The Jobbik Party: A Sobering Reminder That Jews Are Still Not Safe in Europe


How often have we heard lately about how Israel shouldn't exist? That the Jews don't need a homeland anymore?

Or the moderated, yet still equivalent version, "Israel should grant right of return," "Israel shouldn't be a Jewish state, it should be a secular state," etc.

To those who doubt that the Jews, who make up only 0.2% of the world's population, need a homeland, or that they can truly live securely in countless democracies around the world: I present to you Europe 2013, specifically, Hungary.

This weekend, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) is meeting in Budapest, Hungary, and members of the Jobbik political party have a beef with them

The Jobbik Party was founded in 2003 and saw very limited success. Styling themselves as a nationalistic and Christian party, they were only small players until the 2009 election, which saw them take 43 out of 386 seats in Hungary's parliment (despite the seemingly universal condemnation of all other parties, both minor and major), which sounds like small change until you learn that it makes them the third largest political party in Hungary. More alarmingly, they hold 3 seats in the European Parliment (all as Non-Inscrits).

An outside observer of Jobbik would find it difficult to tell them apart from the Nazi Party of the early 1930s. They wear uniforms and for a short time maintained an organized militia called the "Hungarian Guard" which operated in a way reminiscient of Hitler's brownshirts.  

Viktor Orban, Hungary's prime minister, addressed the WJC over the weekend. In this address, he noted that anti-semitism was "on the rise" in Europe, and Hungary in particular, citing the failing economy as one of the key factors. He went on to assure the WSJ that his government in Hungary had a "zero-tolerance" policy on anti-semitism.  

Throughout Europe, neo-nazism is on the rise. 

In recent years, the National Front party, a euroskeptic, anti-immigrant organization has grown to become the third largest political party in France, even getting their candidate for president, Jean-Marie Le Pen, into the run-off election against Jacques Chirac in the 2002 elections.

Most troubling, however, is the rise of the Golden Dawn Party in Greece, which in 2012, for the first time got 7% of the national vote, enough to get 21 seats in the Hellenic Parliament (reduced to 18 after a second election in June). The Golden Dawn, despite rejecting the Nazi and fascist labels, make use of Nazi symbolism and have praised several Nazi leaders over the years. 

These parties all hold positions in government, small as they may be, but are indicative of a larger trend outside of elections. Like in the United States, the economy has stirred up feelings of resentment and anger, with people looking for answers to their country's problems. Nationalism is also on the rise as the European Union, specifically the euro currency, is seen as adding to the problem.

It is no wonder many groups have defaulted to Europe's traditional scapegoat. Fueled by fears of Zionist conspiracies, and wary of the influx of Jewish businesses and corporations buying up land and businesses, the Jews have reprised their traditional role of economic bogeymen, joined with more modern adversaries such the growing Muslim population (particularly in countries such as France and the Netherlands), and the EU organization. 

We Jews who consider ourselves Zionists, do so on the idea that no matter where in the world we live, at some point, either ourselves, or our grandkids, or perhaps their grandkids, are going to find themselves unwelcome in their home, and require a place to go. Jewish safety in Europe, which really never actually existed with any certainty, is suddenly more tenuous than it has been in decades. Across the ocean, even traditional Jewish strongholds, such as Brooklyn, New York, are not immune from anti-semitism and violence. 

As the world slides further towards fascism and the political movements of neo-Nazism start reclaiming momentum as the last members of the WWII generation begin dying off, the need for Israel grows increasingly apparent.