all, the president spoke of “national security interests.” And because of Obama’s confession about American national security interests, “it’s possible the Norwegian monies don’t come from Norway.” In plain English, the United States is funneling money into Hungary and other countries through Norway.

Spiler, a blogger, goes farther than Fodor. He notes that George Soros and Norway are the most generous supporters of the Clinton Foundation, and the same George Soros and Norway support Hungarian liberal groups. With a leap of logic our blogger lays the groundwork for a charge of conspiracy. Perhaps Clinton’s critical comments are payment for the generosity of George Soros and the government of Norway. On the basis of Spiler’s blog, Szilárd Szőnyi of Válasz is already talking about George Soros’s “civilian armies.” He describes Spiler’s post as a reliable source on the Soros-Clinton-Obama-Reykjavík axis. (I trust he doesn’t think that Reykjavík is the capital of Norway.)

George Soros, the bogiey man

George Soros, the bogeyman

The attack on the Hungarian civil groups was intensified by an article that appeared in the print edition of Heti Válasz today. The author is Bálint Ablonczay, a journalist with the reputation of being a moderate Fidesz supporter. But it appears that when the chips are down and the regime he supports receives harsh criticism from important sources, Ablonczay becomes a fierce defender of the regime. In this article, which is not available online, he justifies the Orbán government’s harassment of the civil groups by trying to prove that these NGOs are not really independent but are “liberal activist groups.” After all, they approach the question of abortion only as a women’s rights issue. They are interested in families only as places of domestic violence. Or they concentrate on alternative lifestyles. Finally, he cites an article published by an Israeli organization, NGO Monitor. It was written last year by Alexander H. Joffe, who claimed that the Soros-supported NGOs were adding to Israeli-Palestinian tensions. His conclusion is that Soros’s network is a powerful international tool that works against individual governments through these civil groups.

Ablonczay did a lousy job at fact checking. Csaba Tibor Tóth, a blogger, immediately wrote a post with the title “Heti Válasz and the Israeli Right against Soros.” NGO Monitor’s founder and president worked for a number of years in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. The organization is really an arm of the present Israeli government, which hates the Israeli NGOs about as much as Orbán hates the Hungarian ones. NGO Monitor finds all independent groups “extremists.” Even groups attached to the UN are extremists. According to Tóth, NGO Monitor is something like the Hungarian CÖF, except much more sophisticated.

Magyar Nemzet published an article today about an alleged Soros conspiracy. The paper learned that George Soros cast his net over the civil groups. It was George Soros who financed the organizations in charge of the disbursement of the Norwegian funds throughout Eastern Europe. The article lists Romanian, Polish, Estonian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, and Bulgarian NGOs somehow connected to George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. The implication is that there is a supranational network organized by George Soros to do what? To topple these governments? How is it that no other governments in the region sent a squad of policemen to the office of one of these disbursement centers or suspended the tax numbers of all of them? Are they not worried about this conspiracy?

The problem is not with Clinton, Obama, the Norwegian government, George Soros or the NGOs but with Viktor Orbán’s government. They can concoct conspiracy theories to their hearts’ content about a supranational global attack on Christian Hungary, but I doubt that anyone will fall for that nonsense with the exception of Hungary’s right-wing voters.

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48 comments

  1. “an article published by an Israeli organization, NGO Monitor. It was written last year by Alexander H. Joffe, who claimed that the Soros-supported NGOs were adding to Israeli-Palestinian tensions… NGO Monitor’s founder and president worked for a number of years in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.The organization is really an arm of the present Israeli government, which hates the Israeli NGOs”

    Can I ask something? How can this be understood as anything else as pure antisemitism? First of all lots of NGO people worked for the government at one point or another so that in of itself proves nothing. Secondly without any evidence or proof, to say that “the Israeli government hates NGOs” is borderline antisemitic. I am sorry but that is my opinion.

    Could it be simply that there was no “Jewish conspiracy” to suppress the NGOs in Israel? Could it be that some NGO s really did add to the Israeli-Palestinian tensions? Or is that just impossible?

  2. @Dan, don’t ask me. I simply quoted the blog writer. How one feels about NGOs either in Israel or in Hungary much depends on your political views. If you are left of center in either country then you most likely will take the side of the NGOs. This is the case today in Israel and in Hungary. It is very possible that NGO Monitor is closely connected to the present Israeli government. There is nothing anti-Semitic about this.

