Anti-Semitism

A medieval macabre show: Hungarian Jobbik member symbolically hangs Israeli leaders

Hungarians always complain that foreigners know little or nothing about their country. Well, lately they really can’t complain. Almost a week and a half after Viktor Orbán’s controversial speech the international press is still full of comments on it. Just today I encountered an opinion piece in The Moscow Times which concluded that something is indeed coming from the East “but it’s not the wind. It’s a virus. And with Orbán’s help, this virus has begun to infect the EU.” David Brooks in The York Times described Orbán’s speech as “morbidly fascinating.”

And now here is this effigy story. AP described what happened in Érpatak, a village of about 1,500 inhabitants. Mihály Zoltán Orosz, who has been mayor of the village since 2005, described Israel as “the Jewish terror state” that is trying to “obliterate the Palestinians.” Moreover, he is opposed “to the efforts of Freemason Jews to rule the world.” On the video below you can see a shorter version of the “public execution” where an executioner with a black hood over his face kicks chairs out from under the puppets of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres, each tied to a gallows.

The whole scene reminded the journalists of HVG of a medieval macabre show. Who is this man? He is a Jobbik member, but in 2010 when he ran again for the position of mayor of Érpatak he called himself an independent. He is known for his bizarre outfits which are supposed to be traditional Hungarian fare, but they are all terribly exaggerated and therefore ludicrous. He also likes military uniforms. The last time he made quite a splash was at the Budapest gay pride parade where he appeared in a female peasant costume. I am sharing a few of his most “spectacular” outfits.

Of course, a lot of people think that Orosz doesn’t have all his marbles, which is a distinct possibility. But he seems to function quite well and rules the village with an iron fist. Law and order dominate in Érpatak. He calls his “system” the “Érpatak Model,” which he claims is a great success and which should be emulated all over the country. He boasts about the low crime rate, though his critics counter that he exaggerates on that score. And there are some people in the village who are not altogether happy with his activities and the circus he creates around town hall and across the country.

orosz2

His latest performance might have serious consequences. Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor immediately expressed his outrage and said that in his opinion “the Hungarian government must act in order to stop these dangerous acts.” The Hungarian foreign ministry got the message. On Monday around noon they issued a statement in which they declared that what happened over the weekend “cannot be reconciled with European norms and with the rule of law. The mayor uses the war and its innocent victims as a pretext for spreading the propaganda of hate.”

Orosz1

How much do we know about Orosz? Not enough, I fear. We know from Professor David Baer’s Testimony concerning the Condition of Religious Freedom in Hungary, submitted to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission) on March 18, 2013, that Mihály Orosz “was affiliated with, or the founder of, at least four different groups registered as [bogus] churches.” Indeed, I found the names of three of these bogus churches in a recent article in Gépnarancs: the Order of the Heart of the Sun, Church of the Sophia Perennis, and the Order of the Eye of Heart.

Orosz4

We know that in order to apply for a job in Érpatak’s town hall the applicants have to fill out a form with 165 bizarre questions on politics and everything else under the sun.

Some people believe that it is time to put an end to Orosz’s activities. Among them is Gellért Rajcsányi, a young conservative publicist of Mandiner. He quotes an announcement from Érpatak’s website which calls attention to a demonstration for June 2014 in front of the courthouse in Nyíregyháza. At this demonstration they “symbolically hanged a criminal prosecutor and a criminal judge to show them what will wait for them after their death because of their activities against the world and the nation.” Clearly, Orosz likes to hang those with whom he disagrees. He led a group of people in front of the building that houses TASZ, the Hungarian equivalent of  the American Civil Liberties Union, where they verbally attacked the associates of the organization. The author calls for an end to the career of this wannabe Arturo Ui, a reference to Bertolt Brecht’s play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui which chronicles the career of a 1930s Chicago mobster and his attempts to control the cauliflower racket by ruthlessly disposing of the opposition.

Orosz5

Well, the moment might have arrived. Ágnes Vadai in the name of DK urged Peter Polt, the chief prosecutor, to order an investigation. That in itself wouldn’t have prompted Polt to lift a finger, but then Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor pressed charges because of “the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic horror show” that took place in Érpatak. Suddenly, the case had international implications that the government and the prosecutor’s office couldn’t quite ignore. The prosecutor’s office in Nyíregyháza began an investigation into the National Network of the Érpatak and the Youth Movement of the Sixty-Four Counties. If Orosz and the other organizers are found guilty they may receive up to three years in jail. I very much doubt, however, that he will spend even one night in jail.

