Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Round Up the Jews"

That's more or less what a member of the Hungarian parliament suggested the other day.  To make it better, he suggested that Jews were enemies of the state.

As you might imagine, this didn't go over well with Hungary's 100,000 Jews.  Between five and six hundred thousand of their brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents were slaughtered during the Holocaust, so it is easy to see why they might be just a bit sensitive.

On one hand, Marton Gyonyosi is a member of Jobbik, the right-wing nationalist party.  Educated in Ireland and formerly employed by accounting giant KPMG, he is part of a frightening trend in European politics -- but, by definition,  his party stands outside the mainstream.  On the other hand, well, Jobbik holds 44 of the 386 seats in Parliament. That's 11%, more than enough to make it an important player in building coalitions.

What is fascinating is that Gyonyosi, under pressure, issued one of the most half-hearted apologies we can imagine.  He said, in essence, that he only meant that the government should keep a list of Hungarian citizens with dual Israeli passports.  Not all Jews; just those Jews.  They are the ones who "pose a national security risk to Hungary."

For the record, dual passports are pretty common.  Hungary, for example, gives them to Romanian citizens of Hungarian ancestry.  The Romanians used to complain about this, but their case is weaker since they started giving passports to Moldovans.

Also for the record, hatred and suspicion of Jews in Europe, especially eastern Europe, is a lively phenomenon.  It is a lot quieter than the hatred of gypsies the Roma, but you don't have to dig deep to find it.      

Let's say it straight:  The right wing in Europe has been treading a fine line for decades, trying to figure out just how close it can come to the craziness of the genocidal '30s without actually growing the moustache and putting on the armbands.  Jobbik seems to be taking the next logical step -- a prospect which should frighten all of us.

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