Anti-Semitism in Parliament: Hungary's Far-Right Rhetoric Reaches New Dimension

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People of Jewish heritage are a "security risk" and should be registered on a nationwide list, according to right-wing extremist Hungarian politician Márton Gyöngyösi. His comments, made in the country's parliament, have sparked widespread outrage. But the government was slow to distance itself.

Photo Gallery: A Protest against the 'Jewish List' Photos
AP

Conversations with the right-wing extremist Hungarian politician Márton Gyöngyösi regularly devolve into tiring marathons of relativization. He's not an anti-Semite, he insists, but the Jews … ; he's not against the Roma, but the Gypsies … ; he's not an extremist in favor of dictatorships, but liberal democracy … has failed.

The 33-year-old economist and former tax advisor is not just some random right-winger, though. He is the deputy parliamentary floor leader for the Jobbik party, which won 17 percent of the vote in Hungary's 2010 elections. Gyöngyösi's parents work for Hungarian trade associations abroad and as he was growing up, he spent time in Egypt, Afghanistan, India and Iraq. Jobbik made him the party's foreign policy spokesman.

Gyöngyösi often chuckles in satisfaction at his evasive answers. He sees himself as something of a clever head diplomat for his party.

But on Monday evening, Gyöngyösi for once chose clarity in comments to the Hungarian parliament. During a debate over Israel's military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Gyöngyösi demanded that "all Jews living in Hungary be registered" and that "Jews, particularly those in parliament and the government, be evaluated for the potential danger they pose to Hungary." In a comment directed at Zsolt Németh, a state secretary in the Foreign Ministry, he said: "I think you owe Hungary such a compilation."

Németh, the long-serving foreign policy expert from the conservative governing party Fidesz, neither condemned nor showed any indication of dismay at the comments. "The number of Jews in Hungarian government," he said, "really has nothing to do with the serious conflict in the Middle East."

"That was pure national socialism in parliament," commented Budapest historian Krisztián Ungváry. Indeed, it was the first time Jobbik openly identified itself with the racist dogma of the Nazis. Other right-wing parties in Europe have likewise held their racial hatred cards close to their chests.

Gathering with Jewish Stars

Gyöngyösi's comments triggered indignation and disgust from representatives of Jewish organizations, politicians and civil rights activists on Tuesday. Several hundred people wearing Jewish stars gathered on Tuesday afternoon to protest "creeping Fascism" in Hungary's parliament. Slomó Köves, head of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, pledged to take legal action against Gyöngyösi. It would not be the first time the Jobbik politician found himself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Last spring, Attila Mesterházy, head of the Socialist Party, filed suit against Gyöngyösi because he denied the Holocaust during an interview.

Officially, Jobbik politicians have thus far vehemently refuted any ideological proximity to neo-Nazism. But the denials have been half-hearted. On its Internet television channel N1, for example, the party once praised Adolf Hitler as one of the "greatest statesmen in the 20th century." In the spring, a Jobbik representative marked in parliament the anniversary of the alleged Jewish ritual murder of a 14-year-old Christian girl in the village of Tiszaeszlár, involving accusations against Jews in the settlement of murder, which set off weeks of pogroms in 1882-1883. In the summer, the viciously extremist and anti-Semitic European Parliamentarian Csanád Szegedi was expelled from Jobbik when it was discovered that he had Jewish ancestors.

Kristián Ungváry is not surprised by Gyöngyösi's comments. He has long been arguing that Jobbik is a neo-national socialist party in the tradition of the Arrow Cross (the national socialist, World War II-era Hungarian party) and says that the primary problem is the silence their extremism is met with by the governing coalition. "The hair-raising scandal is the limitless cowardice displayed in not reacting to such comments," Ungváry says. "There are always Nazis everywhere, particularly in Eastern Europe, and we have to live with that fact. But you have to distance yourself from them and reprimand them. And that didn't happen."

Only after Jewish groups protested did the government release a statement on Tuesday in which the governing parties sharply condemned Gyöngyösi's statements in parliament and pledged decisiveness in the fight against extremism, racism and anti-Semitism. Still, the document read like an obligatory mea culpa made necessary by State Secretary Németh's silence. Bloggers at the most widely read Hungarian Internet portal index.hu pointed out that the decisive paragraph in the statement had already been used several times almost word for word in response to similar incidents.

