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Hungarian Press Roundup: Govt and Opposition Trade Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Hungary Today 2019.02.25.

Left-wing and liberal commentators claim that the government’s philosemitic and pro-Israel messages are just window-dressing. A pro-government columnist finds it outrageous that the Left is willing to cooperate with the Jobbik party. A centrist pundit thinks that it is good news that all mainstream parties try to disavow anti-Semitism.

Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu

On Mérce, István Merker accuses the government of ‘anti-Semitic tendencies’. The alt-left blogger rejects as false the government claim that its anti-immigration line is intended to defend Jews as well as other minorities. Merker thinks that by pre-emptively putting the defence of Jews in its narrative, the government wants to secure itself the ‘epistemic advantage’ of defining anti-Semitism, and thereby labelling as an anti-Semite anyone who opposes its ‘harsh and inhumane’ anti-migrant campaign. He also dismisses the pro-government claim that most recent anti-Semitism comes from left-wing parties in Europe. When it stands accused of using anti-Semitic stereotypes in its anti-Soros campaigns, the government labels such criticism as politically motivated and biased mud-slinging, Merker complains.

Népszava’s Róbert Friss finds ‘peculiar’ the Hungarian government claim that it steadfastly opposes anti-Semitism. The left-wing columnist recalls that earlier this week, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Jerusalem that the Hungarian government follows a zero tolerance policy on anti-Semitism. Furthermore, he finds it nauseating that the government claims that it wants to defend Jewish people by stopping mass immigration into Europe, while at the same time portrays the ‘Jewish millionaire’ George Soros as the enemy of the Hungarian people. He also accuses the government side of attempts to whitewash the inter-war Horthy era, which was stained by explicit anti-Semitism.

Magyar Narancs in a lead editorial suggests that Fidesz and Jobbik have swapped places on the political Right. While the editors acknowledge that Jobbik has moved towards the centre and abandoned its racist rhetoric, they accuse Fidesz of targeting minorities and using anti-Semitic stereotypes. The liberal weekly contends that the government’s new billboard campaign depicting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as a Soros-ally amounts to ‘racist and anti-Semitic instigation’.

In Szombat, János Gadó lambasts Slomó Köves, leader of the EMIH Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation for echoing the government’s rhetoric and accusing Jobbik and left-wing politicians of anti-Semitism. Gadó thinks that Jobbik made a pragmatic turn when it abandoned its earlier anti-Semitic politics, similarly to most radical right-wing parties in Europe. Gadó notes that Fidesz follows the same discourse, and openly rejects anti-Semitism, and supports Israel, but at the same time, the governing forces have built a cult around Regent Horthy, he claims. In light of this, Gadó finds it sad that the leader of an important Jewish organization sides with the government.

In Magyar Nemzet, Bence Békés finds it nauseating that the left-wing opposition seems willing to cooperate with the Jobbik party. Békés, a descendant of Holocaust survivors himself, accuses the Left of ignoring Jobbik’s racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric in the hope of getting back to power. He condemns left-wing parties that like to accuse PM Orbán of hate mongering for ‘marching alongside neo-Nazis’ in order to defeat the government.

In Azonnali, György Pápay takes it as actually good news that all mainstream parties are so determined to reject accusations of anti-Semitism. The centrist pundit is uncertain if Jobbik has indeed abandoned its anti-Semitic views or is just pretending in order to gain more moderate votes. Pápay also accuses Fidesz of having become more radical, and of including anti-Semitic stereotypes in its rhetoric. He remarks that the pro-government media seems to be supportive of the radical extreme-right Our Homeland movement (which split from Jobbik in protest at its new moderate line) in order to further weaken Jobbik. Nonetheless, Pápay welcomes the fact that both sides now try to explicitly distance themselves from anti-Semitic views. In the long run, such public discourse may weaken anti-Semitic attitudes in Hungarian society, Pápay hopes.