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August 23, 2016 4:31 pm

Uproar in Hungary After Antisemitic Journalist Receives Country’s Second Highest Honor; 50 Previous Laureates Return Awards

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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Hungarian journalist Zsolt Bayer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Hungarian journalist Zsolt Bayer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Controversy has erupted in Hungary over the government’s decision to give a prestigious award to a journalist known for making antisemitic and racist comments, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Journalist Zsolt Bayer, whom the Bloomberg report called a “close ally” of right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, received the Order of Merit of the Knight’s Cross – Hungary’s second highest honor — last week.

In protest, more than 50 past recipients of the honor have returned their awards.

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According to the Bloomberg report, Bayer, a co-founder of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, has been fined multiple times by Hungary’s media regulator for antisemitic and racist comments. His targets have included Jews, refugees, and the Roma. In one example of antisemitism, Bayer wrote of two Jewish politicians — Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Andras Schiffer — “unfortunately they weren’t all buried up to their necks in the Orgovany woods.” This was a reference, the report said, to the 1919 killing of suspected communists in Hungary, amongst whom were many Jews.

Andras Heisler, a past recipient of the Order of Merit of the Knight’s Cross recognition and the current head of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, was one of those who returned their awards following the honoring of Bayer. Heisler was quoted as saying he didn’t want to be “in the same community with a person who is racist, antisemitic, and whose display of ardent hatred for the Roma is contaminating Hungary.”

In April, the Times of Israel reported that Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Ilan Mor had written a letter to Peter Petan, the editor-in-chief of the Magyar Hirlap newspaper, to complain about articles written by Bayer.

Mor wrote that a series of op-eds penned by Bayer earlier this year in Magyar Hirlap, “openly advocate anti-Semitic sentiments and incite against the Jewish people and the state of Israel.” Bayer’s op-eds, the report said, characterized anti-Semitism in Hungary as “a natural reaction to actions by Jews against non-Jews.”

Antisemitism is not uncommon in Hungary, survey data shows. As The Algemeiner reported, a survey commissioned by a Hungarian antisemitism watchdog group found in June that one-third of the general population in Hungary espoused varying degrees of anti-Jewish attitudes.

According to the Action and Protection Foundation survey, antisemitism and prejudice against Jews are closely tied with general xenophobic attitudes found to be rampant in Hungary.

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  • What we need in Hungary is a STRONG chapter of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) such as the ones found elsewhere in Europe. Among the 150,000 Jews currently living in Hungary, not ONE of them is man enough to stand up to the prevalent mood of anti-Semitism in Hungary … not ONE! Not MAZSIHISZ, not any. Is it any wonder that so many disrespectful events occur in Hungary, so many monuments and statues are erected to commemorate WWII Arrow Cross (Nazi) “heroes”, and renamed streets (again!) in the capital city of Budapest in honor of past anti-Semitic figures? Hungary needs PRO-Israel motivation and inspiration … NOW!!

  • nat cheiman

    Hungary has a history of anti Semitism

  • Reform School

    Journalists giving automatic credence to other journalists’ opinions and spin (be they ABC, ADL, Armed Forces Radio, Algemeiner, Al Jazeera, All Jazz Era, ASSociated Press, BBC Whirled Service, Bloomberg New$ $evice, Boston Globe, CBN, CBS, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, CNBC, CNN, FBC, FNC, FOX, ITN, J Street, JTA, Kol Yisrael, London Times, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, MSNBC, NBC, New Yorker, New York Times, NPR, PBS, Philadelphia Inquirer, PBS, PRI, Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti, Radio Moscow, Reuters, Rioters, San Francisco Crony Call, Voice of America, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post or Zanzibar Zookeepers) would do the world a great service by getting off their lazy butts and doing more of their own investigating. It would go a long way toward filtering out hundreds of parrot-headed reporters so self-absorbed no one knows better than they the mechanics of Portnoy’s complaint.

  • Why is it so ‘cool’ the be an antisemite? Is the hatred and genocide carried out against Jews so acceptable to so many people? Whatever have Jews done to deserve this senseless hatred.

  • Dita Gould

    Not surprised.
    The memorial Sculpture had nothing to commemorate the Jews murdered either

  • Vera Gara

    I am a survivor Born in Vienna .taken to the camps from Szeged Hungary including Bergen Belsen.I am very upset that in my lifetime a strong antisemitism is repeating itself . I am 83 years old .I am glad that so many people gave back their honours Hopefully it will help to realize that it is not accepted anymore . I live in Ottawa Canada and here we are much more accepted .
    Sincerely Vera Gara

  • ALICK MAZIN

    What a shame that a country with such a wonderful capital as Budapest and such a history of Jewish culture. should vomit up people like him!!

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