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US Ambassador to the UN criticizes Hungarian government

September 10th, 2016

A pro-government columnist rejects the accusations of state-sponsored anti-Semitism suggested by Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the UN. A left-wing commentator, on the other hand, thinks that by tolerating racist discourse, the government has endangered good relations with the US.

In her speech at the UN’s High-Level Forum on Antisemitism on Thursday, Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the UN mentioned Hungary as an example of a country in which anti-Semitism and xenophobia threaten basic democratic values. Ms Power mentioned the eventually cancelled plan to erect a statue to Bálint Hóman (see BudaPost through December 2015) and the Knight’s Cross awarded to journalist Zsolt Bayer (see BudaPost August 31 and August 23). Ms Power also cited the rise of Jobbik as an alarming instance of growing anti-Semitism in Hungary.

Magyar Idők’s János Csontos finds Power’s criticism factually groundless and biased. Csontos recalls that according to Jewish leaders, Hungary is the scene of a Jewish revival. The pro-government columnist adds that Hungary’s Jews, unlike Jews in France can publicly display and practice their culture and religion without fearing violence. Csontos adds that the Orbán government introduced the Holocaust Memorial Day and proclaimed zero tolerance against anti-Semitism. As for the controversy over the statue of Bálint Hóman, Csontos remarks that PM Orbán spoke out against the plan to commemorate the interwar cabinet minister. Csontos suspects that Ms Power has been misinformed about Hungarian realities and anti-Semitism by biased and politically motivated left-wing sources.

In a front-page editorial, Népszabadság accuses the government of ‘doublespeak’ about anti-Semitism and thereby jeopardising Hungary’s relations with the United States. The authors contend that the government proclaims zero tolerance of anti-Semitism for foreign consumption only while closing its eyes to anti-Semitism at home. Népszabadság accepts Ms Power’s examples (the planned erection of a monument to Hóman and the reward bestowed on Zsolt Bayer) as proof of what it calls the government’s duplicity on the issue. Although the US is willing to tolerate some infringements on human rights as well as corruption, it does not tolerate even tacit accommodation of anti-Semitism, Népszabadság concludes.

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