The alarming rise of Jobbik

An example of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe.

Jobbik party leader Gabor Vona 311 (photo credit: www.kecskemetitv.hu)
Jobbik party leader Gabor Vona 311
(photo credit: www.kecskemetitv.hu)
In August, the leading Hungarian weekly Hetek sent reporters to cover a right-wing rally and musical festival in the city of Veroce. The reporters were welcomed at the gate with horse-whips. Organizers spewed lethal threats at the “filthy liberal” journalists, and assigned “escorts” to harass and prevent them from covering the event.
Last year, journalists received similar treatment at the annual ultra-national gathering, and were even forced to wear vests matted with dog feces. Masked men greeted them with mock guns and swords, shouting in German: “Deine papieren, Jude!” (“Your papers, Jew!”).
Hetek’s ordeal reflects the recent dramatic turn in Hungary toward neo- Fascism, dating to a spate of fierce anti-government riots in 2006. There were anti-Semitic and racist manifestations before, such as vandalizing cemeteries. However, since 2006 the neo-Nazi movement has become bolder and more aggressive, carrying out violent and sometimes deadly attacks against Gypsies and Jews, stoning synagogues and homes of rabbis during Passover, and staging paramilitary marches across the country to intimidate the local population.
One of the main engines of the far- Right movement has been the emergence of the Jobbik party, which won three seats in the European Parliament in 2009 and garnered 17% of the votes in Hungary’s general elections. Jobbik party leader Gábor Vona described his faction’s campaign last year as “a fight of a Palestinian with a sling against an Israeli attack helicopter.”
His party’s main message was “Hungary is only for Hungarians.” This year, he has popularized the battle against “Gypsy criminals,” urging that they be stripped of their Hungarian citizenship and corralled into “special camps.” Since many elements of Hungarian society are receptive to such anti-Gypsy and anti- Semitic rantings, they have become an effective political platform for Jobbik.
“Israeli occupation” is another popular slogan in Jobbik’s abridged dictionary. Post-communist Hungarian society is still receptive to Soviet-era portrayals of the Jewish state as an evil outpost of Western imperialism. Vona has repeatedly pledged that if his party gains power, it will foil the “plans of the Jews to buy property.”
At a recent Jobbik rally held in front of the private residence of Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, chairman Vona insisted that since 2004 there has been a “Hungarian holocaust.” He railed that “foreigners… are waiting to repossess our houses, our cars. Some people already have called for a tender to liquidate Hungary.” By “foreigners,” he explained that he meant “Israeli buyers.”
During the same political rally, Krisztina Morvai, a Jobbik member of the European Parliament and one-time presidential candidate, said she had received a lot of encouragement during a recent Palestinian conference “in line with the expression of Christian love….I have met many Palestinian people, many fine fighters, Hamas members, Hizbullah leaders, who have encouraged me much.”
Levente Murányi, deputy chairman of Jobbik, told a local community forum that a new ban on Holocaust denial was a “muzzle law,” adding: “It is astonishing with what impertinence people claim there is anti-Semitism here. Well, there isn’t yet, but there is a need for it.”
When a journalist asked him, “So, you are a Nazi?” he proudly accepted the tag. “A Nazi, a fascist, an anti-Semite, if that is what is necessary to represent the true Hungarian interests.”
Lóránt Hegedus, a Calvinist clergyman known for his racist outbursts, has also claimed that the Israeli Mossad is receiving help from the Hungarian state apparatus to not only maintain its “apartheid system” at home, but to facilitate a conquest of Hungary led by Shimon Peres. He told a Jobbik rally that Hungarian churches are at the forefront of these plots, together with the “high priests” of the Alliance of Hungarian Jewish Communities.
“Rubbing their hands like Caiaphas,” he charged, they “try to silence those who think differently to guard the dignity of the victims of the Holocaust, at the same time insulting today’s victims… justifying the unjustifiable: the genocide in Gaza committed by the Israeli army.”
Meanwhile, the far-Right paramilitary group the “Hungarian Guard” was established in 2007 with 56 members led by Vona, who now heads the Jobbik party. Today, it has been through a split and is banned by the courts, but remains active. The militia changed its name and uniform, but its mission and spirit are the same. Their now-banned uniform carried the Arpad stripe, also used by the pro- Nazi Arrow Cross party which murdered thousands and assisted in Nazi deportations during the Second World War. Members of this Guard are extremely anti-Gypsy and anti-Semitic.
Hungarian Guard regional captain Andras Draskovics said he believes the world is ruled by Jews. According to him: “the Jews only need two billion people; the other four billion are not needed.” The rest – as he put it – will be “sprayed on.” He also claims that descriptions of Auschwitz and Buchenwald are not true.
Mátyás Dósa, captain of the new spinoff militia “Hungarian Guard Keepers Movement,” organized a Holocaustdenial march in 2009 into the castle of Buda one day before the March of the Living in Budapest. As marshall of the protest march, he declared the Holocaust a myth and lauded his march as a “struggle against Zionist world domination.”
Jobbik backs this extremist subculture, supporting the Hungarian Guard and making pre-election deals with numerous other radical organizations. One Jobbik lawmaker conceived the now-infamous “Hungarian Island,” where national heritage competitions are held, lectures deprive the historical Jesus of his Jewish identity, and propaganda is distributed concerning the Jewish world conspiracy. Numerous events on Hungarian Island have inspired violent escapades against the local Roma population and the media. One festival this year featured a parade of skinhead and racist bands, openly anti-Semitic lecturers, and even a neo- Fascist Italian politician, Roberto Fiore, who was once convicted on terrorism charges back in Italy.
This xenophobic subculture has also spawned its own extremist media. Barikád, Jobbik’s main newspaper, is famous for its nostalgic longing for the Nazi era. The weekly promotes both classical and modern anti-Semitic motifs. The cover of a March issue depicted Bishop Gellért, who is remembered for Christianizing Hungary in the 10th century with a huge statue on a hill overlooking central Budapest. He was shown holding a menorah in his hand instead of a cross, with the caption: “Wake up Budapest! Is this what you want?” The issue went on to decry the “Jewish occupation” of Budapest, claiming an on-going land grab by Israelis.
In addition, there are many neo-Nazi Web portals where authors spread the most extreme hate speech, ranging from traditional blood libels to the whole range of modern anti-Semitic tirades.
Jobbik has played a major role in promoting the most extreme anti-Semitism and racism in Hungary since the collapse of Nazism. However, its success is fueled by the receptiveness of some in Hungarian society on the one hand, and the indifference of others. Hungary must put more effort into education to combat this phenomena, as a recent study found that only 2% of Hungarians have any in-depth knowledge about the Holocaust.

Hungary also has to back the nongovernmental organizations fighting racism and anti-Semitism. There are only a few NGOs who really care about the worsening situation. One is Faith Church, whose senior Pastor Sandor Nemeth gives weekly lectures on television and in print setting out a moral, tolerant Christian viewpoint. In 2009, both the World Jewish Congress and the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus honored Nemeth for his constant fight against anti-Semitism in Hungary.
Laci Molnar is a visiting student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is presently working on a thesis outlining the rise of neo-Facism in his native Hungary.