  3. Gábor G. Fodor seems to think the US is trying to use NGOs to overthrow the Fidesz regime. If the CIA/US State Department and Department of Defense was set on pushing Orban out of power it would be a multipronged assault including destabilizing the economy not what President Obama was discussing. My country is really quite good at overthrowing various governments around the world, but not so good at creating stable governments to replace what has been overthrown. Iraq, Iran in the 1950s, even several Latin American countries being cases in point.

    I was indirectly involved in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983 when we overthrew the government of Grenada a small island nation in the Caribbean, not one of my proudest moments I would add. Fodor would rapidly find himself in plastic restraint cuffs if the US ever decided to move against Orban and it would happen very fast just like the Russians did it in Crimea.

  4. “I was indirectly involved in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983 when we overthrew the government of Grenada a small island nation in the Caribbean, not one of my proudest moments I would add.”

    Istvan, you are either a truly disgusting criminal or a master troll. Publicly admitting to crimes punishable by death or life in prison makes you one of the two for sure. I am leaning towards troll, but could go either way. You are a remarkable individual that is for certain. You truly amused me, thank you.

  5. @Dan Criticizing the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic, as criticizing the Orban government is not anti-Hungarian. I see many similarities between the NGO Monitor/the Natanyahu government and COF/the Orban government.
    Speaking about press freedom in the two countries, see the last Freedom House Report. Both countries were downgraded for similar reasons.
    Mr. Ablonczy used an extreme right-wing Israeli source. NGO Monitor named J Street anti-Israel. From this point on this report is the right source for Arutz 7 which is the Israeli Kurucinfo
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/170654#! and not for a serious article.

    All in all Soros is for Peace, Democracy and Equality all over the world.
    Shana Tova!

  6. magnificent the US invasion of Grenada involved thousands of US troops it wasn’t a covert action, we simply took over the country and threw out the existing left wing government. There is no violation of American law in admitting to that, we lost 19 soldiers and sailors in that action which is truly a great tragedy when you think about it. I was one of thousands mobilized for that little war which really was pointless. But the bigger point is that like the Russians when my nation truly wants to move to overthrow a government it happens, what President Obama discussed was in no way a precursor to trying to destabilize the Orban government. He is trying to influence the Hungarian people to move in a more pro-American and democratic direction.

  7. Murder is a crime. To murder an American is a crime. To murder someone in a non-American country is a crime too. Not according to US law, but it is still a crime.

    To violently overthrow the US government is a crime. Criminals who attempt it are executed or imprisoned. To violently overthrow a non-American government is a crime too. Not according to US law but it is still a crime.

    People who do it are still criminals. Even if they avoided their just punishment.

    Just as if a murderer avoids just punishment he is still a murderer in the eyes of the public.

    For example if he hides in a country which does not recognize his criminal actions, I will still consider him a criminal

  8. I vote that Istvan is a master troll.
    To mouth the nonsense that America would move swiftly in Hungary is to serve future KGB (ok, FSB) interests when…down the road…Orban will call in brother Russia to defend Hungary and Paks against the EU/Nato/American conspiracy to overthrow Orban. The parameters are being drawn now in the KGB dungeons.
    Orban is doing his damnest to get heaved out of the EU. When, in the future, Nato will try to place troops in Hungary and Orban refuses…he will be booted out of Nato as well. At that point,
    the scenario will be set: the Jewish/Soros/Israeli/American conspiracy to overthrow Christian
    Hungary will be full throated and shrill in the gullets of Fideszers large and small. And poor, abandoned Hungary, will have nought but Russia to call a friend and to help. (That long-ago
    investment in Victor the O will finally pay off.)

    Woe is us.

  9. Rejkjavik is not the capital of Norway. Ethiopia is the capital of Rejkjavik. Everything else is liberal leftist, wishy-washy conspiracy theory. The “rezsicsökkentés” is to be contiuned!

  10. “I doubt that anyone will fall for that nonsense with the exception of Hungary’s right-wing voters.”

    True — problem is, so-called “right-wing” voters account for 56% of the people who cast ballots last April. Then, there’s the 38% of eligible voters who said “I don’t care whether Orbán gets another ⅔ majority, so I am going to stay home.” I guarantee you a good portion of these people also buy this kind of crap.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786, “I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowlege among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom, and happiness.”

    I sometimes wonder whether Orban and Hoffman rewrote the Hungarian education rules specifically to prevent the diffusion of knowledge.

