Myths and Facts about Hungary and George Soros (Part 1)

Browse the international media coverage of Hungary over the last several weeks and a handful of keywords stand out: migration crisis, NGOs, transparency, media, Central European University and George Soros. While much of the coverage lacks balance, the keywords themselves can be instructive, shedding light on a far-reaching, ideologically driven and wholly undemocratic network that pushes George Soros’s “open society” agenda.

At first blush, this all may sound like a typical eastern European conspiracy theory, but let’s take a closer look.

Here are a few of the oft-repeated myths about Hungary and the Soros network and some facts to put them in perspective.

Myth: The Hungarian government is creating a fake enemy of Hungarian-born American billionaire George Soros, who is of Jewish heritage. That’s thinly veiled anti-Semitism.

In fact, nobody in the Hungarian government has ever referred to George Soros’s Jewish background. Why? Because his background is irrelevant to the central issue, which is that an increasing number of governments and elected representatives see Soros’s networks as a threat to democracy. Those who accuse Hungary or other governments of anti-Semitism with respect to Soros are using the old-standby propaganda technique of labeling the opponent anti-Semitic in an attempt to distract from the underlying facts.

About those facts: it was Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government that, among several measures to fight anti-Semitism, introduced a zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitic attitudes, banned the use of hate symbols, banned paramilitary extremist groups, introduced a national Holocaust remembrance day, increased the pensions of Holocaust survivors, came to an agreement with the Claims Conference after its predecessors failed to do so, and made it a priority to back the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation with financial support. Accusing my government of anti-Semitism or anti-capitalism in the context of George Soros is as fake as news can get.

Myth: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared 2017 a year of war on George Soros.

In a December 2016 interview for Hungarian news outlet 888.hu, PM Orbán was asked about POLITICO Europe’s 2017 pick for the Hungarian “most likely to shape our world in 2017,” which happened to be George Soros. POLITICO, besides listing many of Soros’s European interventions, wrote  that “[i]n Europe, Soros pushes his ideas through the network of Open Society Foundations, which currently works in more than 100 countries across the world.”

Responding to the question, Prime Minister Orbán said, “It will not be his year, but it will be about him: those two things are not the same. What is the logical response to the situation that has developed? In every country, efforts will be made to push Soros out. You can already see this in Europe at the moment. The sources of funding are being revealed, as are the secret service links, and which NGOs represent which interests. The coming year will be about displacing Soros and the forces he symbolizes. So in that sense POLITICO’s prediction is accurate.”

Orbán’s prediction is grounded in fact. Besides POLITICO’s reporting, DCLeaks has also reported on George Soros’ influence around the world: his efforts to weaken the Balkan states, his influence in American politics and his role in encouraging the refugee crisisamong the examples. The Jerusalem Post described him as leading a “campaign of global chaos.” In 2017, Macedonia launched its own movement against Soros’ power machinations. His network, influence and the ideas behind them were described at length in a City Journal article titled “Connoisseur of Chaos,” reflecting some of the points raised by renowned neoconservative editor Joshua Muravchik’s “The Mind of George Soros.”

The Daily Signal reported on how Soros influenced the direction of USAID funds to promote his political agenda in several countries, including during the conflict in the Ukraine. A group of Republican Senators in the United States called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to probe US funding of Soros-affiliated groups abroad. Soros himself has emerged from the shadows to open up about the warm receptions he receives in the highest administrative bodies of the European Union.

Prime Minister Orbán has never declared war, but he was right. The true reach of the Soros network’s many tentacles has become a source of real concern, and governments all over the world are rightfully pushing back.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Check back soon for part 2, where I dispel myths about Hungary's so-called "crackdown" on NGOs and the alleged closing of CEU.