Recommended Reading

In reality, Fidesz has moved ever closer to the positions of the right-wing extremist Jobbik party, partly to lure voters from the right and partly out of conviction. In September, Prime Minister Victor Orbán held a blood-and-soil speech on Hungarian values that bordered on right-wing extremism in the southern Hungarian village of Ópusztaszer on the occasion of a memorial dedication. In May, Hungarian Parliamentary President László Kövér took part in a memorial for the writer József Nyírö, who was a leading cultural ideologist for the Arrow Cross. In Hungary's current national curriculum for its schools, the works of several anti-Semitic authors are listed as recommended reading.

The Jobbik party too has released a kind of correction to the comments by Gyöngyösi, in which the word "Jew" is replaced by "Israeli." He only meant Jews with dual citizenship -- those who hold both Hungarian and Israeli passports -- Gyöngyösi says in the party statement. He asked for forgiveness from his Jewish fellow citizens for the misunderstanding.

Fidesz parliamentary floor leader Antal Rogán has also initiated the introduction of fines and other penalties for future comments similar to those delivered by Gyöngyösi.

The Jobbik party appears unmoved. It is now demanding that Hungarian politicians be checked to determine if they also possess Israeli citizenship. In addition, they want a list of places in Hungary where "Israeli capital" is invested and the size of those investments.

Finally, Jobbik is demanding that a certain pact with Germany and Poland be made public. Party head Gábor Vona is convinced of the existence of the secret treaty. In it, he says, the three countries have committed themselves to providing a home "for 500,000 Jews in an emergency."

