Antisemitism in contemporary Hungary
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Antisemitism in contemporary Hungary appears to be a persistent phenomenon. During the communist period in Hungary antisemitism did not manifest itself in its classic form. It was chiefly seen as a fascist-Hungarist ideology, and the communist elite made sure that all antisemitic literature was destroyed after World War II. During the 1989 transition from communism to democracy, and the introduction of free speech and a free press, antisemitism appeared almost immediately, and continued to re-emerge. This phenomenon has led to a heated debate as to whether economic and social changes were the cause of the sudden increase in antisemitism and the rapid spread of antisemitic views or whether covert hostility toward Jews was coming to the surface as a consequence of the new civil liberties.
Post-communist new-capitalism has led to "social nationalism", implying that racism, xenophobia, fundamentalism and antisemitism constitute an identity - i.e. an identity-based pseudo-response to socio-economic problems and a culture-based pseudo-answer to real problems. It has been argued that a socio-political cleavage structure in Hungary – reflecting historical contradictions between notions of progress and nationhood – has created a situation in which high status groups attempted to transform anti-semitism into a mobilizing cultural code. In his concept of "national antisemitism" Klaus Holz emphasised the image of the Jew as a universal and vitally threatening “non-identity”, destroying particular identities and communities. That image has led to the perception of the Jew as the perpetrator and the nation as the victim.
In the post-communist era antisemitism figured both on the periphery and in the mainstream. On the periphery, antisemitic and neo-Nazi groups emerged and were supported by Hungarian fascists living abroad. The ideologists of the Hungarian neo-Nazis and Hungarists included extreme-right publicists and writers. Newspapers established after the transition, Hunnia Füzetek and Szent Korona, were the first to bring back the motifs of traditional antisemitism and merge them with postwar elements, especially Holocaust denial. In the mainstream, antisemitism acquired prominence in public discourse and in central forums of public life, conducted by intellectuals such as István Csurka who had taken part in the anticommunist opposition’s activities and were prominent in political life after the 1989 transition.
In the 21st century, antisemitism in Hungary has evolved and acquired an institutional framework, while verbal and physical aggression against Jews (and Roma as well) has escalated, creating a great difference between its earlier manifestations in the 1990s and recent developments. One of the major representatives of this institutionalized antisemitic ideology is the popular Hungarian party Jobbik, which received 17 percent of the vote in the April 2010 national election. The far-right subculture, which ranges from nationalist shops to radical-nationalist and neo-Nazi festivals and events, has played a major role in the institutionalization of Hungarian antisemitism in the 21st century. Contemporary antisemitic rhetoric has been updated and expanded, but is still based on the old antisemitic notions. The traditional accusations and motifs include such phrases as Jewish occupation, international Jewish conspiracy, Jewish responsibility for the Treaty of Trianon, Judeo-Bolshevism, as well as blood libels against Jews. In the past few years this trend has been strengthened by references to the supposed "Palestinization" of the Hungarian people, the reemergence of the blood libel and an increase in Holocaust relativization and denial, while the monetary crisis has revived references to the “Jewish banker class”.
Between the years 1994-2006, 10%-15% of the Hungarian adult population were strongly antisemitic. Anti-Jewish sentiment responded to political campaigns: antisemitism increased in election years and then fell back to its previous level. This trend altered after 2006, and the surveys indicate an increase in prejudice since 2009.
According to the ADL survey conducted between January 2–31, 2012, "disturbingly high levels" of antisemitism were to be found in ten European countries, including Hungary. The data shows that in Hungary, the level of those who answered “probably true” to at least 3 of the 4 traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes tested rose to 63 percent of the population, compared with 47 percent in 2009 and 50 percent in 2007. Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, has said that: "In Hungary, Spain and Poland the numbers for anti-Semitic attitudes are literally off-the-charts and demand a serious response from political, civic and religious leaders". Regarding the 2007 ADL survey, Mr. Foxman has said:
- "The increase and high percentage of respondents in Hungary who hold negative views of Jews are disturbing. More than a decade after the fall of Communism, we hoped that such anti-Jewish attitudes would have begun to diminish rather than increase".
