Hungarian government historian to give racist talk in Toronto

Hungary’s Orbán government is organizing a talk in Toronto for the local Hungarian community, in which Sándor Szakály, a historian closely tied to the far-right, but currently tasked with leading the state-funded Veritas Institute, will give a talk entitled: “Dutiful irresponsibility: How long will Europe be able to withstand, and for how long will there still be a Europe?”

The talk is being hosted by Zsolt Bede-Fazekas, the producer of a local weekly Hungarian-language radio broadcast on Toronto’s AM 530 multicultural station and also the coordinator of a Hungarian cultural association called the Parameter Club. Last year, Mr. Bede-Fazekas planned to host an event with Jobbik party MP Gábor Staudt at the same location where the Szakály talk is being planned, but the landlord eventually prohibited him from organizing this event in his building.

Mr. Szakály’s talk is about the refugee crisis in Europe. The lecture, planned for December 5th, 2015 at 7:00 PM, held at 695 Coxwell Avenue, in Toronto,  will cover the following questions (I am quoting and translating them directly, as they appear on the Hungarian-language invitation):

  • “What are the historical antecedents and what is the background of today’s migration?”
  • “Do the migrants plan to integrate, or do they want to transform Europe into their image?”
  • “Why don’t they stay in Muslim lands?”
  • “Who are the causes of this mass migration?”
  • “To whom will Europe belong?”

Beyond the overarching alarmist and Islamophobic tone, the fourth question struck me the most: who and not what factors are “causing” the mass migration. Only Mr. Szakály knows precisely what he is going to say, but most people familiar with Hungarian public discourse and polemics, especially on the right, will likely read this as coded, dog whistle antisemitism.

One popular conspiracy theory on the Hungarian far-right is that the mass migration is caused by Jews, in order to empty out parts of the Middle East and to pave the way for a “Greater Israel.”

Sándor Szakály, the director of the Orbán government's Veritas Institute.

Sándor Szakály, the director of the Orbán government’s Veritas Institute.

Mr. Szakály, who controversially referred to the 1941 deportation of Jews from Hungary as “police action against aliens,” is a prominent figure on the Hungarian far-right and an invited speaker at Jobbik events. Mr. Szakály, who entered the Orbán government’s inner circle through the recommendation of former Prime Minister Péter Boross (who has openly referred to himself as a Horthyist and an admirer of interwar Hungary), was never associated with the more moderate elements of Fidesz. He always gravitated to the far-right.

It’s quite difficult to see Mr. Szakály’s second appearance in Toronto in just six months (in May, he celebrated the legacy of Hungarian soldiers during World War II, who fought alongside Nazi Germany to the bitter end) as anything other than what an essay by András Göllner, published yesterday in HFP, refers to as affinity fraud. One day and for one audience, the Orbán government in Canada organizes solemn commemorations of the Holocaust. The next day, the government-appointed historian is scheduled to give what promises to be, based on the invitation, a xenophobic talk to an audience that may be receptive to this.

As Canada gets ready to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees before December 31st, and up to an additional 15,000 in the first two months of 2016, it is shameful that this talk is being organized in Canada’s most populous city. The only aspect that is even more shameful is the fact that Hungarians after 1956 benefited from a reasonably liberal and benign refugee policy on the part of Canada, with authorities accepting over 38,000 Hungarians after the suppression of the revolution, yet today it is a prominent group within this community that is engaging in fear mongering.

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