BERLIN – While in Israel to deliver a lecture at Tel Aviv University, veteran
Austrian-Jewish journalist Karl Pfeifer spoke to The Jerusalem Post via e-mail
about anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments in Central Europe.
to speak on the media in Hungary, at a conference on “Contemporary Hungarian
Jewry and other minorities” on Sunday.
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Pfeifer, who was born in Austria
in 1928, fled the Hitler movement in 1938, landing in Hungary where he remained
until 1943. As a teenager he escaped Hungarian fascism to the British Mandate in
“In 1946, I volunteered to join the Palmah. I fought
during the War of Independence in the Negev,” he told the Post.
about the incitement against Jews and the State of Israel in Hungary, Pfeifer
said, “Nobody is calling openly to kill the Jews, but anti-Semitism is part and
parcel of some media affiliated with the governing party Fidesz.”
and polemicist Zsolt Bayer, an old friend of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor
Orbán, has made anti-Semitic statements in the past.
Bayer told Magyar
Hirlap – a paper closely aligned with Orbán’s Fidesz party – on January 4 that
only Jews and their hirelings could be evil enough to criticize
“A stinking excrement called something like Cohen writes from
somewhere in England that ‘a foul stench wafts’ from Hungary. Cohen, and
Cohn-Bendit, and Schiff. A pity they weren’t all buried up to their necks in the
forest of Orgovány,” Bayer said.
Pfeifer added that on March 30, a group
picture of Bayer with Orbán appeared in Hungary, and on November 5, parliament
speaker László Kövér (Fidesz) mentioned “our friend Zsolt Bayer. So while Orban
has never said anything anti-Semitic, he does not distance himself from the
notorious ‘fecal anti- Semite’ Zsolt Bayer.”
Hungary’s restrictions on
news organizations have triggered a storm of criticism across the EU and among
liberal and democratic Hungarian media outlets.
Pfeifer said, “In
Hungary, 68 percent of the seats in parliament are in the hands of one political
party, [one] that is not ashamed to transgress universally accepted democratic
principles in order to enhance its political power. The problem for democrats in
Hungary is compounded by the fact that another 12% of the seats in parliament
are in the hands of JOBBIK, an opposition party that openly endorses racist and
“One of the most frequent speakers at JOBBIK
rallies prior to the last national election, Imre Posta, went so far as to
declare that “today, anti-Semitism is not only an opportunity but a duty for all
Hungarians,’” Pfeifer said.
“During the past few years, Hungary’s
privately owned print, electronic and online media has been bought almost in its
entirety by four business families, which are closely aligned with Orbán’s
Fidesz party. Within the state-owned media sector it’s not concentration but a
monopoly that reigns.
“Within a year, hundreds of journalists, editors
and producers were let go, programming was radically restructured and all of the
key positions in the public broadcasting system were occupied by former PR and
communications staff from Orbán’s political movement,” he said.
European press has hardly reported on growing relations between Hungary’s
extremist Right and Iran, Pfeifer said, “A picture speaks louder than anything.
Go on the website of Pusztaranger [a Germanlanguage blog on Hungary]. There is a
picture of the Fidesz-affiliated mayor of Budapest, Istvan Tarlos, with an
Iranian delegation and the Jobbik MP Gabor Staudt. Jobbik appears to be the best
friend of Iran in Hungary.”
Asked about his native Austria and the heavy
presence of Iranian diplomats and business leaders in Vienna, Pfeifer said, “I
am not sure that Austria is inviting them. Austria is tolerating their
activities. After all, Austria let the Iranian murderers of Iranian Kurdish
politicians go scot-free. You have on the one hand the nice Sunday speeches on
human rights, and the practical policy, which has nothing to do with the former
and everything with economy.”
The fragmented EU policy toward Iran
prompted little optimism from Pfeifer that Austria would clamp down on its
cordial relations with Tehran.
“Looks to me that as long as there is no
clear EU policy toward Iran, Austria will not diplomatically sanction Iran,” he
In response to assertions that certain Austrian publications
contain a bias against Jews, Pfeifer said, “Anti-Semitism in the mainstream
media has almost disappeared. It is nowadays replaced by anti-Zionism. When nine
Islamist provocateurs were killed by the IDF on the Mavi Marmara ship, the
Vienna City Council within hours took an unanimous decision to condemn
“More than 3,500 Syrians have been killed, and nobody in Austria
cares. Probably because of anti-Arab racism, believing that murder is part of
Arab culture,” he said.