The ADL Global 100 survey released in 2014 reported that Hungary is the most anti-Semitic country in Eastern Europe, with 41% of the population harboring antisemitic views. Unlike most of Europe, the level of antisemitism in Hungary is highest among the young, at the rate of 50% among adults under the age of 35.
Scholars were divided as to whether post-communist antisemitism – on the background of a cleavage structure with the main divide being between universalist Westernization and particularist nationalist – has become a cultural code which plays a central role in political mobilization in Hungary. In a broader context of the historical Jewish role in the process of Westernization, the relationship to Jewry seems to be, for Viktor Karády, one of the main sources of the present ideological division. Prof. Kovács, on the contrary, argues that there is not only an increase in the absolute percentage of antisemites, but also an increase in the proportion of antisemites who embed their antisemitism in the political context and who would be inclined, under certain circumstances, to support antisemitic discrimination. This phenomenon is linked with the appearance on the political scene of Jobbik, the far-right Hungarian party. According to Kovács, the causes of contemporary antisemitism in Hungary have not changed for the past decade: certain attitudes—such as general xenophobia, anomie, law-and-order conservatism, and nationalism—correlate significantly with antisemitism and well explain its potency. Moreover, as previous research has shown, there is a small correlation between antisemitic prejudice and the socio-demographic and economic indicators. These attitudes do not obtain with the same intensity in each social milieu and in each region in Hungary, and the differences correlate with the strength of Jobbik’s support in the various regions.
Those findings have led to Kovács' hypothesis that antisemitism is mainly a consequence of an attraction to the far-right rather than an explanation for it. When examining the far-right antisemitic discourse in order to substantiate his hypothesis, Kovács has found that the primary function of the discourse is not to formulate anti-Jewish political demands but to develop and use a language that clearly distinguishes its users from all other actors in the political area. By doing so, those who reject antisemitic language are presented as supporters of the current political establishment, while those who use antisemitic language depict themselves as radical opponents of that establishment, and do not hesitate to capitalize on pseudo-revolutionary resentments.
- Antisemitic attitudes are independently related to authoritarianism and parents' attitudes in approximately equal degree.
- Authoritarianism appears to be the most important explanatory variable for both children's and parents' antisemitic attitudes.
- Social mobility may lead to increased antisemitism.
Antisemitism in the subculture
During the post-communist era, the quickly emerging extreme-right subculture also strengthened the traditional anti-Roma attitude. Many neo-Nazi, Hungarist, “nationalist rock” bands came into being and use extreme racist language and symbols, including HunterSS, White Storm, Endlösung and others. These and many other bands perform at illegal concerts, as well as at the infamous Hungarian Island Festival (Magyar Sziget). These events typically involve the use of banned symbols, uniforms, lyrics, banners, signs etc.'. This subculture is linked with nationalistic demands for Trianon revisionism, a narrative that is extremely irredentist and which includes antisemitic perspectives. Followers of this subculture posit the ancient Hungarian culture as superior, and they follow their own syncretic religion, which merges pre-Christian Hungarian paganism with Christianity, in contrast to the traditional Judeo-Christian revelation. Another segment of the subculture is the nationalist hobby associations, such as the “Goy motorists” and the “Scythian motorcyclists”. Other elements include the more seriously organized group Pax Hungarica, and the illegal paramilitary Hungarian National Front, a group which regularly runs training camps for its members, who consider themselves followers of the fascist-Hungarist tradition.
The anti-Zionism that ruled the mainstream discourse during communism did not disappear after the 1989 transition, and it sometimes re-emerged in the form of antisemitism. In the early years of the post-communist era, antisemitism in far-right papers and radio broadcasts was common but of limited impact. According to both Jewish and non-Jewish public opinion polls conducted in the past few years, antisemitism in Hungary has gained strength in recent years, or, at the very least, has become more pronounced in public discourse. It manifests itself mainly in the media and in the street, and antisemitic voices increase in volume during election campaigns in particular. In Hungary’s right-wing newspapers, antisemitism is still present, with Hungary’s Jews depicted as being inherently “other”. Nevertheless, antisemitism should be seen as a complicated phenomenon, not as a characteristic of the right wing alone. According to János Gadó, an editor for Hungary’s Jewish periodical, Szombat, antisemitism is an increasing problem on the left of the political spectrum, as it is shrouded in criticism of Israel’s policies. “A significant proportion of the anti-Jewish rhetoric in Hungary’s right-wing press is characterized by the left-wing’s language of anti-Zionism … according to this Israel is ‘oppressive,’ ‘racist’ and tramples on the rights of Palestinians”.
