May 15, 2019


A Friend to Israel, and to Bigots: Viktor Orban's 'Double Game' on Anti-Semitism (Patrick Kingsley, May 14, 2019, NY Times)

In late November, the office of Hungary's far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, announced it would donate $3.4 million to causes fighting anti-Semitism in Europe.

The next day, a magazine controlled by Mr. Orban's lawyer devoted its cover to an image depicting Andras Heisler, the leader of Hungary's largest Jewish organization, showered with bank notes. Jewish groups across the world swiftly denounced the cover as anti-Semitic. [...]

A hero to many far-right nationalists in Europe and the United States, Mr. Orban won a major public relations prize on Monday: an Oval Office meeting with President Trump. The two men gushed over each other. Mr. Trump described the Hungarian leader as "controversial," but he clearly meant it as a compliment -- Mr. Trump said some people considered him controversial, too.

The meeting itself caused controversy, as critics accused Mr. Trump of coddling a neo-authoritarian leader accused of rolling back democracy in the heart of the European Union. Nine Democratic members of Congress had demanded that Mr. Trump cancel the meeting because of Mr. Orban's record of alleged anti-Semitism, as well as his remarks critical of Muslims.

But if anything, Mr. Orban and Mr. Trump have followed the same playbook, with each leader navigating to his own political advantage the confusing and contradictory ways in which anti-Semitism has resurfaced in Europe and North America. It is a point of overlap for both the far left and the far right, for Islamists and Islamophobes, for those who revile Israel as well as those who support it.

Mr. Orban is the apogee of these contradictions: He is a far-right leader of a country whose Jewish citizens say they face less harassment than Jews in any other part of Europe. Mr. Orban and his party, Fidesz, have used anti-Semitic tropes to promote his vision of Hungarian nationalism, and have been accused of trying to understate Hungarian complicity in the Holocaust -- even as he has bankrolled many Jewish institutions and causes.

And he has drawn close to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a bid to win respectability abroad, even as he instigated a series of anti-Semitic political campaigns in Hungary in an attempt to appeal to bigots at home. [...]

Mr. Orban's critics acknowledge that his approach to Judaism has a certain political logic. He supports the Israeli prime minister because the two politicians share a wariness of Islam and cosmopolitan liberalism. 

It's a single game: Israeli Nationalism combines with its immunity from criticism to give other Nationalisms cover.

Posted by at May 15, 2019 3:43 AM