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July 6, 2016 6:27 am

The Algemeiner and the Jewish Media Are Wrong About Hungary

avatar by Péter Morvay

Email a copy of "The Algemeiner and the Jewish Media Are Wrong About Hungary" to a friend
A look inside the Kozma Street Jewish Cemetery, where human remains of Holocaust victims were recently buried. Photo: Wikipedia, by Lihi Laszlo.

A look inside the Kozma Street Jewish Cemetery, where human remains of Holocaust victims were recently buried. Photo: Wikipedia, by Lihi Laszlo.

A few weeks ago, The Algemeiner posted an article titled “Mass Nazi Salute at Euro 2016 Match Spurs French Police to Investigate Hungarian Fans for Antisemitism.” The story cited the UK’s Daily Mail, which wrote about some “Hungarian football thugs making Nazi salutes.” The Algemeiner, however, reported that there was a “mass Nazi salute.” Certainly even one person making such a gesture is unacceptable, and those responsible should be investigated and punished. But there was not a Hungarian crowd of people making “the Hitlerian gesture, en masse.”

The alleged mass incident was used by The Algemeiner to validate recent research claiming that a “third of all Hungarians hold antisemitic views. The article also stated that Hungary’s third largest party, the far-right Jobbik, “is quickly growing in popularity across Hungary.” These claims have been debated in Hungary, as it sounds somewhat exaggerated that one out three Hungarians would be antisemitic. And the “quick growth of popularity” of Jobbik is definitely not true. Quite the opposite: Jobbik has lost 35-40% of its supporters since 2014, and it stands around 13-14% in the polls as of June 2016.

Why does this matter? Because this misrepresentation hides the changes that Hungary has gone through in the past decade or so. Yes, Hungary is responsible for the third largest loss of life in any European country in the Holocaust. And Hungary started discriminating against its Jewish population 13 years before Hitler came to power. After the war, we failed to face these evils. The Communist regime chose to wrap the whole issue in total silence.

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I grew up just a few blocks away from the birthplace of Theodor Herzl in downtown Budapest. But I did not know his name. In school, I heard nothing about Jewish history or the rich Jewish cultural heritage of Hungary. And concerning the state of Israel, we were told that it was an aggressor against the progressive Arab people and a puppet of the US. I attended the Universitiy of Economics in Budapest — one of the top Hungarian universities — in the 1980s, but I experienced this silence there, too. It was only in an underground evangelical Christian community where I heard about Abraham, King David, the Twelve Tribes of Israel or Herzl, David Ben-Gurion and the Six Day War for the first time.

A lot of things have changed in our understanding and in our attitude since the fall of Communism. Today, no child in Budapest would miss the birthplace of the founder of modern political Zionism, because the place is called Herzl Square. Budapest has a vibrant Jewish community — the third largest in Europe, which lives in security. Yes, there is a small number of ugly atrocities on the street (much fewer than a decade ago), but Jews can proudly wear kippot or tzitzit without being afraid of attacks in Budapest. We know too well that the same would be impossible in many Western capitals. We are proud of having had both a Jewish Nobel Prize-winning writer (Kertész Imre) and a Holocaust-themed Academy Award-winning movie (Nemes Jeles’s Son of Saul) in recent years.

On the diplomatic level, Hungary is a friend of Israel, as the only country in the EU that officially rejected BDS and the labeling of Israeli products. There’s a lot of positive media coverage about Israel (yes, critical as well, but the balance is much better than in Western Europe), and the highly popular Israeli Ambassador, Ilan Mor, has been a frequent guest in TV studios and at social events over the past five years.

And Hungary has by far the largest philosemite, pro-Israeli Christian-Zionist community in Europe. The more than 100,000-member Faith Church, led by Rev. Sandor Nemeth, has been supporting Israel and fighting against antisemitsm and anti-Zionism for the past 30 years. Nobel Prize-winner writers Elie Wiesel and Imre Kertész have spoken at Faith Church conferences, as have Jewish World Congress Chairman Ronald S. Lauder and Israeli minister Uzi Landau, Robert Ilatov and others. And the activity of this Hungarian megachurch has been positively influencing the policy of the Hugarian government.

I had the privilege of translating Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy, and I had also the chance to interview the author in Jerusalem and in Budapest. According to Sharasky’s definition, “A society is free if people have a right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm.” This standard is clear. There are no political prisoners in Hungary and anybody can express his opinion in the press or in social media without any fear.

Hungary is not a perfect society. We are far from it. But Hungary is a free society that wants to show a new, friendly face to the world. It is not easy as there are forces that want to keep us bound to the past. Please help us this effort.

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  • György Lázár

    Hungary’s current Orbán regime is attempting a well-organized and wholesale falsification of WWII history. The Government openly encourages and support this falsification process!

    PM Orbán is whitewashing the murderous role of pro-Hitler regent Miklós Horthy and his party is installing hundreds of statues of convicted WWII criminals (Albert Wass, János Esterházy). Works of fascists and anti-Semites like József Nyirő or Cecilé Tormay are reprinted and distributed.

