Editorial |

Show Me Who Your Guests Are...

The shock of the left and the willingness of the right to turn a blind eye ignore a simple fact: Israel is an honored member of the club of nations controlled by the extreme right

Haaretz Editorial
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, shake hands with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to meeting of Netanyahu and the Visegrad Group's (V4) Prime Ministers in the Pesti Vigado building in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuCredit: Balazs Mohai/MTI via AP
Haaretz Editorial

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will be visiting Israel from July 18 to July 20. During his three terms Orban’s policy has been to reduce democracy through a legislative onslaught, imposing restrictions on civil society and limiting freedom of the press and the judicial system.

Orban has the support of the state-run media outlets, as well as private media outlets managed by his allies. After his latest reelection in April, he announced that his government would advance legislation against George Soros, the Jewish Hungarian-born billionaire who supported human rights groups in the country. 

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

After Orban’s visit to Israel was announced, there were calls to boycott him. Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that the visit be canceled. . Similar calls are heard from time to time regarding relations with Visegard Four countries dominated by right wing nationalism, like Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.

On the right there are also those looking askance at the relationships developing between Israel and governments and parties with a tradition of anti-Semitic tendencies, but they apparently prefer to hold their noses for the benefit of Israel’s economic and political interests. From their perspective, it’s important for Israel to develop good relations with these countries so that the ties with each of them separately and with their political-security forum can serve as counterweights to the European Union’s criticism of Israeli policies.

But both the shock of the left and the willingness of the right to turn a blind eye ignore a simple fact: Israel is an honored member of the club of nations controlled by the extreme right.  

Can’t the description of Orban’s policies in Hungary apply to Netanyahu’s? How is Netanyahu’s Israel any better than Orban’s Hungary, Mateusz Morawiecki’s Poland or the Czech Republic of Andrej Babis?  With regard to the refugees, about whom Israel is deliberating between forced expulsion and indefinite imprisonment? With regard to racism, when there is hatred of foreigners and Arabs in Israel? What about the attempts to undermine left-wing and human rights organizations through reckless legislation, while trying hard to silence groups like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem and delegitimizing anyone who does not support the policies of the right-wing government? We haven’t even mentioned the 51-year-old occupation, the creeping annexation and apartheid, the land thefts or the situation in Gaza.

The Israeli government is no better than those governments that are worthy of being boycotted. The bitter truth is that the guests and the hosts deserve each other.