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The aftershocks of the Szentmihályi Szabó affair

The translation of  Péter Szentmihályi Szabó’s article on the “agents of Satan” three days ago on Hungarian Spectrum has reawakened international scrutiny into the real nature of Viktor Orbán’s regime. Immediately after the document’s publication letters started pouring into the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Italian embassy in Hungary asking the Italians not to accept Szentmihályi Szabó as Hungary’s envoy.

Yesterday morning the Jewish Telegraphic Agency published a short article in which they said:

Eva Balogh described Szentmihályi Szabó as a “raging” and “inveterate” anti-Semite. She quoted an article written by him in 2000 in the far-right Magyar Forum, called “The Agents of Satan,” which, though it doesn’t specifically use the term “Jew,” clearly describes Jews in classic anti-Semitic terms similar to those used in Nazi propaganda.

The Hungarian Jewish leadership did not immediately respond to the nomination. But a source close to the leadership of the main Jewish umbrella group Mazsihisz told JTA that the nomination was a “very unfriendly gesture from the government” during the year designated by the government as an official Holocaust Memorial Year.

Vox.com also noticed my post and quoted at some length from Szentmihályi Szabó’s infamous article, describing it as “pretty appalling stuff.” According to the journalist responsible for the article, this latest development is “especially troubling given that it happened in Hungary, where there has been a trend of anti-Semitism… [T]hough right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán condemns anti-Semitism, his government doesn’t have the best track record on it.”

And finally today the World Jewish Congress raised its voice in protest. Let me quote the text of the press release in full:

The head of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Thursday said that appointment of Hungarian far-right publicist Péter Szentmihályi Szabó as Hungary’s ambassador to Italy was “clearly an affront to Jews”. WJC President Ronald Lauder urged Italy to refuse the accreditation of Szentmihályi Szabó, who has penned anti-Semitic texts in the past.

“A man who suggests that Hungary’s Jews are ‘agents of Satan’, ‘greedy, envious, evil and ugly’ is not fit to represent his country abroad, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would be well-advised to withdraw this man as soon as possible and look for a person who is suitable for this job,” said Lauder.

“It is particularly sad and irritating that Hungary, which declared 2014 as Holocaust memorial year, is once again in the news with this sort of thing. How can an anti-Semite represent a government whose leader pledged a policy of zero tolerance toward anti-Semitism?” Lauder asked, referring to Orbán’s speech before the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest in May 2013. He said decisions such as this would do further damage to Hungary’s reputation abroad and “not inspire confidence that the Orbán government means business when it says it will fight anti-Semitism.”

The WJC leader expressed hope that, given Italy’s history and strong commitment to fight racial hatred and anti-Semitism, the Italian government would not accept an outspoken extremist and Jew-hater as a member of the diplomatic corps in Rome.

The appointment by Budapest of the 69-year-old Szentmihályi Szabó comes after a recent decision by the Hungarian government to build a controversial World War II monument that obfuscates Hungary’s role in the deportation of Jews to the Nazi death camps in 1944.

Meanwhile Péter Szentmihályi Szabó acts as if nothing has happened. Or at least he pretends that all this “noise” doesn’t bother him a bit. Rather, he seems to be proud of his name being bandied about in the Hungarian and the foreign press. He shared his reactions in his regular column in the far-right Magyar Hírlap called “Sarkosan fogalmazva,” which is perhaps best rendered as “Not beating around the bush.”

Actually, Szentmihályi Szabó exaggerates somewhat. Only about three dozen articles appeared about him, mostly in the liberal press. None in Magyar Nemzet or Válasz. Naturally, Magyar Hírlap, his own paper, reported disapprovingly that “Gyurcsány and Co. are asking Europe’s help in the matter of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó” and republished DK’s protest released by the party’s press department. In addition, László Domonkos, a journalist who since 1990 has written a number of books for far-right publishing houses, expressed his absolute delight that “István Csurka’s comrade-in-arms” received the honor of being able to represent Hungary in Rome. The late István Csurka was a self-professed anti-Semite who established MIÉP (Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja/Party of Hungarian Truth and Justice) in 1993. Domonkos, I might add, wrote a biography of Csurka (Kárpátia Studió, 2012). He is on the editorial board of Trianoni Szemle (Trianon Review) and a frequent contributor to Nagy Magyarország (Greater Hungary).