    The Hungarians’ stubborn refusal to embrace reason, as evidenced by their overwhelming support for Orban, is going to play a significant role in their downfall.

  11. From pol.hu:
    http://www.politics.hu/20140925/us-government-informed-about-hungary-situation-through-embassy-says-diplomat/
    “It was the US embassy in Budapest that supplied the US administration with information about the situation of civil society in Hungary, Andre Goodfriend, the embassy’s charge d’affaires, told commercial television ATV on Thursday.”

    Thanks, Mr. Goodfriend!

    @petofi re Istvan:

    Come on! Istvan may be very conservative, but he’s an honest man and valuable contributor to this site! As I said before I probably don’t agree with him on many things, but at least you can have an honest discussion with him and we agree on the basics of democracy!

  12. “NGO Monitor’s founder and president worked for a number of years in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office”

    The irony of Fidesz-Jobbik using an Israeli organisation as role model is delicious…..

    I suspect we will soon (just before the Oct 12 election perchance?) have the Fidesz geriatrics back on a “Peace March”; the forces ranged against poor ole Hungary are just soooo great at this moment. Only Viktor can save us.

  13. It would be a somewhat overstated claim that the President and all forces of Evil are conspiring to overthrow the poor, long-suffering Mr. Orban’s heroic government.
    There is hardly any need for an international conspiracy. The Orban government is crawling on such a week economy, on the financial life line of the EU, that the suspension of the convergence funds alone could bring it to its knees.
    When the apologists of the government refer to their own christianity as the supposed cause of the received criticisms, they foolishly disregard the fact that their critics are also christians, in many cases more ardent then themselves, and are deeply quiet about their own selective christianity that is applied in favor of some churches and aggressively hostile to others.
    Perhaps the most obvious evidence of how hypocritical and how intellectually bankrupt this government is that they are unable to face the possibility of regard the criticism at face value. Also, judging by their own standards, the critics by definition, must have ulterior motives; how could it be otherwise.

  14. By the way, Andre Goodfriend, the charge d’affaires of the US Embassy last night did show in his interview on ATV, how the sober and reasonable person must approach local politics here and diplomacy in general. It was a lesson to all steamy-heads gibbering about conspiracies. A stellar performance it was. Paradoxically that is precisely that will enrage them again.

  15. It’s even better, I imagine Orban, Lazar, G. Fodor, Ablonczy and Maria Schmidt together inviting a bunch of clueless earlock wielding orthodox israeli right-wingers for an *international conference* about NGOs, and then together denouncing the liberal NGOs. See, all the time they accuse us of antisemitism when were are actually the best of friends…The beauty of issue-based politics. Next day Schmidt would go back to her desk writing about the abhorrent exaggeration of the guilt of Hungarians in the holocaust, which was anyway very long ago, I don’t get it why we have to deal with it so much anyway…

  16. 9:30am WORLD

    Hungary halts flow of gas to Ukraine

    Stoppage comes days after head of Russia’s Gazprom visited Budapest

  17. The world we live in is not a simple place, no great power in this world is an innocent entity. One very large problem in Central Europe is conspiracy theories, we have them here too particularly among the far right who have argued the government has created secret camps to in prison gun owners and Tea Party members. To assume as Petofi does that anyone who admits that the US is completely capable and competent to overturn a sovereign government must be a Russian agent knows very little about modern history of the world outside of Europe.

    The United States government normally has a strategic basis for our international interventions, it’s based on our national interests not really some abstract idea of democracy. We are completely capable of supporting either a dictatorship or promoting very pro-democratic movements to overthrow a dictatorship. There is vast historical evidence of this practice, we are not particularly an evil nation but a very pragmatic nation. Intervening in a big way in Hungary does not serve our national interests, but promoting a push back against a growing pro-Russian slant of the Fidesz government is. I totally agree with that thinking, but like others who post here have to wonder if such a strategy might now be too little and too late given the entrenchment of the Fidesz regime.

  18. @Istvan

    “…as Petofi does that anyone who admits that the US is completely capable and competent to overturn a sovereign government…”

    I’m not as America-the-pure supporter as you think. And indeed, the US has overturned several sovereign governments…among them their own with the coup d’etat of Kennedy’s assassination.

