Cruel or simply clueless?

The question Hungarians – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – will face this spring in the national elections is simple: Is a clueless or a cruel leader really the way to go? Péter Márki-Zay is either one or the other; neither can be trusted and, more importantly, neither should be desired.

On Monday, Kálmán Szalai, secretary of the Action and Protection Foundation, joined the growing list of those outraged by the opposition’s candidate for prime minister, Péter Márki-Zay.

“He is registering who is Jewish and who is not Jewish among the ruling party, which inevitably means he is falling back on the devices of his political friends,”

– Szalai told Hír TV, a Hungarian cable news television.

The TEV secretary was responding to Márki-Zay’s comments on Sunday that “Fidesz [the governing party of Hungary] has some Jews, although quite few,” a statement that Szalai and others feel strongly echos Jobbik MP Márton Gyöngyösi’s call for listing Jewish members of the Hungarian parliament back in 2012. The far-right party of Jobbik, ironically part of the overall liberal opposition coalition that seeks to oust Orbán in the upcoming elections, is known for its antisemitic, homophobic, and generally racist views.

Szalai noted that MZP seems to be confused about the meaning of his words, or the attitudes they essentially represent. This is unsurprising given the Jewish tradition to seek to educate and forgive. However, it still may be an overly generous assessment.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Neokohn reported that a senior member of Mazsihisz’s neolog rabbinical staff called in to complain on a Klubrádió program, referencing an earlier altercation between MZP and a reporter from PestiSrácok in which the opposition candidate for PM claimed that

Arthur J. Finkelstein, an American political consultant who had worked for Orbán and passed away in 2017, was “a homophobic Jewish adviser living in a gay marriage.”

Despite the Klubrádio host saying Márki-Zay had been provoked, Kardos maintained that one cannot say such things unless they are one’s true feelings, adding that, “I am very emotional because I am a survivor.” Not only did Kardos survive the Holocaust, but his father died in a labor camp.

Márki-Zay maintains that saying he is antisemitic is simply “outrageous.” At the same time, he offered an apology for an earlier photo posted, in the wake of the Pegasus scandal, of Orbán in front of a menorah, the official symbol of the State of Israel, saying simply that the photo could have been misunderstood…

It’s been a tough run for MZP, and perhaps Szalai is right; maybe someone needs to offer up some clarity on what his statements represent and the impact they have — on Jews and non-Jews alike. Given the totality of his actions, and words, thus far, this may be a challenge.

Back in October, we reported on how the head of Jobbik at the time, Tamás Sneider, had persuaded Márki-Zay to run for mayor of Hódmezővásárhely. Sneider is the guy whose wife decided to do a Nazi salute in their wedding photos. After meeting with Sneider, MZP then went about telling people that the Hungarian Guard should be revitalized:

“We need Jews and Gypsies in Jobbik, but we need to be radical because someone has to stand up for honest and honorable Hungarians; we need a Hungarian Guard that includes Jews, Gypsies and left-wingers.”

As Neokohn reminded people at that time, the Hungarian Guard was notoriously hateful of both Jews and Gypsies, and someone would have to be clearly delusional to think racist skinheads would march together with members of the groups they despised so much. Or for that matter, that Jews and Gypsies would be willing to march with them.

Then there was MZP’s support for László Bíró, the joint candidate of MSZP, Momentum, LMP, Jobbik, DK and Dialogue for Hungary in the parliamentary by-election for constituency 6 of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County in October last year. Bíró was easily defeated by his Fidesz opponent Zsófia Koncz, and that was a good thing, as he had openly gained a name for himself due to his horrifyingly derogatory remarks about Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, and Roma. He has kindly referred to Budapest as “Judapest,” one of his more well-known antisemitic slurs.

Acknowledging that Bíró was a “troublesome candidate,” MZP nevertheless supported him with the argument that the “end justifies the means.” So use a clearly antisemitic candidate to get rid of Orbán, who the opposition has claimed should be ousted in part due to his supposed antisemitism. Confusion indeed.

Digging his grave even deeper, in a September interview in 24.hu, Márki-Zay tried to explain his increasingly scrutinized methods by saying:

“Those who squeamishly attack me for my methods are like those who did not do everything to save the Jews during the Holocaust.”

Needless to say, Hungary’s liberal opposition coalition enthusiastically voted for Márki-Zay to take on Orbán in the 2022 elections. Fresh off his defeat of Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, MZP stated that “we must embrace all gypsies, Jews, and gays.” He also predicted that he and the opposition parties would defeat Fidesz by two-thirds.

High hopes for a candidate that seems so glaringly unaware of his inability to properly address Jews and ignorant of what clearly alienates, not embraces, Jewry.

But perhaps it was late November when people got really “squeamish,” as the opposition PM candidate attempted to then convince Jews to vote for candidates of Jobbik. What a remark after his October “embrace”! Again, for those who need reminding, Jobbik is the far-right party known for its past blatant antisemitism, which the liberal opposition has sought to whitewash ever since joining into an alliance with it to… get rid of the alleged far-right tendencies of the Fidesz regime.

As a guest of BBC’s HARDtalk, Márki-Zay said he sought EU federalization, including a “European FBI” and speedy adoption of the euro; supported same-sex marriage (MZP is a practicing Catholic father of seven);

and wholeheartedly recommended that voters of Jewish descent vote for Jobbik candidates despite the party’s previous [blatantly antisemitic] statements.

Yes, perhaps the man nominated to dethrone PM Viktor Orbán and ring in a new liberal era in Hungary is confused. Then again, perhaps the opposition is confused if they think this is the man for such a job. But the question needs to be asked: Even if Péter Márki-Zay is genuinely ignorant of the meaning of his remarks, is that a good thing? Is that perhaps not even worse?

Bennett thanks Hungary for standing by Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke for the first time on the phone with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán on Monday evening.