Another anti-Semitic scandal rocks Hungary’s opposition

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Hungary’s opposition parties, which have often voiced their own criticism against Viktor Orbán government’s alleged anti-Semitism, have been rocked by another incident in which one of their high-profile leaders have expressed unacceptable views against the Jewish community.
Earlier this year in a scandal involving László Bíró, an MP for the Jobbik (The Right One) opposition party was recorded calling the capital city of Hungary “Judapest”, a veiled reference to the vibrant Jewish community inhabiting the city. Jobbik often forms a common election platform with the rest of the Hungarian opposition parties, who have been accused to be rather slow in taking a stance against such remarks from the ranks of their coalition partners.
Now, in a voice recording of Krisztina Baranyi, a member of the Two-tailed Dog Party, she has been overheard using the word “Jews” as a swear-word when speaking about the development of the 9th district of Budapest, of which she is an elected Mayor. In the voice recording from an unidentified event, she has was heard talking about “stinking trash Jewish investors”. Although Baranyi had accepted that the recording is genuine, she denies any wrong-doing and has claimed that her words have been taken out of context. Instead, she had accused other members of the left-wing coalition that governs Budapest’s 9th district as being the ones who have used anti-Semitic undertones.
In the meantime, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ) had condemned the mayor for her choice of words. According to them, she has brought the Hungarian public discourse into disrepute.
Although Baranyi is a member of the left-wing anti-establishment Two-tailed Dog Party, that had entered the local elections as a political joke, she is in fact the joint candidate for all the Hungarian opposition parties that have formed a coalition called New Pole (Új Pólus) in the capital’s district with the aim of removing the previous mayor, a member of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party. These include the radical student movement Momentum, the main opposition party Democratic Coalition (DK), and the Socialists.
Some of the members of the left-wing coalition have already distanced themselves from Baranyi. Andrea Jancsó of the far-left Momentum movement has made a statement in the name of the New Pole coalition saying that “the mayor’s anti-Semitic remarks were unacceptable then as they are now. We cannot accept a common platform with politicians who… made disparaging remarks about someone’s gender, racial, ethnic or religious identity.” It is notable, however, that to date none of Baranyi’s coalition partners have called for her resignation.
One of the painful circumstances of this scandal is the fact that the 9th district, also known as Ferencváros, was the transport hub for the deportation of Hungarian Jews, and Jewish refugees from surrounding countries to death camps in the East during the 1940s. Their historic railway station, where these transports have originated from, is today a place of a remembrance with a large monument commemorating those taken away in transports to concentration camps, as well as Hungarians deported to prisoner-of-war camps in Russia.
This week, in a speech in parliament, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accused the left-wing coalition of “inventing progressive anti-Semitism” in order to enable them to form a coalition with the right-wing Jobbik opposition party.
“A progressive anti-Semite is one who hates this government more than our Jewish compatriots,” claimed Orbán.
The prevalence of anti-Jewish sentiments or rhetoric within any particular society are only possible to measure by statistical perception surveys, however, there are more accurate records of violent anti-Semitic attacks in any given country. Within the EU, Hungary had seen relatively few violent anti-Semitic incidents, with two recorded in 2019. Even broken down per capita, this compares favorably against other European countries such as France or Germany, where in the same period there were 41 such attacks in each of them, or with the UK, with 122 recorded incidents in 2019.

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