Straddling both sides of the Danube River, the city of Budapest has all the look and feel of a charming European metropolis.
Not surprisingly, with its ancient Roman ruins, narrow medieval streets and bustling cafes, the Hungarian capital has become a popular tourist destination.
Indeed, a visitor to Hungary could be forgiven for thinking that the country has shaken off its dark and sordid past from the 20th century and transformed itself into a tolerant and liberal Western democracy.
Unfortunately, that is far from being the case.
As recent election results indicate, anti-Semitism is alive and well in Hungarian society, so much so that instead of deterring voters from supporting a particular party, it seems to attract them. It is therefore essential that steps be taken to compel the Hungarian government to tackle this problem head on.
In municipal elections held on October 12, the anti-Semitic Jobbik party made large — and frightening — gains.
They won control over 14 towns and villages, compared with just the 4 they took in 2010, and came in second to the ruling Fidesz party in 18 out of 19 Hungarian counties.
This underlines the fact that the party enjoys nationwide support, rather than just in certain rural pockets.
The results prompted Jobbik leader Gabor Vona to declare that, “From 2018, Jobbik will govern this country”.
While that claim might seem exaggerated, it is certainly no longer outside the realm of possibility.
After all, back in April, Jobbik received 21 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections, making it the third-largest political party in Hungary.
And just why is Jobbik a matter of such concern?
Consider the following. Two years ago, Jobbik’s deputy parliamentary leader called for all Jews in Hungary to be registered in a move that chillingly evoked the Nazi era. He also insisted that an investigation be undertaken regarding Jews serving in the Hungarian government to determine “the potential danger they pose to Hungary.”
Two months ago, during the Gaza conflict, the mayor of the Hungarian city of Erpatak denounced Israel as a “Jewish terror state” and arranged for effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres to be hung in mock execution.
And at the opening this summer of a photo exhibit in Budapest portraying Israel’s war against Hamas, Jobbik Member of the European Parliament Krisztina Morvai called for the cancellation of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, while Jobbik parliamentarian Márton Gyöngyösi compared the Jewish state to the Nazis, saying that, “Israel is now conducting a genocide similar to the one suffered by the Jewry in World War II.”
It is no wonder that various Jewish leaders and organizations are sounding the alarm.
Earlier this year, Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, described Jobbik as an “unashamedly neo-Nazi party,” adding that, “This is a party that feeds on hate.”
And the Conference of European Rabbis, headed by Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of Moscow, recently put out a statement saying that, “We are concerned and we expressed our concerns to the heads of the European Union as well as to the leaders of European governments, who see eye to eye with us on the need for a war to eradicate rising anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic manifestations. We will continue our activities to increase and glorify Torah and Israel in Europe, because we all believe that Light rejects Darkness.”
While the European Parliament is holding a plenary debate on the situation in Hungary, far more must be done to get Budapest to take action against the rising anti-Semitism that is sweeping the country.
It is simply deplorable — and entirely unacceptable — that Hungary would slide back into anti-Semitic hatred just 70 years after more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered by the Germans and their Hungarian allies in the Holocaust.
Hungary is part and parcel of the European Union, a member in good standing in the continental club. It is inconceivable that the United States, Israel and the rest of Europe’s leaders would simply wring their hands, shrug their shoulders and move on to the next topic.
There are over 100,000 Jews still living in Hungary, and the threat to their safety and well-being is mounting.
Political and diplomatic pressure needs to be brought to bear on Hungary’s leadership so that they understand the urgency of the issue.
As a party that promotes hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism, Jobbik has no place in Hungarian civil society and it should be treated accordingly.
Hungary must cease to sweep its own collaboration with the Nazis under the rug and stop portraying itself as a victim during World War II when it is clear that the country was also a perpetrator of horrific crimes.
And Jews worldwide should press their elected representatives to raise a howl and a cry over this issue with Hungarian officials.
The writing is clearly on the wall for Hungary and its Jews. Time is of the essence, because seemingly with each day that passes, Jobbik is growing stronger and spreading its tentacles throughout the country.
Concerted action is the only way to prevent it from gaining further strength and averting the tragedy that we all should fear.