John O’Sullivan, who is a former editor of the National Review and now makes his home in Budapest, gave a very spirited and articulate presentation to the MEF group. He explained two main topics, why Hungary under Victor Orban is different from all other countries in the EU, and why he moved there. In relation to Victor Orban he has written widely on the subject. and just to be very brief, he regards him as a new form of national conservative, in other words on the right, but no longer a protest or populist movement (such as the Brexit Party in the UK, or the United Rally in France), but both a moderate nationalist (not radical) and a free market supporter (see https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/orbans-switch-back-to-the-center-right/). Some would say Victor Orban has gone too far in becoming less democratic and more authoritarian. But, that is a matter for discussion. Daniel Pipes summarized it nicely by saying that Orban doesn’t want to leave the EU (like the UK), but wants to take it over!
We discovered that some politically conservative people who are fed up with the leftist control of their countries, with the mass immigration of hostile elements and who seek greater security and quiet, are moving to Hungary,. Many are now finding a haven in Hungary, and we met two Germans who have done this, escaping politically motivated hostility and seeking improved security. The main problem is that you have to learn Hungarian!
Maria Schmidt is a historian and former adviser to PM Orban. She initiated the Terror Museum in Budapest that documents the torture used by both the Nazi Gestapo and the Soviet KGB. After WWI, Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory as well as groups of Hungarian-speaking peoples, especially to Romania. But, it became a much more homogeneous and quieter country. With the collapse of Communism there were the first partially free elections in 1980. But, the liberals formed a coalition with the communists, for which they have never been forgiven. Since 2008, Victor Orban has promoted a market economy and has increased his majority at each election since. He wants to keep Hungary prosperous without mass immigration. Hungarians are determined that there be no repeat of living under Turkish rule! Also, Hungarians have never had colonies in Africa or the Middle East and do not see why they should have to accept migrants from there. She pointed out that Jews in Hungary before WWII were part of the society, not separate as in Poland, and many more remained in Hungary than in any other country after the Holocaust. Victor Orban is pro-Israel and philo-Semitic. It is clear that he hopes Jews and Israel will support him in his campaign, and that is why he visited Israel and met with PM Netanyahu recently. Daniel Pipes pointed out that Hungary and Israel are unique in having both conservative governments and increased population growth compared to all other Western countries.
When we met Rabbi Koves, I asked him about the controversy over the planned Hungarian Holocaust Museum that historian Maria Schmidt was supposed to be curating, but her interpretations were challenged by a group of eminent Holocaust scholars. He would only comment that the matter was under review and would be resolved soon. I did not raise this issue with Maria Schmidt, but today in the Jerusalem Post there is an article that reports that Maria Schmidt has been removed by agreement with the Hungarian Government as a curator of the “House of Fates” museum.
Next we heard from Peter Kreko, Director of the Political Capital Institute, a centrist, who assured us that anti-Semitism is not a live issue in Hungary. The Jews in Hungary are in no danger, there is no Muslim minority, no immigrants and no Islamic radicalism. There is anti-Semitism in public opinion, like the Jews control the economy, but it is unfocused. After the economic collapse of 2009 the Jobbik party was anti-Semitic, but it was replaced by Victor Orban and Fidusz, and the government now has good relations with the Jewish community and with Israel. He refuted the claims that there is no free press or a lack of democracy in Hungary.
We also heard from Boris Kalnocky, the correspondent for Die Welt German newspaper in Hungary, and Kent Ekeroth, a former member of the Swedish Parliament now living in Budapest. Purely for reasons of space I will have to skip describing their interesting presentations.