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Europe's Selective Outrage about Anti-Semitism

There has been much controversy of late about the British Conservative Party’s decision to join the newly formed European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the EU parliament. Most of the excitement has focused on the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, who was named chair of the ECR group. Kaminski, a member of the Law and Justice Party of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, has been accused of anti-Semitism. For an interview in the Jewish Chronicle in which Kaminski responds to the charges, see here. And for a defense of Kaminski by Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard, see here.

Pollard suggests that the charges against Kaminski are part of a smear campaign designed to associate opposition to an increasingly centralized “federal” Europe à la the Lisbon Treaty with extremism. When one considers that the ECR was founded precisely in order to give greater voice to “anti-federalist” currents within the parliament and that it also includes the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of the Czech Republic’s famously euro-skeptical President Vaclav Klaus, this account is, prima facie, highly plausible.

When one considers, furthermore, some of the components of the parliamentary group that the Tories left behind in order to join the ECR, it seems practically certain. The Tories were previously part of the European People’s Party (EPP) group in the parliament. The EPP group includes major European conservative and Christian Democratic parties like Angela Merkel’s CDU, Silvio Berlusconi’s PDL, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP. It also includes the Hungarian Fidesz party of the former — and according to current polls, likely future — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Iran’s Press TV liked a recent television interview with Fidesz MP Oszkar Molnar so much that it devoted an article to it under the title “Israel plans to devour the world: Hungarian MP.” “I’m a Hungarian nationalist,” Molnar is quoted as saying:

I love my homeland, love the Hungarians and give primacy to Hungarian interests over those of global capital — Jewish capital, if you like — which wants to devour the entire world, especially Hungary.

For evidence that such comments are hardly unusual for Molnar, see veteran Austrian journalist Karl Pfeiffer’s report here. Moreover, as Pfeiffer and others have documented, Fidesz has a long history of coquetting with openly racist and anti-Semitic currents in Hungarian politics and society. In a recent article in the Berlin alternative weekly Jungle World, Pfeiffer notes that:

In spring 2008, the journalist Zsolt Bayer, who is close to Fidesz, published an article in the conservative daily Magyar Hirlap, in which he railed against Jews [i.e., purportedly Jewish authors] whose “mere existence justifies anti-Semitism.” “Let’s not let them piss … in the basin of the [Hungarian] nation,” Bayer wrote. A few days after the publication of the article, Orban posed for a photograph with Bayer. Viewers of Hungarian television also saw images of a close friendship [between Bayer and Orban].

Writing on the same episode in a piece for the website of Austrian public television ORF, Hanna Ronzheimer comments:

That anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly acceptable in polite company [in Hungary] is also the fault of Fidesz. With its political mottos and its simplistic and absurd portrayals of [Hungary’s] supposed enemies, it nourishes already existent prejudices about Jews as cunning capitalists and traitors against the nation.

According to a study conducted by the Hungarian sociologist Pal Tamas and cited in the German daily Handelsblatt, some 50% of Fidesz voters are receptive to anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

So, in short, if the Conservative Party’s current association with the Poland’s Law and Justice Party is supposed to be a problem, why was the Conservative Party’s previous association with Hungary’s Fidesz not one?