    I just returned from Debrecen, attending on the local Holocaust memorial. Anti-Semitism is appalling. Coverup and falsification of a WWII local mass-murder of Jews (Apafa mass-murder) is nothing but mind-boggling.

    One of the main issues in Hungary now to identify those who participate (and possibly profit) from this truly amazing cover-up. World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder recently named Hungary as a country “on the road to fascism.”

    Fact finding trips are needed to show the countless memorials and statues of Hungarian fascists recently erected by the government and the daily humiliation of elderly Jews, some of them Holocaust survivors.

  • Dr. Anikó Szalay-Kimla

    FINALLY and THANK YOU

    Finally a very realistic article on the present status of “the Jew in Hungary” and within the Hungarian society. Having been an outcast and pariah practically since birth (my parents had to flee communist infiltrated Hungary when I was a baby), NOT having been welcome in a VERY antisemitic Austria I have followed, out of personal interest, the Holocaust in Europe and how each country had reacted to Nazism.
    Mind you it is infuriating to read in world journalism that the “blue party is the only party with antisemitic inclinations” when most of the post SS Austrians found a safe haven in the socialist, democratic and green parties keeping antisemitism well alive in Austria. Many of the present day politicians had a Nazi father.
    Most shocking to know is that the only citizens EXEMPTED from having been taken to a war trial were the NAZI JUDGES who had sent millions to their certain death. Thus antisemitism has been kept LEGALLY alive and active.

    On the other hand I have always been intrigued by the fact that the ONLY country in 1944 !!!!! that had hundreds of thousands of Jews living in “safety”, ALIVE, were the Jews in Hungary. The only country where organizations, various diplomats, not only Wallenberg, had been able to save Jews, was Hungary.
    In the spring of 1944 some 800 000 Jews, as opposed to Millions of European Jewry already having been extinguished, were STILL ALIVE in Hungary. Horty, after a change in heart (!?) stood up to the Nazi Reich and did refuse to “send any more Jews in cattle trains”.

    History is a tricky thing with most people wanting to bend it to fit and support one’s own view of “the truth”. Even today Hungary is one of the European countries where “the Jew” IS welcome and part of the homogenous Hungarian society and can live in freedom. One must not forget that Protestantism is not that antisemitic as Catholicism is. Free evangelicals tend to be very supportive of Jews.

    Since Hungarian like Hebrew is spoken only by one nation respectively it is easy to spread all kinds of mis-interpretations and lies on what is being said and done. Who can and bothers to check whether the translation is correct and truthful or not? As we know many lies have been spread on Hungary as too many lies are being spread on Israel!

    • Karl Pfeifer

      Dr. Anikó Szalay-Kimla does repeat in confused manner the falsification of History, which is now mainstream in Hungary.
      The Hungarian government continued to work after the German occupation and Miklós Horthy nominated his trusted offices László Endre and László Baky to be responsible for the deportation of the Jews.
      Hungarian gendarmes pushed the Jews of Hungarian province into the cattle trucks in spring 1944.
      If you want really, know what happened read the books and the articles of Randolph L. Braham.
      According to Dr. A.Sz.K: “. One must not forget that Protestantism is not that antisemitic as Catholicism is”.
      The learned Dr. A.Sz.K does not know a thing about Luther, who published during the last 20 years of his life a lot of murderous anti-Jewish texts and a book “On Jews and their lies”.
      However, one does not have to go so far, in Budapest there is a protestant clergyman spreading antisemitism.
      Read what the right wing Jerusalem Center of Public affairs has published about subject matter:
      http://jcpa.org/article/anti-semitism-in-hungary/

  • Karl Pfeifer

    The readers should know Hungary is the only country in the EU having an extreme rightwing government.
    Prime Minister Orbán initiated a historical institute called “Veritas”, which is specialised falsifying Hungarian History, especially the history of Hungarian Holocaust.
    Prof. Éva Balogh, who thought East European History at Yale University has published two articles about subject matter you should read;
    http://hungarianspectrum.org/2016/06/30/anti-semitism-racism-huxit-or-just-a-bad-dream/
    http://hungarianspectrum.org/2016/07/02/the-veritas-institutes-legends-and-myths-about-the-hungarian-holocaust/

  • Kamilla Tamássy

    As a Hungarian, I absolutely agree. Thank you and congratulation!

  • Yaakov

    The allusions to pride — Jews wearing kippot and tzizot; and “award-winning” accomplishments of Hungarian Jews — raise a red flag. Jews certainly don’t do anything out of pride; rather, they maintain self-respect. “Pride” connotes a sense of superiority and can lead to nationalism, the driving force behind various anti-Jewish movements. “Pride” should never be regarded as a positive attribute. “Pride goes before destruction” — Proverbs

    • Peter Morvay

      Dear Yaakov,
      I think you got it wrong: I wrote that the we, Hungarians are proud of the accompishments of the Hungarian Jewish artists, scholars etc. They are part of our common values. Regards, Peter Morvay

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