Hungary and its government have constantly been targeted with claims of antisemitism over the years, from both the media and politicians opposed to Viktor Orbán’s conservative government. Now, a new study from the Brussels-based European Jewish Association shows that Hungary is the second “friendliest” nation to Jews in Europe, further discrediting one of the key smears directed at Hungary.
News of the study was released around the same time that (EJA) honored Hungary’s Interior Minister Sándor Pintér for “his work on improving public security and fighting antisemitism,” the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities (EMIH) announced on Tuesday.
“The award was presented by Rabbi Menachem Margolin, president of the EJA,” the association wrote in a statement. At its annual conference in Budapest on Monday, the Brussels-based EJA unveiled a study that ranks European countries on the basis of international sentiment, antisemitism, and anti-Israel sentiment.
The research shows that Hungary, after Italy, is the second “friendliest” nation toward Judaism, reported Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet.
According to the announcement, Alex Benjamin, director of EJA, praised the interior minister for his merits and the efforts of the Hungarian government. He mentioned that cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the Jewish community had been developed under Pintér’s ministry, and that the government had declared zero tolerance for antisemitism.
Antisemitism claims routinely refuted
Claims of antisemitism have not only come from news outlets hostile to Hungary, but also from top-ranking politicians. For example, Michael Roth, who was serving as Germany’s federal minister of state for European affairs in 2020, said that “one aspect that led to the Article 7 case against Hungary was rampant antisemitism in Hungary.”
The comment sparked widespread outrage from the Hungarian government and members of the Hungarian Jewish community, such as Ádám Petri Lukács, who wrote that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has “noted on numerous occasions that he employs a “zero tolerance” policy for antisemitic behavior. In fact, Jewish life in Hungary is enjoying a renaissance, a fact supported by the testimony of many proud, Hungarian Jews, including me.”
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Shlomo Köves, the executive Rabbi of the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities (EMIH), also noted in a radio interview that “it is quite peculiar that a German politician would criticize Hungary since there have been 1,824 antisemitic incidents in Germany in 2019, while Hungary only had 35. Antisemitism can be used as a political bludgeon, but that is only relevant for those who are being targeted. In this respect, Hungary is an eminently safe place.”
In the same year, Israeli ambassador to Budapest Yacov Hadas-Handelsman said in an interview that Hungary is one of the few countries in Europe where Jews can safely walk the streets.
“I have been serving in Hungary for a year now, and I have been all over the county. I also know Europe well, so I can safely say that on the continent, Hungary is almost the only place where a practicing religious Jew can walk the streets freely without having to fear anything,” he told Magyar Nemzet.
Hungary praised for its stance on hate speech
During the award ceremony for Hungary’s interior minister, EMIH indicated that the Faculty of Law Enforcement at the National University of Public Administration has included both the effective enforcement and prevention of hate crimes as one of its top priorities.
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“A detailed methodology for investigating and prosecuting the crime of public denial of the crimes of the National Socialist and Communist regimes has been developed,” the statement read.
“The Penal Code has been amended to make incitement to violence against minorities a punishable hate crime, and the constitution has guaranteed the protection of the dignity of communities,” it added.
The EJA’s annual conference was held this year for the first time in Budapest.