Anti-Israel sentiments rampant in Hungary, Austria

"Anti-Semitism is part and parcel of some media affiliated with Hungarian governing party," says journalist Karl Pfeifer.

November 17, 2011 01:36
4 minute read.
Karl Pfeifer

Karl Pfeifer. (photo credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia)


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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.

He came 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 Palestine.

“In 1946, I volunteered to join the Palmah. I fought during the War of Independence in the Negev,” he told the Post.

Asked 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.”

Writer 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 Hungary.

“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 discriminatory views.

“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.

While the 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 said.

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 Israel.

“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.

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