Attitudes of Hungarian Jews towards antisemitism
A survey of contemporary Hungarian Jewry - conducted in 1999 by the Institute for Minority Studies of the Institute of Sociology at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest - asked a series of questions designed to determine how Jews perceived the extent of antisemitism in Hungary. 32 per cent of respondents perceived little antisemitism in contemporary Hungary; 37 per cent thought that there was a high level of antisemitism, and 31 per cent thought that there was neither a high nor a low level of antisemitism. In response to questions asking whether people believed that there had been an increase or decrease in antisemitism in Hungary ‘in the recent past’, 63 per cent said they thought that antisemitism had increased. In an attempt to identify how respondents formed these opinions, it appeared that their attitudes towards the intensity and range of antisemitism in contemporary Hungary were based primarily on media reports rather than on personal experience of any antisemitic incident.
- Kovács, András (2012). "Antisemitic Prejudice and Political Antisemitism in Present-Day Hungary" (PDF). Journal for the Study of Antisemitism. 4 (#2): 443–469. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- Vago, Raphael. "HUNGARY – THE CASE OF A POST-COMMUNIST SOCIETY IN CRISIS" (PDF). Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism Tel Aviv University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Márkus, György G. "POLITICAL CLEAVAGES AND ANTISEMITISM IN HUNGARY" (PDF). Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Molnár, László. "Anti-Semitism in Hungary". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- Komorczy, Geza (1999). "Jewish Hungary Today: The Jewish Culture Heritage in the Contemporary Culture of Hungary". In Selwyn Ilan Troen. Jewish Centers and Peripheries: Europe Between America and Israel Fifty Years After World War II. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. pp. 138–140. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- An ideology based on the idea that “Zionist crimes” are no longer limited to the Middle East but also extend to Hungary. Hence, it is argued that there are parallels between the alleged “genocide” of the Palestinians and the fate of Hungarians.
- "Attitudes Toward Jews In Ten European Countries - March 2012" (PDF). ADL. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- "Attitudes Toward Jews in Seven European Countries - February 2009" (PDF). ADL. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- "Attitudes Toward Jews and the Middle East in Six European Countries - July 2007" (PDF). ADL. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- "ADL Survey In Ten European Countries Finds Anti-Semitism At Disturbingly High Levels". ADL. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- "ADL Survey In Six European Countries Finds Anti-Semitic Attitudes Up: Most Believe Jews More Loyal to Israel Than Home Country". ADL. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- "ADL Global 100". ADL. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- There are three approaches to explain prejudices:
- Personality - An approach that sees prejudices as being rooted in deep psychological processes - conscious and unconscious. In compliance with this approach, the authoritarian personalities are particularly inclined to accept general ethnocentric and specific antisemitic attitudes.
- Social learning - An approach that avoids using psychoanalytic concepts and sees prejudice primarily as learned via socialization.
- Group conflict - An approach that sees the prejudice as a result of conflicts, real or imagined, between groups.
- Todosijevic, Bojan and Zsolt Enyedi (2002). "Anti-Jewish Prejudice in Contemporary Hungary: A Socio-Psychological Casual Model" (PDF). Social Thought & Research. 24: 313–341. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- Kovács, András and Aletta Forrás-Biró. "Jewish life in Hungary: Achievements, challenges and priorities since the collapse of communism" (PDF). Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Adam, Christopher. "Antisemitism in contemporary Hungary". The Jewish Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Kov´acs, Andr´as. "Jews and Jewry in Contemporary Hungary: results of a sociological survey" (PDF). Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Retrieved 22 June 2013.