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Political anti-semitism and the Fidesz-KDNP alliance

Parliamentary speaker László Kövér paying tribute to József Nyirő in 2012

While most Hungarians who consider themselves democrats agree that Jobbik is an anti-semitic party, their opinion is divided when it comes to Fidesz.  The following is a sampling of opinions.

Although one never hears Fidesz politicians making anti-semitic comments, members of the Fidesz intellegentsia regularly make coded anti-semitic remarks.

On the 5th anniversary of the founding of the “House of Citizens” foundation held on August 27, 2009, foundation president, opposition Fidesz MP Csaba Hende, sarcastically commented at the peak of the Sikoró scandal that “since we do not forge documents, we will never have six casinos on the banks of the Velencei lake, but not at all because someone has to be born for that!”

Considering it was public knowledge at the time that the two key investors in the aborted project were Ronald S. Lauder, president of the Jewish World congress, and Joav Blum, dual Israeli-Hungarian citizen, Hende’s comment can be considered a hardly-coded anti-semitic statement.

Among those enthusiastically applauding Hende, other than the members of the audience, was Fidesz chairman Viktor Orbán, who was seated next to him.  Nine months later Hende was Minister for Defense and Orbán was Prime Minister.

Fidesz  has made its opposition to capital and banks known on many occasions, both rhetorically and when drafting and debating legislation.  In a radio interview given one or two years ago with regard to proposals to do away with the bank tax, the Prime Minister remarked that “crows do not pick out each others’ eyes.”

The same coded anti-semitic rhetoric surfaced at a press conferenced held by Antal Rogán a month ago, at which the head of the Fidesz fraction said the banks “are paying the price for their old sins against Hungarian families.”

“Thieving Jew brokers!  To the gas chambers!”

At the center of anti-semitism is an explanation of the modern capitalist world economy.  This does not see anti-semitism in objective terms, but rather as a deliberate exploitation foisted by evil people on a national community or a “people”.  According to this world view, “Jews” stand behind capitalism and reign over the international economic processes.  And for this reason they are responsible for all crises and failures.  Anti-semitism is capable of depicting the world in a simplistic manner which classifies events as belonging to one of two categories.

On the one side are economic processes such as retailing, banking, the stock markets and exploitative capital.  By contrast,  production, craftmanship, asset producing industry and active capital.  The anti-semitic world view pits value creation “work” against “exploitation” and “parasitism”, the “working capital” against “speculative capital”, and “national, true, pure, honest capital” against “international, unjust, dirty, exploitative” capital.

With respect to the current situation in Hungary, this is the “work-based” model, the society model enshrined in the Fundamental Law by the Fidesz-KDNP governing coalition.   The work-based society . . . is an authoritarian society . . . in which work or the work ethos is the basis for respect.  This is fundamentally a societal model based on exclusion and runs counter to the solidarity society model, because in the former only those people have worth who are part of the work process. If a politician endeavours to “drive out speculative capital” . . . then . . . he “prefers the non-inclusive (anti-semitic or anti-Gypsy) societal model,” writes prejudice researcher Magdolna Marsovszky in a study recently published in German.

In education, the historical viewpoint one observes has a tendency to excuse or downplay the significance of anti-semitism.  On page 105 of the eighth-grade history textbook written by Ferenc Banhegyi appears the following:  “In May-June 1944 all the Jews living in the countryside were deported to German concentration camps with the cooperation of Hungarian authorities.”  Correctly put, it should read as follows:  “In May-June thanks to the Hungarian Royal Railways, the Hungarian Royal Gendarmes with the indifference of the majority of inhabitants and with part of the population taking pleasure in their misfortune, the entire Jewish population of the countryside was deported to German death camps.” The passage from the textbook simultaneously denies responsibility on the part of the Hungarian state and society while downplaying the suffering of Hungary’s Jews.

It is not only the government’s intellectual establishment that is white-washing Admiral Miklós Horthy and the anti-semitic figures of that period, but a number of governing party politicians as well. In 2008 for example a statue was erected to one of the most significant figures of the Hungarian political anti-semitism, Ottokar Prohaszka, at the Lakiteleki University. Present at the statue’s unveiling were the Fidesz deputy speaker Sándor Lezsák, who continues to fill this post, and Fidesz MP Zoltán Balog, who has since been promoted to Minister for Human Resources.

Balog, by the way, presented the Hungarian Order of Merit to the archeologist Kornél Bakay, who has permitted himself numerous anti-semitic statements.

Apart from Ottokar Prohászka, Fidesz has promoted the author Jozsef Nyirő.  A member of the Hungarian parliament after 1941, Nyirő retained his position after the Arrow Cross, Hungary’s fascist party, assumed power on October 16, 1944. Both as a parliamentarian and a writer Nyirő proved himself a genuine anti-semitic, and even warmly recalled meeting Josef Goebbels in Weimar in 1941.  At his aborted reburial in 2012 the president of the Hungarian parliament, László Kövér (pictured) memorialized him with warm words.  (Upon learning of the planned reburial of Nyirő’s ashes, Romania banned the ceremony. Nyirő’s ashes were allegedly smuggled into Romania in the briefcase of a Hungarian official).

Together with Albert Wass, whose writings are also of questionable literary value, Nyirő’s writings have been included in Hungary’s obligatory national curriculum.

Nor has Miklós Horthy escaped the governing party’s attention. In 2012 Fidesz member of parliament, Budapest 16th district mayor Péter Kovács and National Economy undersecretary Kristof Szatmáry lent their names to a ball whose proceeds went to erect a statue of Horthy.

Whereas in the case of Lezsák, Balog, Kövér, Kovács or Szatmáry, their indifference towards anti-semitism merely gives them the appearance of being anti-semites, the president of the Hungarian Academy of the Arts, György Fekete, openly professes strongly anti-semitic views. In a November 2012 interview the Fidesz-installed president of the Hungarian Academy of Arts said “we have to calculate with the fact that for example (Hungarian author) György Konrád is considered a Hungarian abroad”.

Similar tendencies can be observed in the state media, and there is no reason to consider state media as not being close to Fidesz.  Characteristic of state media is a very strong nationalist point of view that, while not being overtly anti-semitic, completely agrees with the historical viewpoint promulgated by Fidesz, which periodically smacks of coded anti-semistism. László Csizmádia, the founding president of the Civil Unity Forum (CÖF), talks about the importance of “protecting our homeland from strong attacks from within and without.” In listening to the material it becomes apparent that the internal enemy attacks not the government, but the homeland. This is nearly identical to the theory of being stabbed in the back.

On top of everything, state media is strongly partial when it comes to Israel.  Here’s a completely fresh example: a report taken from the Hungarian News Service bearing the title “Israel is the greatest threat to Iran in the region” appeared on Wednesday.  From the article it appeared that a correct title for the article should have been:  “The Iranian president believes Israel is the greater threat in the region when it comes to his country.” Not to mention Beatrix Siklosi, an unrepentant anti-semite, who frequently appears on Hungarian television.  Fortunately, Siklosi was recently relieved of her responsibility for “religious programming” on state television.

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