The Jobbik Effect

Is Hungary an anti-Semitic nation?

Following on from the Budapest 2013 outreach (see Summer Herald) Feri Kozma reports on the anti-Semitism currently being faced by Jewish people in Hungary.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was founded in 1913 to combat anti-Jewish prejudices in America. Every few years the ADL conducts a survey about anti-Semitic stereotypes in European countries. Each survey researches responses to four anti-Jewish statements.

In the latest survey, 55% of Hungarians answered ‘Probably True’ to the statement: ‘Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country.’ Seventy-three percent of Hungarians answered ‘Probably True’ to the statement, ‘Jews have too much power in the business world,’ while 75% thought it ‘Probably True’ that ‘Jews have too much power in international financial markets.’ Sixty three percent gave the same response to the statement, ‘Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.’ A fifth proposition –‘Jews are responsible for the death of Christ’ – received a 38% ‘Probably True’ response.

The major problem with such dangerously stereotypical propositions is that they are statements about the entire Jewish nation rather than about individuals; they are about ‘the Jews’ rather than particular Jewish people. The fifth statement contains a theological view that requires further explanation but the research, as it stands, leaves no room for that. It is important to know how widely accepted these anti-Semitic generalisations are in Hungarian society. If somebody answers ‘Probably True’ to those statements does that mean the person is an anti-Semite or that anti-Semitism is little more than just an ill-informed opinion or prejudice against the Jewish people?

Andras Kovács is a researcher of anti-Semitism in Hungary. He has been conducting surveys on the subject since 1993 using a more sophisticated method than that of the ADL. Kovács not only looks at what people think about Jewish people and how much they like or dislike them but also at what percentage of society is ready to discriminate against them. He argues that although many people falsely imagine that Jews are responsible for the world recession, holding such views doesn’t necessarily mean these people are fascists.

It is also interesting to compare the ADL’s fifth proposition – ‘Jews are responsible for the death of Christ’ – with Kovács’s equivalent statement, ‘Christ’s crucifixion is an unforgivable sin of the Jews.’ Sadly, many evangelical Christians answer ‘Yes’ to this statement because they feel that an answer to the contrary would deny the New Testament account of the events of Good Friday.

Kovács observed that the ADL survey was the ADL survey was based on five hundred random telephone interviews with members of the general public which, he says, is insufficient for drawing broad conclusions. Kovács conducts his surveys among 1,200 interviewees and, although his research produced different results to those of the ADL, he concludes that

anti-Semitism is growing in Hungary. Before 2009 Kovács found that 8-12% of the population were radical anti-Semites. The number increased significantly prior to the elections in 2010 although it decreased afterwards, remaining at around 20%.

Kovács attributes this increase to a phenomenon he calls the ‘Jobbik effect’. Jobbik is a radical right-wing party formed out of a youth movement which successfully addressed social problems which main-stream parties had difficulty solving. Jobbik’s popularity has steadily increased since 2006. They were able to send representatives to the EU parliament and enter the Hungarian parliament in 2010. Their radical language became acceptable to many people and many of those who were latent anti-Semites before now feel free to speak openly about their prejudices concerning Jewish people.

According to the ADL’s claim, 63% of Hungarians are

anti-Semitic (63% is the percentage of those who answered ‘probably true’ to at least three of the four ADL statements). The combined results of both the ADL’s survey and that of Andras Kovács reveal a tendency that serves as a great warning for Hungary and other European countries that must be taken seriously. Anti-Semitic rhetoric has publicity, an audience and even representation in Parliament. A couple of years ago crazy conspiracy theories and medieval anti-Jewish superstitions could be found only on the illegal websites of Hungarian neo-Nazi groups who could only operate abroad. Recently such voices have been heard in the Hungarian Parliament, even though mainstream politicians condemn them. There is a growing number of Hungarians – some of them Christians – who, though they would have found such ideas strange and disturbing a few years ago, now consider there may be some validity to them due to the frequency with which they are voiced.

In Hungary we desperately need clear biblical teaching about Israel and salvation in our Saviour, the Jewish Messiah. Hungarian Christians have the challenging task of loving and witnessing to their 100,000 Jewish neighbours who speak our language and carry the pain of our common history. Please pray that we and the churches will clearly promote the biblical answer to these troubling tendencies and fulfil our mission until the Lord comes!

This article first appeared in the Winter Herald 2013

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