Anti-Jewish tirades at Hungarian newspaper provoke outrage

Jews referred to as "stinking excrement" and "Israeli Jewish occupiers" in right-wing daily.

August 5, 2011 18:32
4 minute read.
Zsolt Bayer

Zsolt Bayer 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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BERLIN – Anti-Jewish comments from the Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap and the passage of a restrictive new media law in early July by Hungary’s conservative government have prompted sharp criticism from American and Austrian media outlets.

Zsolt Bayer, a columnist for the right-wing daily, had referred to Jews as “stinking excrement called something like Cohen.”

Bayer has a journalistic track record of attacking Jews, according to critics. In 2010, he asserted that the Hungarian Academy of Science has been infiltrated by Jews.

Responding to Bayer’s anti- Jewish rhetoric earlier this year, Karl Pfeifer, an Austrian- Jewish journalist who writes for papers in Hungary and Austria, called Bayer a “fecal anti-Semite”in the Austrian daily Die Presse. Pfeifer’s commentary triggered a Magyar Hirlap article and a wave of alleged anti-Semitic reader comments on the website of the Hungarian paper.

Pfeifer, who escaped the Holocaust, was termed a “gaschamber deserter” in the reader comment section.

Other readers invoked the terms “Jewish scabs” and “Jewish lice,” stating that “the Israeli-Jewish occupiers...

bring only conflict and ruin, while sucking our blood like parasites and draining our vigor.”

Last week, the Austrian Press Club Concordia, an Austrian journalists’ association, filed a formal complaint alleging a violation of the non-discrimination clause contained in the European Union’s charter. According to the complaint sent to Hungary’s press commission,the Hungarian daily has refused to expunge the “anti-Semitic and misanthropic” postings.

Szabolcs Voros, a journalist at the foreign desk of Magyar Hirlap told The Jerusalem Post during a telephone interview on Tuesday that the paper “rejects the charge of anti- Semitism.” He said “we hear it a lot and do not understand it. The anti-Semitism stamp is put on us from the other side.”

The “other side,” Voros said, referred to other Hungarian media outlets. Asked specifically about Bayer’s writings targeting Jews, Voros said critics were quoting only “half-sentences” and Bayer’s words were being stripped of their context.

Speaking from Israel on Monday, Pfeifer, who lives in Vienna and is visiting family, told the Post that Bayer has close ties to the right-wing government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party. These close relations, Pfeifer says, help explain why the media oversight authorities are refusing to take action against Bayer’s diatribes against Jews.

Writing on the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in late July, Ben Cohen, a prominent US-based journalist and broadcaster who served as the American Jewish Committee’s assistant director of communications, said “Bayer’s style mirrors the screeching, obscene rants of Julius Streicher, editor of the Nazi rag “Der Stuermer.”

Cohen also sharply attacked the new Hungarian media law for repressive measures against the liberal Hungarian daily Nepszava because it lampooned Hungary’s president. He took Hungary’s government to task, moreover, for failing to stop violence against its ethnic minority group, Roma, and its judicial system for the recent acquittal of 97-yearold Sandor Kepiro, who was reportedly involved in the murders of Hungarian Jews and Serbian nationals during World War II.

In an e-mail to the Post on Tuesday, a spokesman  for Hungary's State Secretariat for Government Communication wrote: “The government of Hungary has taken numerous measures in the past months related to national minorities, especially the Roma community. Since the formation of the new government, Roma issues were in the forefront of our domestic and international policies and politics. A separate State Secretariat for Social Inclusion was established, with the fundamental goal that individuals and groups in disadvantaged positions, such as Roma people, should have access to their fair share of the expanding opportunities available.”

The spokesman continued, “It was a major achievement for the Hungarian government that during the Hungarian presidency in the first half of 2011 a Roma Framework Strategy was endorsed and adopted by the European Council, for the first time in the existence of the European Union. The Strategy introduces a framework on a European level, pinpointing the areas of social inclusion for the Romas such as employment, education, poverty and social exclusion.”

Responding to the new media law, the spokesman wrote that “the law initially was adopted by Parliament with an aim at providing high legal defense against hatred or injury against minority groups living in Hungary. The text of the law stated, that ‘Broadcasting content may not be directed against any minorities or a majority as an explicit or implicit insult.’” He added “Unfortunately, in February 2011 according to the decision of the European Commission lead by Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, the Hungarian Parliament was obliged to repeal the provision to prohibit implicit insult against any individual, minorities or the majority, retaining the prohibition on social exclusion in the law.”

Cohen, the US-based journalist, told the Post that the State Secretariat for Government Communication's “response is completely unsatisfactory. It contains platitudes about protecting the Roma, and is offensive given the current levels of violence and discrimination against Roma.”

Cohen said the foreign ministry had failed to answer criticisms about the government punishing media organizations like Nepszava, and noted that the ministry did not address the Magyar Hirlap case. The response is “worthless,” said Cohen.

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