    Still, to suggest possible US involvement in any action in Hungary is ludicrous: if such had been possible then why did they refuse to help in ’56? No, America recognizes ‘spheres of influence’ even today. The Ukraine was a specialist action used to alter or influence the coming Amercan
    elections: putting in the lame-brained Whitewater specialist against Pyutin would be suicide.

    America will also not act in Hungary–if another reason be needed–because it’s an EU responsibility. EU knows what’s at stake: there’s a geopolitical tug-of-war with Russia that is being handled ‘sotto voce’ with Hungary and its antagonistic PM. It’s a very delicate game; so, on the one hand a retiring Barosso is sent with gifts of future billions to appease the natives and keep them EU-happy. I don’t think Viktor was happy to see that: his job to tilt Hungary away from the EU will be all that much harder. And on the other hand, EU rumblings of actions threatened against Hungary’s recent behavior. “Here’s the candy: here’s the stick–you can’t have one without the other.”

  19. Orban might — just might — have courted his Waterloo in adding the human-rights NGOs to his endless enemy list: These include some of the most dedicated and determined activists on the planet. Unlike the craven and amoral majority in Hungary, they will never back down or be intimidated by corruption and evil. And, blessedly, they are global, not just trapped in the Carpathian Basement: https://twitter.com/BlacklistedHu

  20. And, needless to say, I add my congratulations to the long list of admirers of Mr Goodfriend’s highly intelligent, subtle and decorous but firm diplomacy.

  21. Mónika Balatoni is quoted as saying that already in St. Stephen’s time Hungarians “chose Christianity.” Paul has already objected to this statement, hinting that the ruler and not his subjects made the choice. It remains to be said that St. Stephen did not choose Christianity. He was in a squeeze between the Roman Catholic Western empire and the Greek Orthodox Eastern empire. He had to make a political choice between East and West and he chose the West. The Roman church was just a part of the package.

  22. Basically the only interesting thing is that Orbánistan’s “illiberal democracy” and Orbán himself are being mentioned at all internationally and in no positive way. I expect more to come from Europe after the beginning of November.

    For details – especially concerning finances and planned reorganisations – it’s very interesting to read Pester Lloyd these days.

  23. @minusio:

    Thanks for the reminder re Pester Lloyd! I had concentrated on the English language sources this summer so I missed that.

    I remember when the Lloyd was just a paper for tourists and businessmen, not much political info, but that seems to have changed a lot!

    For anyone who can read German – it has very good political infos and comments nowadays!

  24. Barosso and EU billions

    This was really a brilliant stroke by the EU. It shows that the money is freely tabbed for Hungary and not the result of Orban’s ‘genius’ in negotiations. What’s more, it shows that the money is there whether Orban remains or not!

  25. On the wider point on how civilized governments and the likes of George Soros could best help the cause of Hungarian democracy, I would suggest something similar to what Soros attempted pre the change of the last dictatorial regime in Hungary.

    Short-term they should not desert the NGOs and charities which are standing courageously up the Orban and his thugs- they are the last bastion of independence in a country which has proven it self to be full of careerist cowards. But long term, they should be aiming to educate as many people as possible below the age of 30 in the principles of democracy- what it really means and how it can be best defended against the type of despicable fascist scum who are now running rampant in Hungary.

    Unfortunately, by and large, those over the age of 30 are completely a lost cause- they would much rather worship at the alter of a BIg Man whom they will believe when he tells them White is Black and that bending down before their corrupted Betters is the only way to get on in life. It is not just a political thing- try explaining even to a professional worker that bribing a doctor in order that he does the job he is paid for is immoral and you will just meet a blank stare. Hungary is morally rotten at the core. It has exactly the regime it deserves.

    The problem is that the equivalent of the 1980s dissidents are probably now cleaning toilets in McDonalds in Oxford Street, so getting them engaged in trying to change their homeland for the better is going to be a very difficult job. But for Soros, who is in the twilight of his years, that would be one hell of a legacy. Wouldn’t take that much of an investment in money or time also from the democratic and civilized world.

  26. Just wrote a blog post (in Finnish, sorry) mainly about the harassment of NGOs. And about how USA and Norway now seem to profile themselves as defenders of European democracy, while Brussels keeps quiet.

