Chief Rabbi Slomó Köves: “Anti-Semitism is in Decline in Hungary”
In an interview with left-liberal weekly 168 Óra, Chief Rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH)—one of the leading organizations of the Hungarian Jewry—Slomó Köves discusses his relationship with the government, Anti-Semitism and the new organization meant to counter it.
As the Chief Rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), Slomó Köves is one of the most well-known Hungarian Jewish leaders. EMIH cooperates closely with the government on a number of projects. Because of this and other complex issues, EMIH has an icy relationship with the other major Jewish organization, Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ), which is linked to the left-liberal side and is critical of the governing alliance.
Gov’t to support new organization to fight Anti-Semitism
Köves claims the Action and Protection League of Europe (APLE; Tett és Védelem Liga), a new organization meant to fight anti-semitism in Europe, was his idea. APLE will operate on the same methodology as the Hungarian Action and Defense Foundation (TVE), which he claims has been successful since its foundation in 2012 and now has offices all over Europe, does. At the moment, the Hungarian government is the project’s main donor with Huf 525 million (Eur 1,6 million) given thus far. Starting in 2020, the government will allocate 500 million (Eur 1,5 million) annually.
The league states its main mission as “the comprehensive assessment of the judicial system in the Member States of the EU and proposals for a unified legislation to effectively combat Anti-Semitism.” In addition, a 24-hour incident green line will be established. APLE will also analyze national curricula and applied teaching materials, monitor Anti-Semitism in the media, social media and public life, and provide reports on all Member States, including European, Turkish and Arab media.
The foundation has reportedly been welcomed by important Jewish organizations and politicians, including Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu.
Anti-semitism in decline in Hungary
According to Köves, Despite the fact that Anti-Semitism has become increasingly prevalent in Western Europe over the last 20 years, it has begun to decline in Hungary. TVE’s data both subjectively and objectively confirm this, he claims.
Köves believes the decline in Hungary is mainly due to Jobbik’s shift towards the center (néppártosodás), as the nationalist party is eagerly attempting to give up its former radical, often Anti-Semitic, rhetoric. The apparition of Our Home Movement (Mi Hazánk Mozgalom: a radical fraction recently ousted from Jobbik formed MHM), however, could potentially bring Anti-Semitic rhetoric back to the Parliament, he argues. He primarily blames Muslim fundamentalism, which has gained ground over the last 20 years, for the resurgence of Anti-Semitism in Europe.
Sargentini report is misleading
When asked about the Sargentini report, Köves said the report is completely unfounded and contains misleading references and information. As a result, he believes it does not help to counter domestic Anti-Semitism and fails to fulfill its so-called “democracy-enhancing” goals.