BUDAPEST – Between 15 and 20 percent of Hungarians may be considered “extreme anti-Semites,” a study by local researcher Andras Kovacs claims.
Kovacs, an expert on anti-Semitism at Budapest’s Central European University, polled 1,200 Hungarians last November at the behest of the Action and Protection Foundation, a community watchdog group founded in response to the rise of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party.
The Jobbik party entered parliament in 2010, garnering 43 out of 386 mandates, making it the third largest faction in Hungary. Hungarians will go to the polls on April 6 and members of the local Jewish community are apprehensively following Jobbik’s electoral fortunes.
Presenting his research to a delegation of visiting Israeli journalists on Monday at a press conference in Action and Protection Foundation’s office here, Kovacs summarized his paper, asserting that approximately one third of Hungarians harbor prejudices against Jews. A further 15%-20% fall under the category of “extreme anti-Semites.” Despite the popularity of Jobbik and the high rate of anti-Semitism, however, the proportion of anti-Semites within the total population has gone down since its height in 2010 although it has “not returned to the lower levels” experienced before that year, Kovacs said.
Religious leanings do not necessarily correlate with anti-Jewish sentiment, the Action and Protection Foundation report found, but political views do. Anti-Semitism is found to be expressed more among those with right-wing views.
Unsurprisingly, Kovacs determined that anti-Semites constitute a larger percentage of Jobbik’s voter base than that of the two largest factions, who do not differ significantly in terms of their members’ attitudes towards Jews.
The report also noted that Holocaust denial has grown between 6% and 8% since 2006 and that 19% of Hungarians “relativize” the Holocaust.
The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) is boycotting the Hungarian government’s 2014 Holocaust memorial year commemorations due to accusations that officials have engaged in such relativization.
The decision to boycott came on the heels of a statement by Sándor Szakály, director of the state-sponsored Veritas Historical Research Institute, allegedly minimizing the Holocaust.
Szakály reportedly termed the deportation and massacre of tens of thousands of Jews in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine, during World War II a “police action against aliens.”
Mazsihisz and other Jewish organizations have demanded that Szakály apologize and step down.
Among other complaints, the Jewish community objected to a statue commemorating the German occupation of Hungary that is slated to be erected in Budapest. Its inscription, memorializing the victims of Nazism, omits specific mention of the Jewish people.
Germany occupied Hungary in 1944 after discovering that the former ally was discussing surrender terms with the Allied powers.
The Mazsihisz and a spokesman for Prime Minister Viktor Orban told The Jerusalem Post that following next week’s elections, both sides intend to sit and try to hash out a solution to the impasse.
According to Kovacs, “there is not necessarily a correlation between anti-Jewishness and refusal to confront the past.”
Some 19% of Hungarians who are not anti-Semitic believe that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is the same as what the Nazis did to the Jews,” he found, indicating that this segment of society “accepts a statement that reflects hidden anti-Jewish sentiment.”
However, Kovacs said that the data should be used cautiously as it also indicates that many Hungarians are uninformed about Israel.
“The greater part of society sees the causes of anti-Semitism as being a prejudiced mentality that is always looking for a scapegoat, though meanwhile 20%-25% finds the main root of anti-Jewish feeling in the role and behavior of the Jews,” he said.
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