Spiegel: Rhetoric of the extreme right in Hungary has hit rock bottom
Czech Radio has published a translation from German into Czech of an article published online by the German magazine Speigel about the ultra-right in Hungary. The magazine reports that Hungarian MP Márton Gyöngyösi of the extreme-right party "Movement for a Better Hungary" (Jobbik) declared last week in parliament that since citizens of Jewish origin pose a "security risk", a nationwide list of them should be compiled. "His statements prompted an enormous wave of indignation, but the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán distanced itself from the MP very slowly," Spiegel reports.
According to the weekly magazine, every attempt to debate with Gyöngyösi turns into an exhausting marathon of relativism. "I am not an antisemite," he claims, "but you must recognize, that those Jews..." etc. "I am not even against Romani people, but you know Gypsies... and I am not even an extremist working towards a dictatorship, but you must recognize that liberal democracy has failed...." Such are the arguments made by this 33-year-old economist and former tax adviser. Spiegel reports that he is no ordinary ultra-rightist.
Gyöngyösi is the vice-chair of the Jobbik faction in parliament. The party won a full 17 % of the vote in the 2010 elections. Today the party, which is the third-strongest in the country, has 47 MPs in the 386-seat parliament.
Gyöngyösi's parents were employed by a Hungarian foreign trade enterprise. Today's nationalist spent his childhood in Afghanistan, Egypt, India and Iraq. Jobbik has made him its foreign policy spokesperson as result.
"Gyöngyösi sometimes poorly conceals his pleasure in the tactic of avoiding giving an answer to a question. He evidently considers himself to be his party's diplomatic ace," Spiegel reports.
Last Monday evening, however, he finally decided to speak in parliament clearly and intelligibly. During a debate on the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, he suggested the registration of all Hungarian Jews. He later clarified, that "Jews, especially if they are in the government or in parliament, must be considered a potential security risk for Hungary." He turned to Deputy Foreign Minister Zsolt Németh and said: "I think such a list will be important in Hungary in particular." Németh, who is a career diplomat with the conservative governing party FIDESZ, did not respond to this challenge with either criticism or rejection, and did not even seem to be much bothered by it. He only said that "the number of Jewish people in the Hungarian Parliament has nothing in common with the serious conflict in the Middle East."
"This was a purely national-socialist debate in the lower house," declared Budapest-based historian Krisztián Ungváry. In his view, Jobbik has completely openly identified itself with the racist dogma of the Nazis. Other European extremist parties do not show their cards so easily.
Representatives of Jewish organizations, politicians and civic activists responded to Gyöngyösi's remarks with enormous indignation. Last Tuesday several hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament building wearing yellow stars on their lapels to demonstrate against "creeping fascism" in the Hungarian Parliament. Slomó Köves, chair of the United Council of Jewish Communities in Hungary, is convinced that Gyöngyösi should be prosecuted for his statements.
It would not be the first time the controversial politician has clashed with the law. Last spring the head of the Socialist Party, Attila Mesterházy, filed charges against him for Holocaust denial. Gyöngyösi rejects the existence of any connection between his party's positions and Nazi ideology. Spiegel magazine reports that he is clearly lying when he makes such claims.
There is footage in the online archive of the N1 television station, for example, of Jobbik members calling Adolf Hitler "one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century". This past spring, another MP from the extremist party reminded the parliament that it was the 130th anniversary of the alleged ritual murder by Jews of a 14-year-old Christian girl in the village of Tiszaeszlár. The scandal shook Austria-Hungary at the time and pogroms repeatedly took place in the region during 1882 and 1883. Last summer Jobbik members also excluded the openly antisemitic Hungarian MEP Csanád Szegedi from the party after his Jewish ancestry came to light.
Ungváry told Spiegel that Gyöngyösi's statements did not surprise him. "I have been insisting for years that Jobbik is a neo-Nazi party carrying on the tradition of the Arrow Cross, the Nazi party that governed Horthy's Hungary at the end of WWII. The key problem of our political scene, however, is the unwillingness of the government to do something about Jobbik. The cabinet's posture is cowardly, passive and scandalous," the historian believes. In his view there is more than one strand of neo-Nazism in Central Europe, but most countries manage to distance themselves from such trends. In Hungary, however, the political parties did not take any action until after Jewish organizations began to sharply protest last Tuesday. Spiegel reports that their official reactions were all too reminiscent of perfunctory penitence.
Bloggers writing for Hungary's most-read web portal, index.hu, pointed out that the words of condemnation used in this case were exactly the same as those used in several other recent cases. No one in the government even took the time to formulate a new statement. According to political scientists, the strongest party, FIDESZ, is itself moving to the right – its efforts to attract Jobbik voters are understandable, but the political price they are paying is too high.
In September PM Orbán gave a speech in front of historical monuments in the village of Ópusztaszer in which he appealed to the sacrosanct nature of Hungarian blood and land. Spiegel points out that the works of antisemitic authors have also recently been added to obligatory reading lists in the schools.
Jobbik tried over the course of last week to ameliorate the scandal caused by its MP and moved toward a certain correction of it by replacing the word "Jews" with the term "Israelis". Gyöngyösi sent a declaration to the media stating that he had not meant that a list of Jewish members of the government and parliament should be compiled, but a list of persons with dual Hungarian and Israeli citizenship. He then reached out to his Jewish fellow citizens with a request for forgiveness. The chair of the FIDESZ faction in parliament, Antal Rogán, has already taken preliminary steps to introduce fines for such statements in future.
Jobbik has not undergone any ideological turnaround in reality. Shortly after the scandal broke, MP Elöd Novak (Jobbik) called for MP Katalina Ertsey, who has both Hungarian and Israeli citizenship, to resign. According to today's news in the Hungarian press, Novak complained at a press conference in Budapest that "Israel has more MPs in the parliament in Budapest than it does in the Knesset". The attack on the MP, who represents an environmental party called "Another Politics is Possible", came four days after Gyöngyösi's repulsive initiative. Novak sent all MPs an e-mail this week calling on them to publicly stand against the option of dual citizenship.
Moreover, Jobbik MPs want to publish a list of places in Hungary into which "Israeli capital" has been invested. They are also demanding the amounts of those investments be revealed. The ultra-right party intends to publish interstate treaties concluded with Germany and Poland as well. The head of Jobbik, Gábor Vona, who is of Slovak origin and who was born Gábor Zázrivecz, claims that secret appendices exist to these treaties according to which Berlin, Budapest and Warsaw have pledged to take up to half a million Jewish people onto their territories free of charge in the event of an emergency.
"Representatives of Jewish organizations want to protest rising antisemitism tomorrow in parliament. They have called on MPs to join them," Spiegel reports.
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