Hungarian Jewish leaders don't buy extreme right party's new 'moderate' face

Jobbik party looks set to become the second largest political force in the country, a grave concern for the Jewish community due to the party’s history of antisemitism.

November 29, 2017 16:56
2 minute read.

A member of Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, delivers a speech to hundreds of far-right supporters during a rally against the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest May 4, 2013. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The rise of the extreme-right Jobbik party is the biggest threat to Hungary’s Jewish community in its fight against antisemitism, a leader of the community told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday during a conference in Budapest about the situation of Jews in today’s Europe.

The conference, titled “Is there a future for Jews in Europe?” was organized by the Action and Protection Foundation and discussed the impact of migration and terrorism on the Jewish community.

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“Here in Hungary, we face an additional challenge from an extreme right party, the Jobbik, which has built its base on spreading rational hatred and antisemitism, and today is using the general frustration of voters to gain favor,” said Kálmán Szalai, the Secretary of the Action and Protection Foundation. “Education is the only way to form an inclusive society and we hope that this conference will be part of that solution.”

Jobbik party looks set to become the second largest political force in the country, a grave concern for the Jewish community due to the party’s history of antisemitism.

Over the past couple of years Jobbik has tried to distance itself from its antisemitic history and present itself as a moderate right-wing party. But leaders of the foundation believe this shift is only superficial.

Daniel Bodnar, chairman of the foundation said Jobbik was largely to blame for antisemitic rhetoric in Hungarian society.

“In the last two years they have moderated their political rhetoric as a people’s party, but this can only be seen at the highest level of leadership,” said Szalai. “In the countryside and small villages, small cells of Jobbik are using same anti-gypsy, anti-Roma  and antisemitic rhetoric. So on the surface it looks like it’s moderate but deep down they are using the same rhetoric as previously.”

If they really want to change, he opines, the party should apologize for its past. “But they didn’t. And then the next step would be to prevent themselves from it happening again. But what we see from the leadership is that they didn’t apologize to the communities they threatened.

The conference was hosted by Hungarian Interior Minister Sándor Pintér and  and was attended by politicians, Jewish leaders and security experts.

The day-long event comprised a series of lectures and panel discussions regarding how migration patterns affect European Identity, the rise of antisemitic incidents and how young people are adapting to antisemitic threats.

Speakers included Dr István Mikola, Hungarian Minister of State for Security Policy and International Cooperation, Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism (OSCE), Mike Whine, director – Community Security Trust (CST) and Eli Hazan, Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Likud Party.

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