Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hungary: A government campaign against George Soros splits Jews

Via JTA:
Occurring in a conservative society that is still struggling with the complicity of its wartime governments in the murder of nearly half a million Jews during the Holocaust, the campaign against a Jewish billionaire has prompted warnings that Orban’s crusade against Soros is anti-Semitic. Earlier this month Frans Timmermans, a senior EU official, suggested that the Hungarian government is channeling anti-Semitic sentiment to delegitimize a powerful critic of its nationalist policies.

That view, however, is not shared by the main leaders of Hungary’s 100,000-strong Jewish community. In interviews with JTA, its leaders rejected allegations that the government is using anti-Semitic dog whistles consciously. At the same time, they warned that the campaign against Soros may embolden anti-Semites regardless of the government’s intentions.

“Orban is not anti-Semitic. His government is not anti-Semitic,” said Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti, the chairman of the rabbinical council of the Mazsihisz Jewish umbrella group in Hungary. “I believe that Soros was selected as a target because he is a progressive billionaire regardless of the fact that he’s Jewish.”

Yet Orban failed to stop the anti-Soros campaign even after it appeared that the rhetoric “may have a possible anti-Semitic interpretation,” Radnoti added, saying the prime minister “should have known that this campaign of hatred and scapegoating would increase anti-Semitic feelings.”

Soros, an 86-year-old banking and investment magnate who survived the Holocaust in hiding in Budapest, is not particularly known for funding Jewish causes in Hungary — or anywhere else.


Upping the ante, Orban gave a speech last month at the European Parliament calling Soros a “financial speculator” who is now “attacking Hungary and who — despite ruining the lives of millions of European people with his financial speculations” is nonetheless “received by the EU’s top leaders.” The scathing rhetoric was followed by the appearance in Hungary of posters demonizing Soros, which are widely believed to be printed and distributed by nationalists with the government’s blessing.

And that’s a problem, according to Radnoti, because it risks awakening anti-Semitic sentiments that Radnoti believes Orban neither shares nor seeks to embolden.

“The problem is not that Soros was selected as a public enemy because he is Jewish,” Radnoti said. “The problem is that in a country like Hungary, which has a xenophobia and anti-Semitism problem, the government should have known better than to take someone who happens to be Jewish and make him a public enemy over his globalist politics. It’s not anti-Semitic, it’s just irresponsible.”

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