In response to an op-ed published in Times of Israel accusing the Hungarian government of using the support of Israel as a cover-up for antisemitism, the government’s international spokesman says Orbán and Fidesz’s motivations to fight antisemitism are genuine. According to Zoltán Kovács, the anti-Soros campaign has no antisemitic features.
In an op-ed, Hanna Luden, the director of a Jewish charity advocating for Israel and fighting antisemitism, argues that the support for Israel must not serve as a cover up for antisemitism. She mentioned examples where in her view, this has happened, highlighting the Fidesz government, and its anti-Soros campaign.
In her view, Soros “has become a symbol, a code word for “the powerful Jews who are conspiring to dominate the world.” Tens of thousands of posters financed by the government, criticizing Soros, and bearing his photo were hung all over Budapest, calling for the “extinction of Soros and the powers he symbolizes.”
Kovács: Orbán and Fidesz did a lot for Jews
In his response, Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary for International Communication and Relation, however, defends the government, and lambasts the author and her claims.
First, he highlights some of the government’s deeds, which according to him include:
- The Fidesz-led parliament’s Fundamental Law recognizing Hungarian Jewry as an inseparable part of the Hungarian nation.
- In 2001, the first Orbán government established the Holocaust Museum along with the national Day of Remembrance for victims of the Hungarian Holocaust.
- They introduced Holocaust education in the national curriculum and raised the pensions of Holocaust survivors.
- The current government also passed some of the most far-reaching provisions in Europe to punish Holocaust denial, hate speech, and the display of hate symbols.
- The prime minister established a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Semitism and effectively banned paramilitary groups that were intimidating Jewish and Roma citizens.
- In face of the growing trend to ban Kosher slaughter in Europe, Hungary stood alone in raising a voice for the protection of religious freedom and practices inseparable from the future of Jewish life on the continent.
- The Fidesz-led government devoted resources to the reconstruction of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, and built the first new synagogue in Budapest in 80 years.
- PM Orbán was the first Hungarian prime minister to publicly acknowledge Hungary’s culpability in the Holocaust, saying that Hungary sinned when we failed to protect our Jewish citizens.
- Under PM Orbán’s leadership, Hungary stands among the staunchest supporters of Israel’s sovereignty and independence in international bodies like the EU and the UN.
Kovács also defends the Soros campaign, arguing that “Orbán and his governments never refer to his [Soros’] Jewish roots,” adding that the billionaire also tends to talk little about it and denying that there would have been any government-funded posters calling for the “extinction of Soros and the powers he symbolizes.”
He then slams “Soros apologists” for playing “the Jewish card in an effort to smear those who dare to oppose Soros’ pro-immigration, radical open-society agenda,” claiming that Soros is in fact “a political actor with a radical political agenda”, who along with “…the network of NGOs that depend on his funding” have no democratic legitimacy to push his ideologically-driven agenda in Hungary, especially when it concerns big national security issues like immigration.
Kovács additionally mentions what he calls “a deafening silence in the international media” about the unified opposition’s alliance with Jobbik, a far-right, antisemitic party, and the coalition’s candidate for prime minister.”
Jewish communities: Hungarian Jews can live in safety
While the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), a religious organization that regularly defends the Fidesz administration saying that the campaigns didn’t have any considerable effect in terms of antisemitism, others are more critical on the matter.
In an interview with Hungary Today, Péter Kirschner, the leader of neutral Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association (MAZSIKE), besides highlighting a number of other controversial cases in which he believes minorities were targeted, and sends a bad message to the Jewry too, also insisted that the anti-Soros campaign has very much stirred up antisemitic feelings. “It may not have been intended, but this definitely was among the outcomes of the campaign. Just a tiny little sign is enough so that the public identifies Jews as scapegoats,” he argued. Kirschner, however, highlighted that Hungarian Jews can live in safety and their cultural life is thriving.
Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI