We Must Confront the Orbans of the World: Jews must take the lead in standing up to the Hungarian leader's anti-Semitism.

Author:Forman, Ira N.
Position:ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH
 
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Populism is on the rise in the West, and with it a rise in older forms of anti-Semitism--Holocaust revisionism, charges of Jewish conspiracies, dual-loyalty accusations. Leading this right-wing populist charge in Europe is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a skilled exploiter of subtle anti-Semitic messaging. Although President Donald Trump recently called the prime minister to congratulate him on his reelection, what's needed is pressure on the Orbans of Europe to counter this revived form of anti-Semitism.

To be sure, anti-Semitic messaging is not Orban's only sin. Since his Fidesz party came back to power in 2010, the government has eliminated opposition media, rigged the electoral system, stacked the judiciary, attacked independent civil society groups and practiced a form of crony corruption. In speeches, he has condemned liberal democracy and advanced what he refers to as "illiberal democracy"--Putin's Russia and Erdogan's Turkey being prime examples.

Since the Holocaust, it's been difficult for elected officials to use openly anti-Semitic rhetoric. Today's European xenophobes focus more on scapegoating migrants. But Orban and others have used subtle anti-Semitic appeals. One strategy is rewriting Holocaust history to downplay Hungarian responsibility. In 2014, for instance, to commemorate the deportation of Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz, the government proposed a museum memorializing the Holocaust but appointed a director who is an anti-Semite. At the same time, the government tried to close the historically accurate, government-funded Pava Street Holocaust Museum in Budapest.

In 2016, Orban's government awarded its third-highest award for individuals, the "Hungarian Middle Cross," to Zsolt Bayer, a founder of the Fidesz party. Bayer is known for vicious rhetorical attacks against Hungarian Jews and for comparing Roma to animals.

It's not just living anti-Semites that are honored. Orban's regime has promoted early 20th-century literary anti-Semites, created a monument that minimizes Hungarian complicity in the Holocaust and funded an attempt to erect a statue dedicated to one of the leading proponents of the deportation of Hungarian Jews in 1944.

In the run-up to the May 2018 parliamentary election, the Fidesz government used anti-Semitic dog-whistles to appeal to the xenophobic portion of the electorate in a campaign whose central issue was the call to bar Muslim and African refugees from Hungary. The bogeyman in this campaign...

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