How many meetings with prominent Jews make the fence go away?

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has met with two Jewish dignitaries, (Ronald S. Lauder, the President of the Jewish World Congress and Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier,) plus the widow of congressman Tom Lantos, a well-known Hungarian holocaust survivor on his recent trip to the US on the occasion of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). At the same time István Mikola, the State Secretary responsible among others for religious diplomacy, visited the Rebbe of Munkács (head of a small Hasidic sect originally from Munkács, today Mukachevo in Ukraine) at his home in Brooklyn.

Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán   MTI/Prime Minister’s Office

According to the logic of politics, these meetings don’t happen by chance and press releases about these events don’t get published unintentionally either. But it seems that after all, it is not too difficult to come up with a decent explanation.

With the international image of Hungary – rightly – in tatters due to the xenophobic hatred campaign of the government, the erection of a fence along its borders with Serbia and Croatia and its incompetence and unwillingness to treat refugees humanely, the communication “assets” of the government must have decided that “positive” messages must be sent to the international audience by demonstratively meeting with representatives of the American and international Jewish community.

To be fair, these were not the only meetings of Mr Orbán on the fringes of the UNGA. He also met with the presidents of Croatia and Egypt and the Czech Prime Minister. But that’s business as usual.

As we have written a few times before, Mr Orbán has expropriated the anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric of the far right Jobbik party, which until a few months ago was vocally anti-Semitic too. It seems that Mr Orbán’s team is now trying to demonstrate that after all, there are issues where Fidesz (Mr Orbán’s party) differs from Jobbik. We believe that it is too late. The genie of hatred has been released from the bottle. Recent reports about increased violence against coloured people and poll results indicating that hitherto supporters of Jobbik are  turning towards Fidesz in increasing numbers are testimonies of the damage done to the morals of the country. By making hatred socially acceptable Mr Orbán has done more harm to his own allegedly beloved people than to all those ‘vile’ foreigners.

History has taught us that xenophobia once unleashed will not stop with Syrian or Eritrean refugees (which of course, is bad enough on its own), irrespective of how many Jewish dignitaries Mr Orbán and his government will meet.

This historic irresponsibility will become Mr Orbán’s toxic legacy once he finally disappears from the political scene.

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