Nearly four months ago, Israel was savagely and unexpectedly attacked. One thousand of her civilians (as well as dozens of foreign civilians), non-combatants and living their daily lives in peace, were murdered by acts of terrorism. Hundreds more were abducted, of which a fraction were tortured, starved and dehydrated, raped, and murdered in excruciating ways. What was the response of much of the Western media and what continues to be their response? The original victims are vilified or downplayed. Karin Jean-Pierre, press-secretary to the man commonly referred to as the leader of the free world, has indicated that unprovoked acts of violence against Israeli civilians are less of an issue than Islamophobia. By her definition and understanding of Anti-Semitism in relation to Islamophobia, the attack on Israel does not compare to the epidemic of Islamophobia or constitute as evidence of a growing tolerance and advocation of anti-Semitism. “When asked about a rise in anti-Semitism, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during an Oct. 22 White House press conference that there was no credible, specific threat to Jews and quickly pivoted to Islamophobia, saying that ‘Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks.’” The most accurate term for this blaming and psychological abuse of the victim is ‘gaslighting.’
According to Dictionary.com, ‘Gaslighting is the act of distorting the truth in a way that’s intended to make another person accept the deception due to doubting their own memory, reality, or sanity. It’s considered a form of psychological manipulation or emotional abuse.’ In the past, Jews experienced gaslighting at the hands of fascists, with deadly consequences, in Hungary as well as most of Europe. While enduring acts of horrific brutality and persecution, the Jewish people have been accused of collectively instigating calamities like world wars and involvement in secret societies, in attempts to shame and confuse the victims. This level of propaganda is successful in much of the world. Thankfully, today Hungary firmly stands with the Jewish people while the rest of the world largely despises them, or is apathetic to their suffering.
Historical Context in Hungary
At the start of the Second World War, Regent and former admiral Miklós Horthy governed Hungary. While governments under Horthy’s rule were intensely rightwing, Horthy himself rejected the extremes of fascism and saw it as a foreign perversion of Hungarian values. In an act of self-preservation, the Bárdossy government reluctantly aligned itself with Nazi Germany and entered the war effort on the Axis side. The Hungarian government passed laws in the 1920s and 1930s that limited the number of Jewish students in universities and eventually prohibited marriage and sexual relations between Jewish and non-Jewish Hungarians. This discrimination policy did not officially evolve into the more aggressive nature of Nazi theology, and Horthy’s system was reluctant to harm Jews physically. However, there were unfortunate exceptions.
In 1941, over ten thousand Jewish-Hungarian citizens were deported east to Ukraine, where the majority died under Nazi rule. The following year, thousands of more Jews were murdered by Hungarian soldiers in Hungarian-occupied areas of Yugoslavia. Despite these tragedies, the Horthy system refused to turn over the entire Jewish population of Hungary to the Nazis. When Horthy attempted to negotiate a separate peace with the advancing Allies, the Third Reich removed him from power and installed the overtly fascist Arrow-Cross government to rule Hungary. From this point, the Hungarian Jews experienced a level of suffering akin to other countries European nations under the Nazi umbrella.
The Hamas Connection
Today, the actions of Hamas are comparable with the actions of the Third Reich and the Arrow Cross. The past anti-Semitic movements of Germany and Hungary and the present one in Palestine promote the idea that Jews are universally depraved and bring about their own suffering due to their involvement in conspiracies. In the words of Heinrich Himmler of the Nazi SS, ‘The Jews are receiving a penalty that is certainly hard, but more than deserved. World Jewry erred in adding up the forces available to it for this war, and now is gradually experiencing the annihilation that it planned for us, and would have carried out without a second thought if it had possessed the ability.’
In a similar vein, the Hamas Covenant of 1988 labels all Jews as innately evil and prone to destruction, and thus worthy of violence which they will surely inflict on other people. ‘The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion. It does not refrain from resorting to all methods, using all evil and contemptible ways to achieve its end. It relies greatly on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, the Rotary and Lions Club, and other sabotage groups. All these organizations work in the interest of Zionism. They aim at undermining societies, destroying values, corrupting consciences, deteriorating character and annihilating Islam.’ Thousands of miles away, Hamas is not an immediate threat. Hungary has not suffered under such chaos and violence for decades.
Pro-Hamas protesters have been voicing their cause in many nations. They have protested in France, Germany, and Britain, as well as in other countries. In Hungary, this is forbidden. The Hungarian criminal code provides a penalty of one to five years imprisonment for anyone who publicly incites support for terrorism or otherwise supports it. According to the Hungarian police, such demonstrations have turned violent in many foreign cities, and therefore it is reasonable to fear that public order and safety would be in danger if such an event were held in Hungary. Prime Minister Orbán has emphasized this law by forbidding a pro-Palestinian rally outside of Parliament. While a rally supporting Palestine does not automatically entail anti-Semitism, there is a logical concern that anti-Semites and/or Hamas members or supporters may infiltrate peaceful pro-Palestinian protests.
In the wake of the attacks on Israel, Hungary was one of the first nations to ban pro-Palestinian protests to prevent the chance that violent pro-Hamas demonstrators would use such events to their advantage. Again, Hungary is a nation that has experienced the full horrors of anti-Semitism and has no intention of repeating that phase of history. Other nations like France and Germany (both nations experiencing an increase in anti-Semitic incidents) have lately taken Hungary’s lead. The French government has declared that pro-Palestinian protests can be banned on a case-by-case basis. The German government has controversially banned all pro-Palestinian protests for the time being. The Hungarian government’s policy in this matter is reflective of its overall stance toward public safety and discouraging extremism. Clearly, the Orbán government prioritizes safety not just for Jewish citizens, but all citizens in a way that is absent among Western policymakers.
Hungary as a haven for Jewish people
Many Jewish citizens from European nations like Sweden are enduring levels of hostility that are non-existent in Hungary. In contrast, Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, the current Israeli ambassador to Hungary, earlier this year named Hungary as one of the safest nations for Jews to live in. Furthermore, the Jewish community in Hungary is not only thriving but also one of the largest in Europe. One final note on the relationship between Israel and Hungary concerns the opinion of the Israeli government. Netanyahu, the current prime minister of Israel, considers Viktor Orbán as a true friend of Israel. This reflects the confidence of the Israeli government in Hungary’s commitment to the stability of Israel, and being a friend to the Jewish people. The Hungarian-Israeli friendship applies to sports as well, recently exemplified by the Israeli football team being invited to play in Felcsút, Hungary. Aaron Morali, an Israeli spectator for this match, felt a sense of relief after weeks of anguish. ‘We’re Jewish, we’re here…It was very important for us to come here.’
The future: bleak, yet hopeful
Within the past 4 months, gaslighting has been taken to proportions not seen since the Second World War. While the war rages on, the original victims are still ignored. Hundreds of them are still in captivity, their fates unknown. Jewish people continue to face harassment and discrimination in nations that once were safe havens for them. ‘The Anti-Defamation League reported that in the first week after Hamas’ deadly attack, in which 1,400 Israelis were killed, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. tripled in comparison to the same week last year. Similarly, London police recorded a 1,353 per cent increase in antisemitic crimes compared with the same period a year earlier.’ Despite rising Anti-Semitism in other nations, both the Israeli and Hungarian people can continue to form a unique and groundbreaking partnership based on strong diplomacy and empathy. Thankfully just as suffering needs no translation, neither does love and empathy. As the war rages on between Hamas and Israel, Hungary stands by, united with Israel through a common history.