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Dec 01, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

Here’s the story about how the liberal left and the international media are whitewashing Hungary’s far-right party

In recent days, the chairman of Hungary’s far-right political party Jobbik publicly declared his intention to form an alliance with left-wing opposition parties LMP and Momentum. The latter have not ruled out the possibility.

That Jobbik is seeking allies ahead of the spring 2018 elections carries little surprise. But the response from the liberal left, the utter silence of the international media, and the way that they are together whitewashing what this party has stood for – it’s simply appalling.

Ágnes Heller gave an interview to the opposition weekly Magyar Narancs that was published just yesterday. A philosopher, former communist, and standard bearer for Hungary’s left, Heller is also a Holocaust survivor. The interviewer asked her about the opposition’s possible alliance with Jobbik, and Heller said, “hold your nose” and vote for them.

“For the time being, Jobbik hasn’t killed anyone,” she continued. “Then I don’t care about its past, I don’t care about its contradictions.” She used to consider Jobbik “a far-right and racist party,” she explained, but “at this moment they are not racist.”

“If we start to talk about who said what several years ago,” she instructed her interviewer, “we will be ruined, won’t be able to think normally.”

Really? The hypocrisy in that is breathtaking. We’re talking about the far-right here. Just take a short look – sorry, Madame Heller – at who said what not so long ago.

“The most accurate description of Jobbik,” said Party Chairman Gábor Vona, “is that it is a national, radical party” that has “set out on a fight against global capitalism and its three main representatives: the US, the EU and Israel.” Remember the Hungarian Guard, that paramilitary group that marched in black uniforms intimidating people, the one that was outlawed by Fidesz-sponsored legislation? Vona promised “that if Jobbik enters into government, I will reorganise it.”

It gets worse.

Vona has said, “we cannot allow the gypsies to become a majority in our sacred homeland” and told the Israeli ambassador that “I will never be Israel’s poodle” and that if Jobbik entered government he promised to send him packing.

Jobbik Vice-Chairman Előd Novák, speaking about the Oscar-winning Hungarian film Son of Saul also made a promise. “If Jobbik enters into government, it will put an end to the Holocaust industry in the film business as well.” Novák set fire to an EU flag back in 2012, but Gábor Vona clarified in 2015 that in fact “it was not Előd Novák who burnt the EU flag, but the leadership of Jobbik.”

A Jobbik member of the Hungarian parliament, Gergely Kulcsár, has referred to the Holocaust as the “the Hoaxocaust”. He gained notoriety in 2011 when he spat in the “Shoes on the Danube Bank,” a well-known Holocaust memorial in Budapest. He even sent a photo of it to his fellow party members with a caption. “This afternoon,” wrote Kulcsár, “I felt like I could use some recreation, so I visited this happy place by the banks of the Danube that you can see on the photo. The photo was taken after spitting into the shoe.” Kulcsár still holds his parliamentary seat next to Vona and his other Jobbik colleagues. Back in 2012, Jobbik’s deputy group leader Márton Gyöngyösi suggested that an assessment should be undertaken to determine the number of people of Jewish origin in Hungary, and in the Hungarian Parliament in particular, who pose a certain national security risk.

I could go on. It’s ugly.

Ágnes Heller, though, says “hold your nose” and other left-wing figures, it seems, agree. Former Socialist Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy and several left-wing, liberal intellectuals (including Ferenc Kőszeg, László Mérő, Miklós Haraszti) have made remarks or published articles endorsing an alliance with Jobbik.

Response from the international press? Silence. Nobody’s covering it. You can’t read these anti-Semitic details and racism in the puff piece on Gábor Vona that Lily Bayer published on Forward back in February. Like the liberal left in Hungary, the international press is apparently just going to give this radical party a free pass and forget about all they’ve said and stood for.

Meanwhile, just in the last couple of weeks, a former senior State Department official once again pinned the anti-Semitic label on the Orbán Government, and a Washington Post columnist, Anne Applebaum, called Prime Minister Orbán a neo-Bolshevik.

I don’t normally comment on party politics on this blog, but I do push back when I see media bias and double-standards, especially in the face of such outrageous hypocrisy.