Two news reports involve the recrudescence of anti-Semitic activity in eastern Europe.
The first involves those anti-Semitic fliers in Donetsk, the Ukraine, advising Jews to register with Russian-separatist authorities. John Kerry denounced the fliers, and the story was on the NBC Nightly News last night.
But several accounts question the authenticity of the fliers, and even Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has suggested that they are an act of provocation in a tumultuous situation. The Forward quotes Foxman:
“We have seen a series of cynical and politically manipulative uses and accusations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine over the past year,” said Mr. Foxman. “The perpetrators and their targets are opposing politicians and political movements, but the true victims are the Jewish communities. We strongly condemn the anti-Semitic content, but also all attempts to use anti-Semitism for political purposes.”
Earlier in this crisis, pro-western forces in Kyiv were shown to have anti-Semitic attitudes; this time it’s pro-Russian forces alleged to have them. The Jerusalem Post also casts doubts on the claim.
Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee said that the flyers appeared to be a provocation, but it was impossible to say who was responsible.
The local Jewish community “tried to find out who was behind this with no success. No one took responsibility,” he said. “We don’t have evidence.”
Rabbi Pinchas Vyshetsky, a resident of Donetsk, also called the flyers a provocation and theorized that it could be the work of “anti-Semites looking to hitch a ride on the current situation.”
John Kerry landed on the fliers as grotesque and frightful yesterday.
In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable; it’s grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of, there is no place for that. And unanimously, every party today joined in this condemnation of that kind of behavior.
Note: Kerry also cited threats to members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Even the Forward is a wee cynical:
[Kerry] was soon joined by human rights groups and politicians, including Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who said in a statement that the fliers were “a sad reminder of the ongoing importance and blessing of having a strong homeland for the Jewish people in the State of Israel.”
Remember, this is for fliers whose authenticity is still in doubt.
Far more concerning is a story the Forward posted two days ago on the situation facing Hungary’s Jews following recent elections that cemented the power of the mainstream chauvinist right and boosted the radical, explicitly-anti-Semitic right, to 20 percent of the vote.
With this election, [the party] Jobbik, whose leaders have depicted Hungarian Jews as a threat to national security, became Europe’s most successful ultranationalist faction. Its members will serve in a parliament dominated by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, leader of the conservative Fidesz party, who was re-elected for a third term. But Orban and his party, Fidesz, pose their own challenges to Hungary’s Jews.
The Forward has been covering the rise of anti-Semitic sentiment in Hungary, where 80 percent of the country’s Jewish population was exterminated during the Holocaust.
A friend challenges:
“This same story and others like it give me pause when reading your frequent talking point about the dysfunctional psychology of American Jews who insist on seeing themselves as victims and outsiders, in need of an Israel, when in fact they are truly privileged and at the center of power. True enough in America–but America is not the world. If I were a Hungarian Jew, I’d probably feel like the option of emigration to Israel is something I’d want in my back pocket, even if I was an Hungarian patriot fighting the good fight. And that would not be dysfunctional psychology.”
Here is something else worthy of note in the Forward piece. Reporter Daniella Cheslow describes what it is about the Hungarian right that gives it a fascist, not merely a right-wing color:
In a recent article in the Guardian, Princeton University political scientist Jan-Werner Mueller described Hungary under Orban as a “Russia-leaning rightwing government… that is inching ever closer to [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin’s ideal of governance.”
Like Russia, Hungary under Orban asserts the state’s responsibility for Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries, disquieting Romania and Slovakia, where they constitute a majority in several districts bordering Hungary. Twenty-five percent of Hungarians live outside the country, mostly in these districts, and for the recent election, Orban used his parliamentary supermajority to give these nonresident Hungarians the right to vote. They returned the favor by backing him heavily.
Meanwhile, the party’s 2009 slogan, “Hungary for Hungarians,” made ethnic minorities living in Hungary, including Jews and Roma, uneasy. Orban has made a point of not supporting Western sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea. And his anti-liberal policies on issues such as gay and lesbian rights also echo Russia’s posture more than Western Europe’s.
Well, “Like Russia,” yes. But what other country asserts that kind of jurisdiction, and not just over those in neighboring countries but, like, everywhere? The short answer to my friend’s challenge is that the best guarantee for safety is that minority rights everywhere must be protected, including the Roma and those Russian Orthodox Christians. I too might want a second passport if I were in Hungary. But, I’d hope, not to another intolerant society.