Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Vona’s Hanukkah greeting rejected by traditionalist Jewish leader

January 9th, 2017

A liberal weekly criticises Shlomo Köves for spurning a Hanukkah greeting message from the radical right-wing leader. Other commentators put the matter in the more general context of Jobbik’s changing political profile and of preparations for the 2018 parliamentary elections.

Before Christmas and Hanukkah, Jobbik leader Gábor Vona sent greeting letters to all major churches, including the mainstream Federation of Jewish Faith Communities (MAZSIHISZ) and EMIH, a Jewish congregation belonging to the orthodox Chabbad Lubavich movement. The leading Rabbi of the latter, Shlomo Köves, answered that it would be more appropriate if Mr Vona were to make such gestures “in the same public fora where he expressed hatred in the past”. Mr Vona replied that the changes in his party’s policies have apparently not been noticed by the Rabbi.

In a reaction to the controversy on Mandiner, MAZSIHISZ Chairman  András Heisler and Vice Chairperson Henriett Kiss  write that a positive turn in Jobbik’s attitude cannot be excluded. They appreciate Mr Vona’s intention to discipline a local Jobbik organisation which protested in rude terms against the party chairman’s initiative. They regret however that in his letter Gábor Vona said “Christian and Jewish Hungarians inflicted innumerable wounds upon each other” and quoted two communist regimes as examples. Mr Heisler and Ms Kiss described that as an anti-Semitic legend, since Jews were often found among the victims of those communist regimes. Finally, they called on Jobbik’s leader to extend his policy change to the Roma who have been vilified for years by his party.

In its regular weekly editorial, Magyar Narancs (print) agrees with Rabbi Köves in believing that Mr Vona mistakenly hopes to relegate his party’s racist character to the past too quickly. Nevertheless, the liberal weekly thinks that the Rabbi should have shown more patience and tolerance in his reply, rather than humiliating the Jobbik Chairman and destroying the possibility of a dialogue. Magyar Narancs goes so far as to suspect the hand of Fidesz behind Rabbi Köves’s retort. “It is difficult to dismiss the idea that the government’s favourite Jewish organisation did a favour to the government”, the editors write. Otherwise, they believe that Vona’s new policies are more than a sham, as he intends to break the ‘glass ceiling’ that prevents a racist party from getting more than 20 per cent of the popular vote in today’s Hungary. Whether by shedding his racism he will lose more extremist voters than win moderate voters is anybody’s guess, Magyar Narancs writes.

On Válasz, Zoltán Laky finds it surprising that the fiercely left-liberal Magyar Narancs should take up the defence of the leader of Jobbik against a Jewish leader. Vona has surprised the public several times over the past weeks. He spoke about his personal life to left-wing ATV television and his adversaries (on the government side) are attacking him for being allegedly homosexual rather than homophobic. But to be defended by Magyar Narancs against its own occasional contributor, Rabbi Köves, is the greatest of all surprises, Laky writes.

In Magyar Hírlap, Zsolt Bayer is not in the least surprised. Sooner or later, he explains, all enemies of the Prime Minister end up as allies against Viktor Orbán. What they have in common, Bayer continues, is their distaste for tradition and their ambition to build a 21st century deprived of conservative values.

In 188 óra, left-wing analyst Zoltán Lakner  dismisses recent proposals urging an electoral alliance between the left-wing parties and Jobbik as utterly unrealistic. One such proposal, by former liberal MP Miklós Haraszti aims at jointly rewriting the electoral law, but Lakner objects that Jobbik doesn’t dislike the present majoritarian one. On top of it all, forming a coalition government with Jobbik seems too far-fetched to be taken seriously, he suggests.


Tags: , ,