Publication of the Committee on European Affairs responsible for the nomination of  Péter Szentmihályi Szabó

Publication of the Committee on European Affairs which was responsible for the nomination of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó

And finally, let me talk about an article written by Attila Ara-Kovács, a journalist and former diplomat, in Magyar Narancs where he has a regular column, “Diplomáciai jegyzet” (Diplomatic Notes). His latest piece is on Szentmihályi Szabó’s appointment. Its title is “To Rome with Love,” a reference to the Woody Allen movie of the same name.

Ara-Kovács, who is very well informed, suspects that there are serious differences of opinion over the direction of Hungarian foreign policy within Fidesz circles. The more conservative members have been worried about the worsening relationship between the Orbán government and the West. The first sign of discontent appeared in 2012 when it became clear that Orbán was taking Hungary in a direction that these conservative supporters or diplomats found injurious to the interests of the country. Turning to the East was bad enough, but when this new orientation culminated in the Putin-Orbán summit and the subsequent loan agreement, this was too much for these people who not surprisingly harbor anti-Russian sentiments from the days of the Kádár regime and are suspicious of Putin’s intentions. Then came what Ara-Kovács calls “the massacre” in the Foreign Ministry when about 200 people arrived from Tibor Navracsics’s Ministry of Administration and Justice and Péter Szijjártó’s Office of the Prime Minister. Naturally, a lot of old hands were fired to make place for the newcomers.

And now we come to the question of the source of the leak about the nomination of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó. Parliament is not in session, but the chairman of the Committee on European Affairs called the members together for an extraordinary session to discuss this particular nomination. The chairman of the committee is Richárd Hörcsik, who has been a member of parliament ever since 1990 when he belonged to the right-of-center Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF). Neither the Demokratikus Koalíció nor Együtt-PM is represented on this committee. There is one Jobbik member and two MSZP members. It turned out that both MSZP members, István Józsa ad Bertalan Tóth, were absent. Thus, the news that spread like wildfire about the committee giving its blessing to Péter Szentmihályi Szabó’s nomination must have come either from Jobbik or more likely from one of the Fidesz members of the committee. It looks as if this nomination was too much for somebody who seems to be worried about the foreign policy direction of the third Orbán government.

A raging anti-Semite will be Hungary’s ambassador in Rome

Late Sunday night the media learned that Péter Szentmihályi Szabó, a mediocre poet and political commentator of the far right, will be Hungary’s next ambassador to Rome. Two opposition parties, Democratic Coalition and Együtt-PM, immediately protested against the appointment, pointing out that over the last two decades the nominee has been publishing in such far-right papers as István Csurka’s Magyar Fórum, Kárpátia, and Nemzetőr. Currently, he has a regular column in the far-right Magyar Hírlap and is also a regular on Echo TV, another far-right organ.

Tibor Navracsics and Péter Szentmihályi Szabó The foreign minister is delighted

Tibor Navracsics and Péter Szentmihályi Szabó
The foreign minister is delighted

There were commentators whose “breath was taken away” when they heard the news of Szentmihályi Szabó’s imminent ambassadorial appointment. A blogger expressed himself more strongly: “Viktor Orbán happened to appoint a rat to be ambassador to Rome.” One thing is sure: Szentmihályi Szabó is an inveterate anti-Semite. Pure and simple. So, it is a rather ironic Orbánite gesture to appoint such a man to an important post in the Memorial Year of the Holocaust.

I could hopscotch from article to article penned by this man, but perhaps it would be more useful to translate one of his memorable pieces that appeared in Magyar Fórum on December 14, 2000.

Meet Viktor Orbán’s choice for ambassador to Italy.

* * *

Péter Szentmihályi Szabó : The Agents of Satan

I don’t know, I don’t understand why they hate us so much. They live here in Hungary, they speak and write in Hungarian, but they loathe us. I really don’t understand why they stay if it is that bad here, in this welcoming country that is so foolishly patient. It is not difficult to recognize them because they are cowardly and impertinent at the same time. Money is their God, their mother tongue in which they have trusted from time immemorial. Dark circles under their eyes, flabby skin, clammy palms, cold feet, freakish smiles give them away. They can be found everywhere on the earth. They are the agents of Satan. They arouse fear and they live off of fear. They create turmoil and discord. They are constantly packing, yet they don’t leave. Are they foreign spirits whose mission is to destroy the local communities? International criminals who, following Marx and Lenin, decided to enslave mankind? Eternally homeless folk condemned to be constant wanderers? They are the debt collectors. The ones who first figured out that money “works” without labor although there are no goods behind the merchandise, only a piece of metal, a piece of paper, or by now only a digital symbol on the computer. Everybody is afraid of them, yet they dread those who fear them. The world’s strongest army guards their security, and yet they still don’t dare to get close to those whose rights they defend so loudly.

