On April 8th, Hungarian citizens will vote in the general elections. These are fateful elections, after which we may see Hungary placed on the path towards blatant institutional anti-Semitism; the only thing that can prevent this is a victory for Viktor Orban and Fidesz. This is not only in the interests of Jews in Hungary, but also of Israel and all people who oppose anti-Semitism.
Last year, Hungary became the focus of international attention as a result of the Urban government's struggle with George Soros, the controversial Jewish billionaire who is identified as an extreme leftist. Hungarian Jews criticized their government’s campaign against Soros and lambasted it as government-initiated anti-Semitism.
However, in reality, the organizations that Soros supports endanger the national securities of Hungary, Israel, and other Western nations and threaten to weaken these countries’ efforts to protect their citizenries from threats. Hence, Israel, Hungary, and other countries have a common interest in fighting Soros in order to safeguard their countries’ stabilities and maintain favorable geopolitical situations.
Today, Hungary faces a previously-unfathomable scenario: The right-wing and anti-Semitic Jobbik Party wants to form an alliance with leftist parties in order to block Orban from forming a government.
Jobbik was formed in 2003 to “provide a real alternative for far-right voters,” following the decline in popularity of another far-right party. In the 2014 elections, Jobbik received 21% of the vote, becoming the main opposition party. During their campaign, they did not emphasize the traditional rhetoric of anti-Semitism and policies against Gypsies, but instead campaigned on a law-and-order platform that prioritized fighting corruption.
Despite this, examples of Jobbik’s anti-Semitism are abundant. Istvan Apati, a member of parliament for Jobbik, has said that, “as a representative of a radical nationalist party, I feel that it is my duty to say that the economic and political impact of the Jews has reached its present level because it is clear that every government and political party, apart from Jobbik, has helped to do so over the past 20 years. Party leader Gabor Vona said that if he found out he was a Jew, he would resign from his post as chairman of the party.
The same Vona recently attended an anti-Semitic rally at which Marton Gyongyosi, a spokesperson for Jobbik, said that Hungary is under Zionist enslavement. At the same rally, Vona proclaimed that Isralei investors, whom he called occupiers, should look for another country because Hungary was not for sale.
Gergely Kulcsar, another member of parliament for Jobbik, spat on the “Shoes on the Danube” monument commemorating the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews murdered in the Holocaust. In a 2012 article, he proposed evaluating the number of people of Jewish origin in Hungary, and in particular the Hungarian parliament, whom he claimed posed a security risk.
In order to reach power, the far-right party has expressed willingness to join left-wing parties despite their many differences; Vona has revealed his intention to form a coalition with the left-wing LMP and Momentum parties.
It is a troubling reality that the radical right and left in Hungary may join together. More and more voices on the Hungarian left have become to accept Jobbik as a legitimate actor. Former Socialist Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy has said that for victory in the upcoming elections, “neither side can be choosy.” Leftist philosopher Agnes Heller called for a “tactical alliance” of the left and right parties. Other leftist intellectuals have similarly published articles calling for cooperation between the far-right and the left.
Has Jobbik changed? Some will say it has changed a little. However, it is important to note the superficial changes do not indicate real change, but rather only a political change. As long as this change is communicated only to those on the outside, and not to the leadership, members, and voters of the party, we cannot believe that they have changed at all.
Hungary has an extensive Jewish community of about 100,000 people, with most of their support going to the left, according to recent opinion polling. However, the Hungarian left does not seem to understand that the ends do not always justify the means. It should be enough for the left to look back on when liberal forces helped Nazis rise to power in Germany. Hungary is not as big as Germany was in the 1930’s, meaning a victory by Jobbik could bring Hungary into a situation where it is rejected by the community of nations. The left must take this into account. Equally as important, the Jews of Hungary must realize that if they ignore this, they will become active partners in the rise of Jobbik.