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February 29, 2008     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 29, 2008 some are rece Michael J. Jordan The doorway of the apartment building where the Hungarian Guard has a third.floor operation. By Michael J. Jordan BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA)--For the first time in his. 33 years, Peter says, a homegrown Hungarian movement is articulating a vision for how Hungarians can preserve their culture and traditions. It doesn't matter that mem- bers of the new Hungarian Guard parade in black combat boots and uniforms embla- zoned with a red-and-white symbol reminiscent of the local Nazi party, which killed thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Or that the Guard's rallying cry to protect Hun- garians against the "criminal- ity" of Roma--Gypsies--stirs fear of interethnic clashes. "I don't want to talk about the Jews or Gypsies, because that's what the media says the target is, and the media's a joke," says Peter, who withheld his last name. Dressed in black with slicked-back hair, Peter endured frigid weather to visit a Guard recruitment event on Sunday. "The real target is a better Hungary," he says. That is no comfort to the thousands of Holocaust survi- vors who still live in Budapest or to Hungary's 100,000 or so Jews, the largest Jewish com- munity in Central Europe. It's not so much the pos- sibility of violence from the Hungarian Guard that trou- bles Jews here--the Guard, which has 1,000 or so mem- bers, is unarmed--but the apparent receptiveness of a growing number of Hungar- ians to far-right ideas. Jewish, Roma and human rights groups already are pressing the government to ban the Guard, and some Roma are talking about form- ing self-defense militias. The Hungarian Guard was created in August 2007 by a relatively new far-right po- litical party, Jobbik, seeking votes and credibility on the right wing, experts say. Showing increasingly so- phistication over the last decade, the right wing has successfully infused ma~n- stream public discourse with distinctions between "Hun- garians" and "non-Hungar- ians"--with Jews and Roma on the outside. This has revived the his- toric insider-outsider ques- tion for Hungarian Jews who saw themselves as assimilated members of Hungarian soci- ety, not as outsiders looking in. "Even young people who are not racist or anti-Semitic use the same terminology, that you can't be both Hungar- ian and a Jew," says Andrea Szonyi, who co-founded the Holocaust education group Zachor: Foundation for Social Remembrance. "It leads us back to the Holocaust, when people who defined them- selves as Hungarian were taken to the gas chambers as Jews." The rise of a far-right movement is not unique to Hungary. Across Central and East- ern Europe, the revolutions of 1989-1990 that launched post-Communist transitions to democracy also enabled extremist groups to gain a foothold. In Hungary, they more or less remained on the fringe until 1998, when Viktor Orban, once a blue-jeans- and-earring-wearing young member of the anti-Commu- nist resistance, became prime minister and swung his party to the right, espousing nation- alist, Christian values. His party, Fidesz, formed a de facto coalition with the small ultra-nationalist Hun- garian Justice and Life Party, whose playwright leader, Istvan Csurka, indulged in Jewish conspiracy theories. Though he was never ac- cused of anti-Semitism, Or- ban was criticized for not denouncing fellow Fidesz members who sometimes appealed to supporters with coded phrases viewed as anti- Semitic--for example, attack- ing rivals as "cosmopolitans," "Communist Jews" or for pos- sessing "foreign hearts." Many Hungarians rejected such rhetoric, but the genie was out of the bottle. Zsidozas--a uniquely Hun- garian term for "talking about Jews'--became more common in the media and in Parliament, and politics gen- erally grew more toxic. In September 2006, when Socialist Prime Minister Fe- renc Gyurcsany was caught on tape admitting that he lied to voters "morning, evening and night" about the nation's economic health to win re- election earlier that year, Orban and Fidesz, now lead- ing the opposition, branded the Gyurcsany government illegitimate. Daily demonstrations en- sued. A new version of the Ar- pad flag--the red-and-white stripes from an ancient royal coat-of-arms also adopted by Hungary's Nazi puppet regime in the Arrow Cross--began to appear at the demonstra- tions, The new flag may have lacked the black Arrow Cross symbol that, like the Nazi swastika and Soviet hammer- and-sickle, is illegal to display in Hungary, but Hungarian liberals said nobodywas fooled by what the new flag meant. That flag has become a fixture at anti-government demonstrations, especially events put on by the Guard.~ For some Jews here, the growth of the far-right move- ment, has been startling. "Thank goodness my mother has Alzheimer's," says Katalin, whose mother survived the Budapest ghetto at age 17. "If she were OK, she would be very afraid, remembering the dark days of the Holocaust." Katalin asked not to be identified by her last name. Some Jews here say such fears may be overreactions, but the Guard's affiliation with a legally registered political party, Jobbik, is cause for concern, says the president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Peter Feldmajer. Jobbik polls at about 1 percent support, but the party shares seats with Fidesz on several local councils across the country. "The Guard may be 1,000 or 2,000 crazy people who like to play soldier games, but on the other hand this party has a relationship with normal po- litical life," Feldmajer says. Perhaps for this reason, the Guard has been cautious about avoiding public talk of Jews in citing their litany of historic injustices against Hungary. Instead, the Guard focuses on a more populist target: the Roma, who are widely disliked here. Fueling public hatred, fear and negative stereotyping of the Roma, who are mired in poverty and unemployment that prompts some to turn to petty crime, the Guard por- trays them all as "Gypsy ~rimi- nals." The Guard has been 0rganizingweekly marches as shows of force in towns around the country with significant Roma populations. Hungary's population of about 10 million includes some 500,000 Roma. The Guard "recognizes they can't play the anti-Semitic car& because it will delegiti- mize them in a greater way than playing the anti-Roma card would,'~ says Michael Miller, an American professor of Jewish history in the na- tionalism studies program at Central European University in Budapest. However, Miller notes, crowds at Guard demonstra- tions often will yell things like "Down with the Jews" or refer to Gyurcsany as a"Jewish hireling." Feldmajer says Jewish lead- ers are lobbying local mayors to ban the Guard from their cities. He told JTA he expects the state prosecutor's office to .decide soon if the Guard has violated its registration as a cultural and educaltional organization. Meanwhile, observers say, it's essential that mainstream Hungarian conservatives, led by Fidesz, publicly dis;tance themselves from the 1right- wing extremists. Se~)~ral Fidesz officials al- ready have done so, but Orban has not. Andras Kadar, co-chairman of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group, says a hate-speech law Hungary passed on Monday, Feb. 18--and which still may be challenged in court as vio- lating free-speech rights--is key. "This is an apt moment for state organs to deal with the issue of freedom of expression, freedom of association, and make clear that 'democracy' cannot serve to justify all sorts of racist acts," Kadar says. After the Sunday, Feb. 17 Guard ever~t, Peter, the p~oten- tial recruit, said he wonldered whether visible support for the Guard--such as driving members to marches- might hurt him professionally. "I work for a big company," he said. "Maybe they wouldn't like that I'm a member, and it would cause some problems for me." Apopka Wellness Center (407) 886.0611 "Quality Care with Artistic Flair" * Permanent Make-Up * Botox Therapy * Microdermabrasion * Chemical Peel * Skin Care/Facials Carloyn Green RN, CICS II Procedures Medically Supervised IMAGINE YOUR LIFE FREE OF BACK PAIN Allan Zubkin, M.D. I Adlai Green D.C IF YOU FREE SESSION