- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
A senior member of Hungary’s far right Jobbik country thinks it’s about time the country started keeping better track of its Jews:
Gyongyosi, who leads Jobbik’s foreign policy cabinet, told Parliament: "I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel, and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary," according to a video posted on Jobbik’s website late on Monday.
"I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary."
Rhetoric like this in a country where more than half a million Jews were killed during the Holocaust are obviously disturbing. But what makes this more interesting than just another "European far-right politician says offensive thing" story, is that Jobbik’s old-fashioned anti-Semitism puts it at odds with the direction other European far-right groups are heading. In much of Western Europe, at least, far-right leaders have been attempting to distance their parties from their past hostility to Jews — and even praising Israel — as they shift focus to fears of immigration and Islam.
The Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, a staunch supporter of Israel, which he sees as "fighting our war" against Islam and "the only democracy in a dark and tyrannical region" was something of a trend-setter in this regard. France’s Marine Le Pen has tried to make ammends for her father’s hostility to Jews and Holocaust denial by purging outspoken anti-Semites from her party’s ranks. (Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations was criticized last year for appearing in a photo with Le Pen.) Even the infamous British National Party has attempted — with minimal success — to woo Jewish voters by playing up fears of Islamic immigration.
While these outreach efforts have met with little success — it’s probably going to take a lot more than a PR campaign to get European Jews on board with far-right parties — renouncing anti-Semitism and praising Israel can be a way to deflect charges of bigotry while they keep up their attacks on Islam.
Jobbik — not to mention Greece’s Golden Dawn, whose spokesman reportedly read passages from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion during a parliament meeting — evidently haven’t gotten the memo.