Antisemitism in Hungary: Talk is not enough, real action needed

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) issued a statement a few weeks ago on antisemitism in Hungary, during a joint visit to Budapest by Michael Georg Link, the director of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and Rabbi Andrew Baker of Washington, DC. The Hungarian media quoted parts of the statement, but did not run it in full, so it’s worth having it on the record here, in the HFP. The statement reads a little like a mixed ‘report card’ and mentions serious doubts about whether the Orbán government is truly willing to confront Hungary’s World War II past honestly and openly. András Heisler, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ), struck a much more positive tone in regards to the country’s right-wing, populist government, suggesting that there has been a real “attitudinal change” among policymakers and officials. Mr. Heisler, however, has come under criticism from some in the Jewish community, who are concerned about his cooperation with the regime.


OSCE Statement:

Political leadership key to implementing zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism in Hungary, say OSCE officials during joint visit

Political leaders have to take decisive action to counter anti-Semitism in Hungary, Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, said today in Budapest.

Director Link and Rabbi Baker were speaking on the second day of a two-day visit for meetings with senior government officials, as well as with representatives of civil society and the Jewish community in Hungary.

“OSCE commitments highlight the important role played by political leaders in countering anti-Semitism, but talk is not enough – what’s needed is action,” Director Link said. “We see many opportunities to demonstrate such leadership in Hungary and are very concerned about worrying expressions of anti-Semitism in public discourse. We are here to discuss what more can be done to bring about positive change and establish effective, comprehensive and sustainable responses to anti-Semitism.” The two held meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó and other officials to discuss what measures can be undertaken to implement the Prime Minister’s stated zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism in Hungary.

“Anti-Semitism, manifest more in extremist rhetoric than violent incidents, has contributed to the sense of anxiety and uncertainty felt by many Hungarian Jews,” said Rabbi Baker. “A number of highly publicized projects in recent years have cast doubt on the government’s willingness to deal clearly with its past, a particularly sensitive matter since the Hungarian Jewish community is almost entirely composed of Holocaust survivors and their descendants.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker (left) Michael Georg Link (next too him) and Péter Szijjártó (across).

Rabbi Andrew Baker (left) Michael Georg Link (next too him) and Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (across).

András Heisler, the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) stressed to the visiting officials the importance of international co-operation in fighting anti-Semitism.

“We welcome the OSCE visit and see it as a reinforcement of our efforts to make our voice heard on challenges related to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust,” Heisler said. “Last year, a strong stance by Jewish organizations, coupled with international support, resulted in an attitudinal change in the Hungarian Government, which made positive gestures, including the renovation of synagogues, homes for the elderly and rural Jewish cemeteries.”

Link and Baker welcomed the government’s inclusion of educational programmes as part of these initiatives, and noted the significance of its ongoing dialogue with the the Jewish community on matters of concern.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *