Hungary's Viktor Orbán is not antisemitic - opinion

It was an Orbán government that established the Memorial Day for the Hungarian Victims of the Holocaust and founded the Holocaust Museum.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is greeted on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 18, 2018 (photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is greeted on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 18, 2018
(photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)

The same week that Chief Rabbi Arthur Schneier from New York sat down with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to discuss issues facing the Jewish community, and thank the PM for making Hungary one of the safest countries for Jews in Europe, we get a Jerusalem Post commentary authored by Ira Forman. 

In it, Forman claims that the Hungarian government is “whitewashing” the history of Hungary’s antisemitism and that our zero-tolerance policy on antisemitism is merely one in a set of “talking points.”

According to Forman, “there is a grain of truth to some of these bullet-points,” but there’s also “a lot of hogwash” that “does real harm to the fight against antisemitism in Europe.” Which of the following steps would Mr. Forman consider “hogwash”?

Hungary's fight against antisemitism 

In 2010, it was Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government that, among several measures to fight antisemitism, introduced a zero-tolerance policy toward antisemitic attitudes, banned the use of hate symbols, banned paramilitary extremist groups, introduced a national Holocaust Remembrance Day, increased the pensions of Holocaust survivors, came to an agreement with the Claims Conference after its predecessors failed to do so, and made it a priority to back the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation with financial support.

 HUNGARIAN PRIME Minister Viktor Orban sits before taking the oath of office in parliament in Budapest, in May, following his latest re-election.  (credit: BERNADETT SZABO / REUTERS) HUNGARIAN PRIME Minister Viktor Orban sits before taking the oath of office in parliament in Budapest, in May, following his latest re-election. (credit: BERNADETT SZABO / REUTERS)

There’s more. It was an Orbán government that established the Memorial Day for the Hungarian Victims of the Holocaust and founded the Holocaust Museum. During the second Orbán government, in 2012, the Fundamental Law entered into force, recognizing Hungarian Jewry as an inseparable part of the Hungarian nation.

Since 2010, Hungary has become one of Israel’s staunchest international supporters. Prime Minister Orbán was also the first Hungarian prime minister to speak explicitly of Hungary’s guilt, saying that “Hungary sinned when instead of protecting the Jews, we chose to collaborate with the Nazis.”

And Forman dares talk about “Orbán’s sanitized view of Hungarian history.” In what world would a “sanitized view” include the current prime minister of Hungary taking responsibility for the crimes committed by our fellow countrymen in the darkest days of World War II? It’s a laughable manipulation of the facts.

The Post's chronic journalistic ineptitude 

MUCH OF The Jerusalem Post’s commentary suffers from double standards and journalistic inaccuracy. I’ll give you some of my personal favorites.

At one point, Forman tries to downplay the significance of a study released last June by the European Jewish Association (EJA), which found that Hungary and Italy offer the best quality of life for Jewish communities in Europe. He writes that “the EJA, […] a small faction within the Hungarian Jewish community, […]  and a couple of Hungarian government ministers touted a new study that purported to be a scientific index.” Then, the author took issue with the methodology behind the study.

Luckily, his double standards give away his malice. If Mr. Forman wanted to fill in some of the gaping holes in his argumentation, then I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t go looking for errors in a study that could be used as political ammunition against Hungary. But when a report compliments Hungary’s post-2010 zero-tolerance policy on antisemitism, it seems that no methodology is good enough.

If reports of Hungary’s Jewish renaissance even reached the columns of the Financial Times, a media giant that’s not generally among our biggest supporters, the situation, let’s face it, cannot be as dire as this author claims.

In the second part of the commentary, Forman quotes the late author Elie Wiesel, who gave back a medal in 2012 apparently because, he claims, we began naming public sites after Miklós Horthy. But we didn’t. You won’t find a single public square or street in Hungary bearing the name of Miklós Horthy.

Ultimately, there is a trait that all these opinion pieces, attempting to play the tired antisemitism card over and over again, have in common. And that’s their utter ignorance of – or inexplicable indifference toward – Hungary’s real antisemitic party, Jobbik, which ran as a part of the united leftist opposition alliance at the recent elections just three months ago. That’s because this charge of antisemitism is a political tool that disregards the facts to push an agenda that has no democratic legitimacy.

The writer is the Secretary of State for International Communication, international spokesman of the government of Hungary.