Antisemitic outburst in Hungary rings alarm bells in academia
December 11, 2012 | Mike Cohen - Quebec Bureau Chief
The board of directors of the Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter is ringing alarm bells over the leadership of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and acts of antisemitism and intolerance rearing their ugly heads in that country.
Dr. András B. Göllner, founder and international spokesperson for the organization and an emeritus associate professor of political science at Concordia University, said he and his colleagues believe it is important to speak up in light of what occurred on Nov. 26 in the Hungarian parliament. At that time Márton Gyöngyösi, the co-chair of the parliamentary foreign relations committee, rose and asked the right-wing government of Orbán to compile a list of those members of the government and of parliament who are of Jewish ancestry.
“In the view of this prominent Hungarian parliamentarian, the presence of Jews in parliament and the government pose a threat to Hungary’s national security,” Göllner explained. “The last time such blatantly racist statements were heard in Hungary’s parliament was during the darkest days of the Holocaust, during the Regency of Admiral Nicholas Horthy, when some 500,000 Jews were rounded up by the country’s police forces, stripped of all their earthly possessions, crammed into railway carriages used for the transport of animals, and shipped off to be slaughtered in Auschwitz.”
Thousands of people rallied against antisemitism in Budapest soon after the comments, prompting Orban to finally speak out. “Last week sentences were uttered in parliament which are unworthy of Hungary,” Orbán told parliament.“I rejected this call on behalf of the government and I would like you to know that as long as I am standing in this place, no one in Hungary can be hurt or discriminated against because of their faith, conviction or ancestry.”
As far as Göllner is concerned, Orbán still surrounds himself with the likes of party members András Bencsik and Zsolt Bayer whose antisemitic outbursts have been well documented.
Göllner has co-signed a statement with five others: Dr. Christopher Adam from Carleton University in Ottawa; Dr. Éva Balogh, the retired Dean of Morse College at Yale University; Dr. Stevan Harnad from the Univerité du Quebec á Montreal; Professor. Peter W. Klein from the University of British Columbia and Dr. Imre Szeman from the University of Alberta.
In it they point out that the United States Anti-Defamation League’s 2012 study has shown, antisemitic rhetoric in Hungary’s mass media and in public discourse increased dramatically after Orbán came to power in 2010.
Göllner told the Jewish Tribune that his group has not been very successful at getting any Canadian governmental response.
“We are working on it,” he said. “We would like to hold public protests, along with our public statements, but do not have the human resources as yet to mount such campaigns. We are busy academics, with full-time jobs, and at this point, our primary weapon is the pen.”
In the eye of Göllner, the most dismaying thing about this antisemitic outburst is not the content, but the place where it was articulated. “Rather than fighting against the erosion of democratic principles, the Orbán government is bent on restoring the political values that held sway in Hungary under the rule of Adolf Hitler’s ally, Admiral Horthy. Mr. Gyöngyösi’s outburst is a sad step along this backward march in time,” he and his colleagues charge.