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Nov 29, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Anti-Semitism? Let’s have a gloves-off conversation about anti-Semitism

The announcement yesterday that the government of Hungary is putting forth 1.5 million EUR to fight anti-Semitism in Europe gives us an opportunity to talk frankly about this problem. Or better yet, let’s take a hard look at who is just talking and who is doing something about it.

Critics claim that Hungary suffers from a problem of anti-Semitism and many try to pin this on the Orbán Governments. If you’ve read anything about Viktor Orbán over the last twenty years, you’ve heard the anti-Semitism slander. And we’ve heard it yet again in recent weeks.

But it doesn’t hold water. It simply doesn’t square with the facts of what Prime Minister Orbán believes and what his governments have done.

Yes, anti-Semitism is a problem – in Europe – but if we’re going to get at the root of it, facts matter.

On top of all we’ve already done, consider this latest commitment to the Action and Protection League of Europe, or APLE. It’s a Hungarian Jewish civic organization focused on promoting Jewish identity and community as well as religious and cultural traditions. The Orbán Government announced on Wednesday that it will support APLE with an annual funding of 1.5 million euros. That will include support for APLE programs in justice and education as well as support for a hotline to report anti-Semitic incidents. APLE will also have an office in Brussels to make its voice heard.

Because if we’re going to have an honest and blunt conversation about anti-Semitism in Europe, we need to talk about the new anti-Semitism in Europe and the real friends of Israel. We are a leading voice calling for action against traditional and new anti-Semitism and a committed defender of European Judeo-Christian values. But open support of these values on a national level must be reinforced in the whole of the European Union.

On the new anti-Semitism, here’s what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had to say in his recent interview with CNN International.

“But there’s also new anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme Left and also the radical Islamic pockets in Europe that spew forth these lies and slanders about Israel. The only democracy in this entire region, the only one that has courts, human rights, rights for all religions.”

In the European Council, in the United Nations, Hungary under the Orbán Government remains among Israel’s staunchest allies in Europe. Shall I recount – again – what else the Orbán Governments have done on this issue? Fine, here’s a short list:

Established in 2001, along with the Day of Remembrance, the Holocaust Museum. Promulgated in 2012 the Fundamental Law, our new constitution, recognizing Hungarian Jewry as an inseparable part of the Hungarian nation. Passed some of the most far-reaching provisions in Europe to punish Holocaust denial, hate speech and the display of hate symbols. Established a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Semitism and effectively banned paramilitary groups that were intimidating Jewish and Roma citizens. The Orbán-nominated president of Hungary and a member of the Orbán Government apologized for the state’s role in the Holocaust. Introduced Holocaust education in the national curriculum. Reached an agreement, after many years of impasse, with the Claims Conference and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Hungary began to pay what it owes. Devoted resources to the reconstruction of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and built the first new synagogue in Budapest in 80 years. Raised the pensions of Holocaust survivors. Stood up as a staunch supporter of the state of Israel in the EU and the United Nations.

And now, APLE, with the Hungarian government’s support, will be promoting Jewish culture and issues at the European level and calling attention to the new anti-Semitism.

And by the way, if you’re Jewish, feel free to wear your kippah while you walk the streets of Budapest. You’ll be fine in our beautiful capital, but don’t try it in Berlin or Paris. That’s something that the Jewish leaders of France and Germany recently warned against.

Any questions?