László Bernát Veszprémy
László Bernát Veszprémy

Is Hungary truly the most anti-Semitic country in Europe?

“Hungary is a the winner in the race of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism at home rivals that of Muslims in Western Europe,” writes a recent study by liberal scholars, according to which “almost half of the Hungarian society does not really like Jews, the third worst result in 16 European countries regarding anti-Semitism (…)”. Based on the article, the average Hungarian reader may think that walking with a kippah on is more dangerous in Budapest than inParis. (It’s worth watching that memorable 2015 video again!).

Examining the prevalence of only anti-Semitic stereotypes suggests that anti-Semitism is greater in Budapest than in Paris. However, the number of serious acts of violence and the degree of anti-Semitic prejudice have essentially no connection.

This is because the number of people who believe in anti-Semitic stereotypes is disproportionate to how many Jews are attacked or insulted each year in a country. This is not to downplay the negative nature of stereotypes. Anti-Semitism is dangerous and should be eradicated everywhere. But perhaps there is no need to explain: the fact that someone does not like Jews is less dangerous to a community than murderous attacks or terror attacks against Jews.

So let’s look at the numbers! There were 339 atrocities in France last year, far fewer than the 687 attacks in 2019, but due to COVID, atrocity numbers have generally declined in Europe. There were 1,668 atrocities in the UK last year, down from 1805 in 2019, but the number is still staggeringly high. However, no one can push Germany off the podium of shame, where 2275 atrocities took place last year, even more than the 2019 total of 2032 attacks. The number of attacks in Italy did not decrease much, from 251 in 2019 to 230 last year. In the Netherlands, the figures are down, with 135 attacks last year, down from 309 in 2019.

Authorities can cheat regarding the background of the attackers, for example, if a Muslim attacker harms a Jew while shouting “allahu akbar”, he may not have done so for anti-Semitic reasons, the authorities argue. So it is worth looking at the answers given by the attacked Jews themselves, who were asked whether they could identify what they thought was the background of the attacker? This was exactly what the FRA in Vienna did in 2018. According to this, 57% of attackers in Germany, 55% of attackers in the Netherlands, 51% of attackers in France, 47% of attackers in Denmark, 45% of attackers in Sweden and 36% of attackers in the United Kingdom was a proponent of “radical Islam”.

Meanwhile, the figures in Hungary are as follows: according to the Conservative oriented Mazsihisz congregation, there were 53 atrocities in 2019 and 70 in 2020, and in the last year one in 70 cases was physical atrocities. According to the Orthodox TEV, there were 35 cases in 2019, 30 in 2020, 22 of the latter was hate speech, one discrimination, six vandalism and one threat.

It is needless to evoke what scenes the Gaza-Israel conflict in the streets of Western Europe gave birth to in May this year. In May 2021 Jews were attacked in Western cities, mass anti-Semitic demonstrations were held from Berlin to Amsterdam to London that called for physical violence.

Israeli flags were burned during pro-Palestinian protests in Germany and a Holocaust memorial was damaged in the Netherlands. One of the protesters in London, according to organizers, gathered 100,000, and according to Israeli Channel 12 recordings, the protesters tore off Israeli flags, set them on fire and trampled on them. The marching crowd demanded an end to the Gaza bombings and the “liberation of Palestine”. Tens of thousands of people walked past Hyde Park to the Israeli embassy. Meanwhile, in a densely populated Jewish neighborhood in London, a loud message came from Palestinian-flagged cars calling to commit acts of violence on Jewish women.

Meanwhile, some Palestinians protested in front of the Basilica in Hungary. There were no attacks or acts of violence.

The saddest thing about this is that the mainstream media, which in theory should represent the cause of minority rights, has resorted to a means of gross relativization in relation to anti-Semitism. After all, if the Jews live safely in Hungary today – even this research does not dispute this – but in the meantime the situation is (one of) the worst in the field of anti-Semitism in Europe, then the persecution of the Jews in Paris, London and Amsterdam will seem not so serious. It’s a rather insensitive attitude just three days after Yacine Mihoub, the killer of Mireille Knoll, 85-year-old French Holocaust survivor Jewish woman has been sentenced to life in prison.

Unfortunately, this is what the left thinks today about the problem of anti-Semitism in Hungary: that it is a political tool that is even worth misleading the reader.

About the Author
The author is a Hungarian historian holding an MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from the University of Amsterdam, currently doing a PhD in the history of Zionism at the ELTE University of Budapest. He is the former deputy editor-in-chief of Neokohn.hu, a Hungarian-Jewish news portal, and a founding member of MIMC, the Hungarian-Israeli Media Center Organisation. He is currently serving as the editor-in-chief of Corvinák, the popular science journal of Mathias Corvinus Collegium.
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