The United States places great importance on combating anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination around the world, and it is my job to vigilantly monitor anti-Semitic acts and discourse. Recently, I – like many others – have noticed a disturbing increase in anti-Semitic acts and statements by various individuals in Hungary. These include a verbal assault against a 90-year old retired rabbi, the defacement of several Holocaust memorials and a Jewish cemetery, and repeated anti-Semitic statements from the far-right Jobbik party. We are concerned about what these incidents bode for the future, and we will continue to monitor events closely.
The government and civil society of Hungary have responded positively to these events in several ways. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, President Janos Ader, and other government officials have recently issued forceful statements condemning the recent anti-Semitic crimes and sending a message of support to Hungary’s Jewish community. I also welcome the condemnation of these crimes and expressions of support for the Jewish community coming from most of the Hungarian opposition parties and leaders of Hungary’s largest churches. I applaud and encourage actions such as these, and hope that Hungarian authorities quickly investigate and find the perpetrators of the recent crimes, and hold them accountable. I should add that even before these recent incidents, the government of Hungary announced several important events promoting tolerance in 2012 as part of the “Raoul Wallenberg Year,” as a tribute to the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Jewish Hungarians in Nazi-occupied Hungary.
I would note, however, that these positive actions by Hungarian leaders are not taking place in a vacuum. The recent rehabilitation of figures from Hungary’s past who are tainted by their support for Fascism and anti-Semitism contributes to a climate of acceptance of extremist ideology in which racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance can thrive. I hope that Hungary’s leaders will take this into account as they continue to combat the rise of anti-Semitism and extremism in their country. In taking steps to combat intolerance today, the Hungarian government has both an opportunity and an obligation to ensure a full and honest assessment of these historic figures as part of the national dialogue.