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The EU’s shameful smear campaign against Hungary

Hungarian Jews are much safer than their Western European counterparts.

Frank Furedi

Frank Furedi

Topics Politics World

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The EU’s demonisation of Hungary has reached deranged new heights. Even the most innocent and well-meaning of initiatives by Hungarian lawmakers is now maliciously represented by Brussels as being tainted by far-right extremism or racism. This even includes Hungary’s efforts to combat racism.

Last week, a group of Hungarian MEPs sent out an email to their colleagues in the European Parliament. They had organised a conference in Strasbourg on the theme of ‘combating anti-Semitism through education’. The conference, which took place this week, aimed to bring together experts, policymakers, community leaders and European and Israeli decision-makers to ‘explore successful initiatives that have effectively tackled anti-Semitism through school education’.

At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise virtually everywhere in Western Europe, discussions like these are sorely needed. You might think that EU politicians would express great interest in tackling the rising scourge of Jew hatred.

Instead, three MEPs – Karen Melchior and Margrete Auken, both from Denmark, and Maria Soraya Rodríguez Ramos from Spain – decided to attack the initiative. Replying to the email sent by the Hungarians, they claimed that they found the ‘invitation extremely confusing, and even harder to consider credible’, given Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s supposedly ‘poor track record in actually fighting anti-Semitism in his own country’.

The three MEPs then publicised their email by contacting Politico, which published a sarcastic write-up of the incident under the title ‘Hungary circus’.

This is not the first time Hungary has faced baseless accusations of rampant anti-Semitism. Just last week the Guardian ran a story under the headline, ‘Hungarian government campaign renews anti-Semitism concerns’. The article referred to a billboard campaign launched in Hungary last week, showing Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Alex Soros, son of George Soros and current chair of the Open Society Foundations, the giant international NGO. The slogan on the billboard said: ‘Let’s not dance to their tune.’ The aim of the campaign is to draw attention to the growing tendency of the EU and a small army of international NGOs to meddle in Hungary’s internal affairs.

Indeed, it’s no secret that the EU is trying to force its woke cultural values on to a reluctant Hungary. But as far as the Guardian is concerned, the mere suggestion that Hungary faces external political interference constitutes some kind of conspiracy theory. Worse still, apparently this campaign promotes ‘anti-Semitic narratives’. Presumably, this is due to the fact that Alex Soros is Jewish, even though the billboard in question does not allude to this in any way.

The accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against Hungary seem especially egregious right now, given how keen Hungarians have been to show solidarity with Israel in its hour of need. In the wake of the 7 October attacks, a large rally was held against anti-Semitism in Budapest. The contrast with Western European capitals, where anti-Semitism has been a grim fixture of weekly ‘pro-Palestine’ demos, could hardly have been more stark.

The Hungarian government has also gone far further than many of its European neighbours in supporting Israel. It has welcomed Israeli and Jewish refugees looking for a safe haven after their kibbutzim and homes were attacked by Hamas. Orbán has also invited the Israeli football team to train and play their home games in Hungary for the duration of the war in Gaza.

Far from being a ‘circus’, the conference organised by Hungarian MEPs in Strasbourg was a genuine attempt to make Hungary a safer place for Jews. This was not a cynical ploy. Nor was it out of character for the current government. Although Hungary is frequently accused of being anti-Semitic, it is one of the only EU countries to have spoken out against the growing trend for banning kosher slaughter in Europe. Orbán was also the first Hungarian prime minister to publicly acknowledge Hungary’s complicity in the Holocaust, apologising for its failure to ‘protect its Jewish citizens’.

Nor does anti-Semitism blight everyday life for Hungarian Jews. Reports from before the 7 October attack suggest that Jews in Hungary enjoy some of the best quality of life in Europe. Similarly, in November 2020, Slomó Köves, chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, said that Hungary is probably Europe’s safest country for Jews. Even now, as anti-Semitism explodes in the streets of Western European capitals, the atmosphere in Hungary remains overwhelmingly friendly toward Jews.

Of course, none of this matters to the EU elites. The desire to demonise Hungary is far more important to them than actually getting to grips with Europe’s anti-Semitism problem. This smear campaign is beyond shameless.

Frank Furedi is the executive director of the think-tank, MCC-Brussels.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics World

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