I think now is the time to tally up how many people of Jewish ancestry there are here, and especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk for Hungary.
Those words were spoken in the Hungarian parliament on November 27, 2012, by Márton Gyöngyösi, an MP of the neo-Nazi Jobbik Party.
As The Economist noted at the time:
Lists have a terrible resonance for Hungary’s Jews. When the Nazis invaded in March 1944 they used the lists of members of the Jewish community to organise one of the swiftest and most efficient episodes of the Holocaust. With the ready assistance of Hungarian officials and the Gendarmerie 430,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz in a few weeks, most to their deaths. On some days the gas chambers and crematoria processed more than 1,000 people an hour.
Yet the government of the ruling conservative Fidesz Party only gave what The Economist called a “lacklustre response.” True, Gyöngyösi’s words sparked a protest demonstration in front of parliament on December 2 with speeches from politicians across the spectrum. Yet it took Fidesz prime minister Viktor Orbán until December 3 to finally say in parliament that Gyöngyösi’s statement was “unworthy of Hungary”—hardly a stinging condemnation.
And the reason for such gingerness is that Jobbik—now Hungary’s third largest party, having won 17 percent of the vote in the 2010 elections—is too popular. Politicians, particularly on the conservative side of the spectrum, compete for its votes and don’t want to denounce it too sharply.
As for Gyöngyösi, he gave a partial retraction, saying that “only” those Jews with dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship should be put on his list of security threats and that he “apologise[d] to my Jewish compatriots for my equivocal statement.”
Yet last May Gyöngyösi was back in form, saying Hungary had become “subjugated to Zionism…a target of colonisation while we, the indigenous people, can play only the role of extras.”
The 35-year-old Gyöngyösi is “a far cry from the stereotype of the ultra-right skinhead or boot-boy. He is well-dressed, articulate, speaks fluent English and is the son of a diplomat….”
Jobbik was founded in 2003. Its “military wing,” the Hungarian Guard, known for its black uniforms and fascist insignia, was banned in 2009. Yet its members still turn out at Jobbik demonstrations, under the noses of the police, and Jobbik members themselves wear fascist getups at such events.
Unlike most European far-right movements, Jobbik’s targets do not include immigrants, of whom there are few in the country. Instead its villains are Roma—there are about 700,000 in Hungary; and Jews, for whom population estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000 or about .5 percent of the total population.
Jobbik’s anti-Roma activity is often violent, as in an August 2012 demonstration at a village in western Hungary. During that event Jobbik members “threw pieces of concrete and other missiles at Roma houses”; the police were notable for their nonintervention. Afterward vigilante groups roamed the village for nearly a month, threatening and harassing Romani residents.
As for the Jews, despite their small number in Hungary—down from close to a million before the Holocaust—Jobbik sees the country as caught in sinister Jewish intrigues and issues frequent antisemitic statements.
In April 2012, on the eve of Passover, Jobbik MP Zsolt Baráth gave a speech in parliament “commemorating” an anti-Jewish blood libel from 1882. A few days before Passover that year, a young girl named Eszter Solymosi disappeared in a Hungarian village. A group of 13 Jews, arrested on charges of murdering her to drain her blood for ritual purposes, was acquitted after a six-week trial.
Yet, reports Tablet Magazine, a memorial constructed in the girl’s honor several years ago “is a pilgrimage spot for Jobbik members and other far-right activists.”
When last May Budapest hosted an assembly of the World Jewish Congress, Jobbik rallied in protest and called it a “Jewish attempt to buy up Hungary.” Some of the demonstrators, the BBC reported, “wore the black uniform of…the Hungarian Guard.” Jobbik leader Gabor Vona proclaimed: “The Israeli conquerors, these investors, should look for another country in the world for themselves because Hungary is not for sale.”
On October 1 Israeli finance minister Yair Lapid addressed the Hungarian parliament. Although his talk in the above video runs to over eleven minutes, there is never a dull moment. Among other things, Lapid tells the story of his father, the late Israeli journalist and politician Yosef (“Tommy”) Lapid, who survived the Holocaust as a boy in Budapest.
In his talk Yair Lapid never explicitly mentions Jobbik, whose MPs are presumably taking in the words of the Zionist conqueror. But Lapid does refer to “horror spirits of the past,” and to “the hope that something has changed in human society and the fear that nothing has changed and the demons still live among us.”
“Horror spirits” sounds like an allusion to Jobbik’s forebears the Arrow Cross, the Hungarian fascist movement that perpetrated or assisted the German Nazis in the annihilation or deportation of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews, and whose murder victims included Jews in hospitals and orphanages.
Indeed, the “demons still live among us.” Jobbik’s 17 percent of the vote makes it considerably the most popular of the three neo-Nazi movements—the others are Greece’s Golden Dawn and Ukraine’s Svoboda—to have entered European parliaments in recent years. Time will tell whether Hungary can resist this tide and not flow with it.