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Apr 02, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

With its report on anti-Semitism in Hungary, The Times runs a monster fail

The Times never responded to my request to have a chance to reply. Perhaps that’s because, as journalism goes, this ranks among the most atrocious pieces of reporting on Hungary that I’ve seen in some time.

In an article published April 1 in the British Daily The Times entitled, “Jews scared to speak out as anti-Semitism haunts Hungary,” the Berlin-based correspondent, Oliver Moody, files a story that fails miserably.

Knowledge of topic? Fail. Fact-checking? Fail. Balance of sources? Fail. 

Anyone who has followed news and current events in Hungary in the last twenty-five odd years have read articles like Mr. Moody’s dozens of times – even if his article marks a new low. The storyline: Anti-Semitism haunts Hungary. Growing problem. Why? Because Viktor Orbán.

Prime Minister Orbán, according to The Times article, is engaging in a “revision of history” because the Orbán Government has emphasized Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust in Hungary and has put forward a more complex picture of Regent Miklós Horthy. Moody failed to mention that the prime minister has been very explicit about Hungary’s culpability: 

“Hungary didn’t fulfill this moral and political duty during World War II,” Prime Minister Orbán said. “Hungary sinned when instead of protecting the Jews, we chose to collaborate with the Nazis.”

The author mentions only briefly Jobbik, the far-right party in Hungary, but says nothing of the Hungarian liberal-left’s flirtations with the extremist group. Because if anti-Semitism, then Orbán.

Moody says nothing about what the Orbán Government and ruling parties have done on the issue. We have banned paramilitary groups (see Jobbik’s Magyar Gárda!) that were intimidating Jewish and Roma citizens. Passed in 2012, our new Fundamental Law recognizes Hungarian Jewry as an inseparable part of the Hungarian nation. The Orbán-nominated president of Hungary, along with a member of the government, apologized for the state’s role in Holocaust. We made Holocaust education a mandatory part of the school curriculum. We have devoted resources to the reconstruction of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and built the first new synagogue in Budapest in 80 years. The list goes on.

But Moody’s journalistic failure hits tragicomic proportions when he writes that last November’s cover of the “pro-government magazine” Figyelő, (above), which featured a portrait of András Heisler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, “could easily have been propaganda from Nazi Germany”. 

Moody failed to mention other notorious magazine covers. These come from popular, left-liberal publications that are strident critics of the Orbán Government. 

The one on the left, from HVG, shows the late film producer and Government Commissioner Andy Vajna – referred to as “Dollar Papa” – while Magyar Narancs discusses “business and Judaism” and the millions of Slomó Köves, executive rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation.

I’m not going to defend or explain the editorial choices behind any of these magazine covers, but the double-standards shown here by The Times are obnoxious. Did the HVG and Magyar Narancs covers receive the special scrutiny of the ever-concerned liberal crowd? Did The Times correspondent say they resemble “Nazi propaganda”? Of course not. Because anti-Semitism in Hungary can only be PM Orbán’s fault.

And by the way, as opposed to Berlin or Paris, in Budapest, Jewish people can feel free to wear their kippah while walking the streets of Budapest. Doesn’t sound like a place “haunted by anti-Semitism”.