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1.
odaart 11/29/2012
The real security risk lays within the person saying that Jews are a security risk...unbelievable that we still have to deal with this much idiocy in our time.....what is this? A sign of the dumbing down of humanity??!
2. Please apply to all forms of racism
baznez 11/29/2012
Anti-semitism, or racism in any shape or form is an absolutely disgusting and unfortunate attribute of certain people's ideologies. And is one off if not the biggest deadly virus in human thought process. However why is it that a respected source such as Spiegel is ever present in outlining ant-semitism where ever it occurs (and would be normally respected in doing so) except for the fact that other forms of racism such as the moderate apartheid being applied by Israels state policies don't seem to be worthy as Spiegel articles. Here a a few just to mention in the recent Gaza flare up of violence. Israeli minister; "we want to send them back to middles ages". Netanyahu; "on one hand we have peace on the other the deadly sword of David", Ariel Sharon's son; "there is no such thing as an innocent Gazan. We should completely once and for all flatten the area". These were just three comments put forward by a member of an Israeli political family dynasty, a minister, and the PM himself. Hence it doesn't even take into account other references which if we replaced Palestinians with Jews would be considered as severe anti semitism. Just imagine for a moment, Merkel claiming that a non Christian state if not on their best behaviour will be seeing the sword of Jesus. Please keep tackling the issues you do regarding racism such as this one. However I urge you to be less selective and tackle the issue as a whole no matter the culprit, otherwise you will be viewed as nothing beyond anti fascism, racism etc as long as its politically correct, much inline with the pro Israeli lobby media in the US. I sincerely expect more than US style analysis by Spiegel.
3.
KhanZubair 11/29/2012
Europe seems to be place of divergent ideas and theories. Just a day back while supporting the Jews, the German Foreign Minister strongly opposed the Palestanian state move. Pro Jews view point of Merkel is know to every body. Now in Hungary you see entirely different ideas and theories emerging. Very rightly pointed out by Baznes, Anti-semitism, or racism in any shape or form is an absolutely disgusting and unfortunate attribute of certain people's ideologies. And is one off if not the biggest deadly virus in human thought process" At least at European level can we completely get rid of this curse?
4. And in the meantime in the Middle East.
powermeerkat 11/29/2012
Iranian rulling ayatollahs claim that "Israel should be wiped-off of the world map." While Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt staunchly supports terrorist Hamas in Gaza strip. [not that homicidal Assad regime in Syria doesn't arm and support terrorist Hezbollah, which destroys Lebanon as we speak.]
5. While Jobbik Rants, Fidesz Gerrymanders
stevanharnad 11/30/2012
This all-too-familiar burst of base bigotry from the Jobbik party in Hungary's parliament has deflected attention from an even more ominous event that passed unnoticed, in the very same place, on the very same day: Electoral gerrymandering designed to keep the governing Fidesz Party in power. As Marton Dornbach points out below in his remarkably insightful commentary, reproduced in full (and slightly updated by the author) from the Hungarian Spectrum, Fidesz is just playing "good cop" to Jobbik's "bad cop". "The thing that is really important here, in my opinion, is not that Márton Gyöngyösi is a Nazi. Most of us realized a while ago that Jobbik is a virulently racist Neo-Nazi party. This is no news. It is also no news, unfortunately, that the ruling party is willing to go to great lengths to avoid unequivocal and firm condemnation of Nazi talk (incidentally, the most disgracefully equivocal part of Zsolt Németh’s response was the formulation he chose: he said the number of Jews in government “is not particularly closely related” to the severity of the conflict in the Middle East /”nem nagyon kapcsolódik ahhoz”/) "No, the most newsworthy aspect of this incident is the timing. Gyöngyösi’s statements came five days after the ceasefire in Gaza was announced. So there was nothing particularly topical about his sick proposal. In any case, thugs like him never needed a pretext for Jew-baiting. Why now then? "Well, it so happens that, on the very same day that MGy made this demented proposal, the Fidesz supermajority put a stake through the barely-beating heart of Hungarian democracy by abolishing universal voting rights and introducing an exceptionally restrictive form of mandatory voter registration. You wouldn’t know this from the foreign media coverage of the Monday parliamentary session; but that’s precisely the point. Especially in the international media, but in Hungary too, the abolition of universal voting rights was completely eclipsed by this Nazi provocation. After all, viewed from London or Washington or Brussels it is so much easier to relate to Nazism than to election technicalities in a small country. So much easier for journalists to cover the former than the latter. "But let’s put things in perspective. Unfortunately, there always were and perhaps there always will be sick racists who harbor genocidal fantasies. The fact that Hungarian society as a whole fails to ostracize such people and/or treat them as psychiatric cases is a sign of a civilizational breakdown. However, there is no real danger of Gyöngyösi’s proposal being implemented (although in this respect we all know that nothing is impossible). Without denying that anti-Semitism is alarmingly widespread in Hungary and has a potential to produce violent outbursts, I think it is safe to say that the only group of people in Hungary that faces systematic discrimination and harassment on account of ethnic origins is the Roma. So we should see MGy’s statement as a purely symbolic act of transgression whose sole purpose was to shock and draw attention. "Unlike MGy’s proposal, the election law passed on the very same day is certain to have very real future consequences. It drastically reduces the chances of Orban’s opposition. Let’s be clear about this: the introduction of severely restrictive voter registration rules in a country with a perfectly well-functioning central registry is an unprecedented disgrace. It is the most overt violation of basic democratic principles even in the sordid record of the Orban regime’s power grab. This is the outrage that is being overlooked amid the (absolutely justified) uproar about the latest Nazi provocation by Jobbik. Look at the foreign coverage of what happened on Monday in the Hungarian parliament: there is no reference to the election law, no reference to Zsolt Nemeth’s appalling non-response, while most outlets state that the Hungarian government has condemned the provocation “in the strongest terms” (if only!) The whole story is a PR coup for Fidesz. In keeping with the line of defense adopted by numerous diplomatic and journalistic apologetes of the regime, this incident has given Fidesz yet another opportunity to play good cop to Jobbik’s bad cop. "To conclude, I find it almost impossible not to raise the obvious, admittedly speculative, question: Cui bono? Who is benefitting from all of this? To my mind at least the timing of this crass provocation invites the conjecture that there may be (tacit or not-so-tacit) co-operation between the Neo-Nazi Jobbik party and the ruling Fidesz supermajority. And let’s not forget here two points: it is not inconceivable that Fidesz may need to form a coalition with Jobbik to stay in power after 2014; and Jobbik is the other party, beside Fidesz, which stands to gain from the new voter registration rules. [original comment edited by MD]" http://bit.ly/FideszJobbik
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