    Now we just heard about Hungary stopping the gas deliveries to Ukraine. And another possible friendly gesture towards Putin: recently at the UN World Congress of Indigenous Peoples in New York, there was a lot of talk about the harassment and intimidation of minority peoples’ representatives in Russia. Some of them didn’t make it to New York, and Valentina Sovkina, the leading representative of the Kola Sámi (a couple of thousand people, one of the weakest and most harmless minorities in Russia…), missed her plane due to harassment and assaults by both the police and “unknown assailants”. (Luckily, she got to the Norwegian side of the border and flew to New York on the following day.) Among others, the presidents of Finland and Estonia explicitly expressed their concern for the minorities of Russia (see http://www.interpretermag.com/minority-nations-in-russia-unite-and-denounce-putins-policies/ ). From Hungary, to my knowledge, no reaction whatsoever so far.

    And speaking of Finno-Ugric relatives: in connection with the closing of the Hungarian embassy in Estonia, and, as a reaction, the Estonian embassy in Hungary, beautiful and cordial demonstrations of Hungarian-Estonian friendship have taken place in both Budapest and Tallinn, organized by experts of Finno-Ugric studies as well as ordinary citizens with connections to the kindred nation. For all who understand Hungarian, a video of the “nicest goodbye ever”: http://index.indavideo.hu/video/ahol_az_eszt_osztottak .

  27. I hope Eva does not mind if I start a campaign here to have Dr. Goodfriend appointed as the next US Ambassador to Hungary.

    A political appointee will not do. What is needed is someone with experience, knowledge, gravitas, and the right temperament. Mr. Goodfriend scores very high on all these points.

    Someone may have a better and more direct contact then I, but perhaps readers could contact the State Dept. and suggest Mr. Goodfriend be appointed.

    http://www.state.gov/contact/

  28. @Reality Check:

    I beat you to it on pol.hu!

    As we say in German: Zwei Seelen, ein Gedanke …

    Though I think the chance is rather small.

  29. The National Election Commission (NVB) overruled the Budapest Commission 9-3.

    Fidesz candidate for Budapest mayoral position, Mayor Tarlos uses the Budapest
    town symbols in his ads prominently. The Budapest commission argued that
    he is a candidate in the election, so he cannot use the symbols.

    NVB has 9 members appointed by the ruling parties, and 3 from the opposition.

    (The ruling party is counted twice, while 3 other opposition parties in Parliament
    are not recognized by the Fidesz majority).

    This fact alone should render any election this year unfair and invalid.

    http://valasztas.hu/hu/ovb/hatarozatok/2014/2014-5457.html

  30. Fidesztan turned into a degenerate nightmare, blaming everybody else, but screaming, that Hungary Performs Better. Yes in lies and stupidity! The majority of the people living there have a progressively distorted view as the brainwash is more and more successful and they care little about their compatriots. They have less and less realistic ideas, what it takes to keep a democracy working, since they never had the experience. Simply many people expect others and perhaps the politicians to be democrats, but they don’t want to change their grossly flawed value system and morally and financially corrupt behavior. Any criticism comes their way, most of the people just shrug it off, they think they are God’s sent to Earth. Yet the Whole World is laughing about their stupidity. They elected a a little bumpkin, a soccer crazy, mentally ill thief and liar to be their prime MINIster TWICE and with gross heating!!

  31. (tappanch wrote)

    Fidesz candidate for Budapest mayoral position, Mayor Tarlos uses the Budapest
    town symbols in his ads prominently. The Budapest commission argued that
    he is a candidate in the election, so he cannot use the symbols.

    Yep, I’ve seen those posters (OK, to be honest, I’ve had it with these posters – it’s like a facility to help drunken newcomers to Budapest find their way around: at least you know which kerület you’re in by looking at who’s gurning at you from election posters), and thought they looked very “Fidesz”-y. It’s that abusage of the incumbency, like A Magyarország Miniszterelnöke, a slogan I recall someone or other using, which gives it away.

    I think (from memory) that Kócsis over the road in Józsefváros is using a similar presentation tactic.

    Glad to hear that someone at least tried to kick up a fuss – but (from reading this blog, rather than from long familiarity with actually living here) I’m not surprised that they failed to make their complaint stick.

    It is completely and obviously noticeable how all the larger posters, curving round those cylindrical poster-posts, which are often illuminated, are for a certain orange-coloured party… I haven’t seen a single poster from any other party in those places.

    Completely OT: can someone point me to an idiot’s guide to WordPress comments, with quotes etc? Been a long time since I commented on this blog, and I imagine (perhaps inaccurately) that there was a “quote” facility back in the old format.

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