Hungary’s dangerous precedent

Anyone who has followed the alarming rise of Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary since its establishment in October 2003, would find the decision of the Supreme Court absolutely incomprehensible.

By
June 14, 2014 22:00
4 minute read.
Far-right Jobbik party rally in Budapest, May 4, 2013

Far-right Jobbik party rally370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The significant electoral gains by several right-wing parties in the recent elections for the European Parliament naturally attracted a lot of attention, with numerous explanations offered for this very worrying phenomenon. Needless to say, the economic recession in Europe and the fear of loss of national identity are definitely important factors, but there are others as well that warrant our attention.

A very good example would be the recent unanimous decision of the Hungarian Supreme Court (The Curia) to forbid local media from referring to Hungary’s notoriously anti-Roma and anti-Semitic, neo-fascist Jobbik party as “far right.” The case in question began in 2012, when the commercial TV station, ATV, referred to Jobbik as a “parliamentary far-right party.” In response, the party filed a complaint with the Hungarian bodies that regulate the media on the grounds that local TV stations were forbidden by law to express an opinion when broadcasting news. Both the Media Authority and the Media Council accepted Jobbik’s argument, but ATV took the case to court, which ruled in its favor.

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This decision was overturned last week by the Supreme Court, giving Jobbik a surprising and very dangerous victory.

Anyone who has followed the alarming rise of Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary since its establishment in October 2003, would find the decision of the Supreme Court absolutely incomprehensible not only due to the platform of the party which labels itself as “radically patriotic Christian” and “radical right wing,” but also due to the policies and pronouncements of its leaders on a wide range of political and historical issues, especially those dealing with Hungary’s Roma and Jewish minorities.

Thus, for example, the establishment by Jobbik leader Gabor Vona of the Magyar Garda paramilitary group (which was later ordered disbanded by a Hungarian court), which was reminiscent of the fascist Arrow Cross, and which projected itself as a force to defend Hungary “physically,” was a threat clearly directed against Roma and Jews. Over the past decade, and with increased frequency in recent years, Jobbik politicians publicly attacked Jews and Roma, on the basis of a variety of false accusations, which are at the heart of traditional anti-Semitism and hatred of Roma. The latter are the primary target of the party, whose leaders speak openly about “Gypsy crime,” and their hopes of establishing ghettos for Roma “deviants.”

Also dangerous, however, is the party’s open anti-Semitism. Thus, for example, in 2012, Jobbik MP Marton Gyyongyosi called for the registration of Jews with double citizenship (Hungarian and Israeli), since, in his opinion, such persons pose a “national security risk,” an accusation repeated by Jobbik president Vona, who called for the screening of all Jewish MPs and government members. That same year, Sandor Porzse, a prominent member of the party, told a French website that Hungarians were the victims of “a Jewish conspiracy to colonize our land and rob our resources.”

If we add the Holocaust denial espoused by people like Tibor Agoston, leader of the party in Debrecen, and the glorification of Hungarian Nazi war criminals, as well as Hungarian World War II leader Admiral Horthy, who bears at least partial responsibility for the deportation to Auschwitz of approximately 437,000 Hungarian Jews, it becomes abundantly clear that ATV’s description of Jobbik as a “far-right party” was absolutely accurate.

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In response, Jobbik claims that it denies the usual classification of political parties on a left-right spectrum, preferring to relate to them based on their attitude toward globalization, a phenomenon which they categorically reject on patriotic grounds. But the fact that Jobbik does not consider itself “far right,” cannot mask the fact that its agenda, policies and platform are all exactly what can unequivocally be described by that term. The fact that they sought to take ATV to court is in fact part of its efforts to attain a façade of respectability, which will enable it to increase its political power and eventually become Hungary’s largest political party. In that respect, ATV, which is owned by Hungary’s philo-Semitic and intensely pro-Israel Faith Church, headed by charismatic Pastor Sandor Nemeth, and which has become the primary media voice against Jobbik, is an important target and one that it hopes to silence.

In the Hungarian national elections held this past April, Jobbik garnered close to a million votes, or 20.54 percent of the electorate, making it the country’s third-largest party, but in the elections held in late May for the European Parliament, they came in second, albeit with a lower percentage of the votes. What is absolutely clear, however, is that they pose a definite threat to Hungarian society, a danger undoubtedly intensified by last week’s Supreme Court decision.

The author is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel office. His most recent book, Operation Last Chance; One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice, deals extensively with his efforts to bring Hungarian (and other) Nazi war criminals to trial. His website is www.operationlastchance.org and he can be followed on Twitter @EZuroff

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