Pharisees, hypocrites, agents of Satan. They are in every party, in every church, in every community. They are ready for every betrayal because they are empty. They have no God, no nation, no people, no homeland, no Weltanschauung, only bank accounts. They don’t even have families, only temporarily. Their families are replaceable. They use everything, but nothing is theirs. And they clearly realize that. I am listening to the naive official statements about the forthcoming law on Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. One can hear the mistaken centuries-old notion being repeated: “a Hungarian is one who considers himself to be a Hungarian.” Oh my Lord, any member of any reasonably cultured nation would have a hearty laugh hearing this! Is someone who calls himself an Englishman, a Frenchman, a German, an American actually an Englishman, a Frenchman, a German or an American? In that case, our Roma in Strasbourg would have abandoned us a long time ago…. The agents of Satan are the devotees of globalism; they are not attached to their names, to their firms, to their own homeland. They have no attachment, only bank accounts. They are born traitors because they have never had their own country. They are in every radio and television station where they bray among themselves speaking in a nasal sing-song way and slimily blurring their r’s. They live off their fears. They are professional worriers. They are internationalists and cosmopolitans. Faithful friends of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Lukács, and György Aczél.

Descendants of Rákosi, the jailers of the “guilty” Hungarian nation. Members of the State Security forces, members of detachments, worker guardists. Approximately 200,000 people who call themselves Hungarian who have not cleared out of the country yet because after 1989 they realized that the stupid Hungarian people don’t harbor vengefulness. The two million former unskilled laborers understand only the demagoguery of MSZP and SZDSZ. Viktor Orbán is the same target as József Antall or Péter Boross, or for that matter István Csurka were.  The agents of Satan play games with us and have a grand time at it. They slap us in the face and call us to account that we, in an intolerant and very unchristian-like manner, don’t turn the other cheek. They are the ones who are most indignant when somebody tries to put an end to the greedy acquisition of Hungarian real estate by foreigners; they are the ones for whom abortion and drugs are human rights. They have more than one passport, preferably the kind that has no extradition treaty with Hungary–security foremost. They live in castles, they have servants, but they are great friends of the homeless, the Roma, the needy. From a distance and only in words. If they see some gain in getting involved with Hungarian issues, like, for example the millennial celebrations, then they reluctantly join in. They think everybody can be bought, because they themselves can be, always by the kilo. They are greedy, envious, evil–and ugly. Countenance is the mirror of the soul, but their mirror is a tarnished one. They are callous. Condemned souls for whom there is no resurrection. It is likely that Satan bestows such agents on all nations, ones who not only prey on them but also lecture the nations as if they were stupid primitive domestic animals. Hell is waiting for their return.

Undisguised anti-Semitism of Viktor Orbán’s chief ideologue, the historian Mária Schmidt

In the June 26 issue of Válasz, formerly Heti Válasz, a fairly lengthy article entitled “In the captivity of the past” appeared. It was written by Mária Schmidt whom I earlier described as the “chief ideologist of the current government’s very controversial views on history.”

In this latest article Schmidt, the official historian of the Hungarian “Jewish question” in Viktor Orbán’s regime, does not even try to hide her aversion toward the Hungarian “left-liberal” intellectual elite. Moreover, a careful reading of the article reveals that in that hated group the Jews play a prominent role. The whole article is basically an attack on those “infallible,” mostly Jewish intellectuals who have been keeping Hungarian public opinion “under intellectual terror” for decades. Singled out for especially vituperative attack is the older generation of that intellectual elite.

It is hard to understand Schmidt’s vehemence against this aging group since at the very beginning of the article she confidently states that “since the 2014 election the influence and intellectual terror of the left liberal elite has slowly dwindled to nothing.” The election proved that “these clever ones” simply don’t understand the twenty-first century which, according to Schmidt, “began in 2008.”

