The Hungarian government’s announcement that it will remove posters denouncing Hungarian-born Jewish tycoon George Soros before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival in the country does not in any way mitigate the premier’s scandalous behavior in this matter.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his party, Fidesz, are conducting a nationalist, racist and Islamophobic election campaign. With rhetoric that is most familiar to the Israeli ear, they claim that Soros is funding civil society organizations and liberal nonprofits in Hungary. The Jewish community in Hungary has expressed concern that the campaign is encouraging anti-Semitism, and the Israeli ambassador in Hungary issued a condemnation and demanded the posters be removed. But the Hungarian right’s ideological partners among the Israeli right wing were infuriated by the ambassador’s announcement, as it ostensibly defended Soros, whom they see as assisting the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel.
Netanyahu, as usual, succumbed to the pressure, and his office ordered the Foreign Ministry to issue a clarification, stating that the earlier condemnation “in no way was meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”
Ultra-nationalism is and has always been inherently linked to anti-Semitism, including hatred of the “universal Jew,” whose very existence is seen as a threat to subvert the world’s division into nations. The behavior of the Netanyahu government shows that even Israel, the Jewish state, is not immune to this hatred.
Israelis don’t need Soros to know that Jews can be declared subversives in their own country. Those who advance universalist agendas and fight for human rights, including the rights of minorities and foreigners, are denounced in Israel as enemies. Their Jewishness is irrelevant to this loyalty test. Moreover, the more Israelis view the occupation not as a problem to resolve but as the flagship of Jewish nationalism, the more its opponents are perceived as enemies of the people.
It seems loyalty to Israel is being evaluated by new parameters in keeping with the spirit of the times. Two weeks ago Orban praised the Holocaust-era Hungarian ruler Miklos Horthy, who collaborated with the Nazis and under whom half a million Hungarian Jews were sent to the death camps. Israel protested Orban’s comments, but so as not to affect Netanyahu’s planned meeting with him next week, made do with the weak clarification offered by the Hungarian foreign minister.
The more nationalistic Israel becomes, the more the hatred of those carrying the banner of moral values and a universalist identity will grow, and they will be perceived as enemies even if they are Jews. At the same time, Israel’s affection will grow for those who promote nationalism and xenophobia, even if they are anti-Semites.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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