Hungary, under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has become the bete noir of the American and European intellectual left. Its “illiberal democracy” (Orban is in office because two-thirds of Hungary’s electorate backed him) is the logical extension, they say, of the dangerous right-wing populism of Donald Trump, the Brexit movement, and so forth.
“Populist” though it may be, Orban’s Hungary is arguably the safest place in Europe for Jews (100,000 of them). That’s the view of the estimable David Goldman:
Last Friday evening I put on a kippah and walked half an hour across Budapest to the Keren Or synagogue maintained by the Budapest Chabad. After violent attacks on Jews in German streets, the leaders of Germany’s Jewish community warned Jews last month not to wear a kippah or any other visible sign of Jewish identification in public. The French community issued such warnings years ago. Belgian TV could not find a single Jew in Brussels willing to wear a kippah in public.
I walked across Budapest four times (for Friday evening and Saturday daytime services), and no-one looked at my kippah twice. At services I met Hasidim who had walked to synagogue with kaftan and shtreimel, the traditional round fur hat. Whatever residual anti-Semitism remains among Hungarians, it doesn’t interfere with the open embrace of Jewish life.
Unfortunately, as Goldman notes, the same cannot be said of continental Europe’s major “liberal democracies.”
Goldman cites several reasons for the lack of virulent anti-Semitism in Hungary. First, there are very few Muslim migrants. This is the primary reason.
“Liberal” Europe is doing all it can to force Hungary to accept Muslim immigrants — to import anti-Semitism. According to Goldman, Hungary stands to lose up to $4 billion in EC subsidies, roughly 3 percent of the country’s GDP, if it doesn’t knuckle under. Germany is leading the charge. Hasn’t Germany inflicted enough suffering on Europe’s Jews?
A secondary reason for the relative lack of anti-Semitism in Hungary is Orban himself. He maintains a close relationship with Israel, one that dates back 20 years to when then-Finance Minister Netanyahu helped Orban with Hungary’s economic program. Earlier this month, Hungary, along with Romania and the Czech Republic, vetoed a European Community resolution condemning the U.S. for moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Beyond Orban’s relationship with Netanyahu, Goldman finds the affinity between Israel and Hungary “existential.”:
Hungary is a small nation at risk of demographic extinction during the next century, and the Hungarian nationalists view Israel as the paragon of a small nation that has revived itself by force of will and the grace of God.
In that regard the Hungarian nationalists bring to mind the American evangelicals, whose grandfathers for the most part were anti-Semites, but who concluded after the 1967 War that a miracle had happened before their eyes, and that they were well advised to get on the right side of it.
Orban has been accused of anti-Semitism because of his attacks on George Soros, who happens to be Jewish. Soros, an ex-pat, has spent enormous sums of money trying to sway Hungarian politics against Orban and his policies. As Goldman puts it:
Soros, to be sure, is Jewish by descent but not by practice or affiliation; he is a left-wing utopian who thinks that dissolving national differences is the precondition for world harmony. . .[T]here is nothing inherently anti-Semitic about campaigning against a plutocrat who is trying to buy your country.
Some of Orban’s bad press in the West may be deserved. But much of it seems off-base, the product of a quest to paint Trumpism as part of a dangerous populist wave that threatens democracy.
Claims that Orban and the Hungarian populism he represents are anti-Semitic certainly fall into that category, as Goldman demonstrates. The threat to European Jewry comes from Muslims and the continent’s left-leaning policy-making elites