What kinds of people are these old-fashioned liberals who understand nothing of the present because they are locked in the intellectual framework of 1968? They are, according to the court historian of Viktor Orbán, anti-Christian, anti-Hungarian, Marxist internationalists who talk about a future beyond nations. They are accused of launching a hate campaign, and “in our country only atheistic, intolerant, Marxist groups” are capable of such a hate campaign. These people are unable to understand the very concept of “Hungarian interest.” Instead, they talk about progress and internationalism while actually “they become servants of foreign interests. While there was the Soviet Union, they represented Soviet interests, now they serve the West, that is, the United States, the European Union, and Germany.” She continues: “Every member of this group is against the nation.” For them the nation is dangerous, repugnant, old-fashioned, pre-modern. They like to talk about “the preferred topics of the empire,” meaning the European Union: Holocaust, racism, Roma, homosexual marriage. And where can these people be found? “In the new SZDSZ, the Demokratikus Koalíció.”

Once she sets the stage she moves on to a specifically Jewish topic, or at least what she considers to be a topic that elicits opposition only from the Jewish community. Of course, this is not the case; about half of Hungarians consider the monument the government intends to erect to commemorate the occupation of Hungary by the Germans on March 19, 1944 a falsification of history. Schmidt’s tirade against those who oppose the depiction of Hungary as an innocent victim of German aggression begins with a side swipe at the United States. She says that some people find the proposed statue aesthetically inferior, but after what “the U.S. Embassy did with one of the most beautiful public places of Budapest” one should refrain from such criticism. This is a reference to the alterations made to the building after 9/11 for security reasons.

Then Schmidt embarks on listing  the arguments that were brought against the erection of the monument, finding all of them bogus. Naturally, according to her, it mattered not that although the German army did move into Hungarian territory, it came not as a foe but as a friend, an ally.

The second argument that the memorial’s message blurs the distinction between victim and perpetrator also receives short shrift from Schmidt. Monuments often do that. There is, for example, the Soviet Memorial standing on the same square. It is a memorial to the soldiers who died in Hungary in the course of the war, but, adds Schmidt, they were the same soldiers who  raped 100,000 Hungarian women. (I don’t want to be irreverent, but surely in this case the perpetrators of the rapes were not the ones whose death is memorialized by the Soviet Memorial.)

The third argument is that Hungary cannot be depicted as an innocent victim because “there were Jewish laws and Hungary deported some people who couldn’t prove their citizenship.” But this doesn’t make the occupation any less of a tragedy. The victim becomes a victim not because he is innocent but because of the aggression of the stronger. It happens often enough that “some of the victims later become perpetrators.” Because I am familiar with other writings of Mária Schmidt, I know exactly whom she has in mind: some Jewish survivors who later became willing supporters of the Rákosi regime and whose activities are so vividly depicted in the House of Terror, whose director is Mária Schmidt herself.

With this introduction about “victims” and “perpetrators” Schmidt specifically addresses the Hungarian Jewish community. She claims that “in the last couple of decades the status of the victim became absolute. We got so far that there are groups that would like to look upon their ancestors’ tragic fate as an inherited privilege and expand the victimization to generations whose members have not suffered any atrocity.” In her opinion this view, held by some members of the Hungarian Jewish community, has “serious consequences” because if the status of victim can be inherited then so can the status of perpetrator. “We lived through two dictatorships. We are full of former perpetrators and their descendants.” Schmidt claims that the soon to be erected monument was created to be “the monument of reconciliation and propitiation.”

Memorial for those who were killed on the banks of the Danube and their bodies thrown into the river Source; budapest-foto.hu

Memorial for those Jewish victims who were killed on the banks of the Danube 
Source: budapest-foto.hu

As if this were not enough, Schmidt goes on attacking the Hungarian Jewish community. “Those very people who laid the foundations of and represented the historiography of the dictatorship want to prevent us now, seventy years after the tragedy, from placing the flowers of reverence before all the Hungarian victims. They still want to prescribe whom we can mourn and whom we cannot; for whom we can cry and for whom we cannot. They prescribe empathy from us every day of the year, while they remain blind and deaf toward other people’s sorrows. … With this act they exclude themselves from our national community.

Well, this is at least straightforward talk, not the usual coded anti-Semitic discourse. This is the real thing from the chief ideologue of the Orbán regime. And a threat. At least the members of the Hungarian Jewish community now know what they can expect from the Hungarian nation, from which they just excluded themselves.