Safe European home? If you’re Jewish, that ain’t necessarily so

February 12, 2013 4:34 pm

The most chilling thing about Michael Dugher MP’s timely piece on “mainstream” anti-Semitism is that it needed to be written. Anti-Semitism in Britain, as I wrote in the New Statesman last February, is sadly a phenomenon no longer confined to the fringes of politics.

But our worries pale into insignificance when we look at some other countries close to home. One of the most disturbing pieces of news on racism I have seen in recent years came last week, not from some country of desperate poverty, but from within that cosy little nest of tolerance and democratic values and that we like to think is the European Union.

Oskar Deutsch, leader of Vienna’s Jewish community, recently welcomed Jewish families emigrating from Hungary, reports Jewish News One (JN1). But there was an unpleasant undercurrent to it all: the families are emigrating because they do not want to live with the anti-Semitism which is now rife in Hungary. And one hundred and fifty families are crossing the Austrian border each year to Vienna, to escape it.

It is also worth pointing out that neither are they emigrating to a country which is perfectly safe for Jews: Deutsch has also reported a doubling in anti-Semitic incidents in Vienna over the last twelve months. But it still seems better than where they are coming from.

Much of Europe, particularly its central areas, has had a weakness for anti-Semitism for much of the twentieth century, if not long before. In the case of Hungary, it never really went away during the Communist era, and has now been stirred up again by the racists of the far-right Jobbik party, often quietly egged on by the nationalist Fidesz government of Viktor Orban (although they are also, to be fair, none too keen on Muslims or Roma people either). They have been accused, fairly, of trying to whitewash the country’s role supporting the Nazis in WWII, including putting a fascist writer from the period in the national curriculum for schools.

For another rather sick example, the government, according to Wikipedia:

“’sought in late 1998 to ease the collective conscience of the nation by offering to compensate survivors by paying approximately $150 for each member of their particular immediate families, assuming that they can prove that their loved ones were in fact victims of the Holocaust’, while offering 33 times this amount to relatives of the victims of the Communist era.”

It is abundantly clear that this had nothing to do with relative suffering, and everything to do with implying that the Holocaust was a rather exaggerated tragedy whose victims were rather looking for compensation in bad faith. In 2011, as anti-Jewish sentiment in Hungary increased, Orban’s government stopped paying even that.

The stomach-churning Jobbik, meanwhile, with over 10% of parliamentary seats, is brutally open about its aims, and:

“the party provoked outrage when it recently called for a list of the country’s Jews to be drawn up as a matter of national security.”

And we all know where that leads.

One hundred and fifty families still represent just a trickle out of the reported 90,000 Jews in Hungary; but a group which is leaving purely because of a tragic, age-old phenomenon born of bigotry and ignorance. Large numbers of right-thinking Hungarians are disgusted, but they do not run the country.

If things do not change, how long before that trickle turns into a flood, we wonder? Figures for the whole of Austria are not given, but a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that arrivees would only need to rise to a few thousand people each year, to reach proportionate levels to the German-Jewish exodus of the 1930s. A thought to bear in mind as you sit snugly on cold winter evenings in – as the Clash’s Joe Strummer once called it – your “safe European home”.

Right now, not everyone else in the EU feels as safe in theirs.

Latest

  • Comment We can be hugely proud of our record on LGBT rights – we’ve got more to do

    We can be hugely proud of our record on LGBT rights – we’ve got more to do

    The National Policy Forum have got a full plate today as they begin their final weekend of deliberations before signing off Labour’s policy documents ahead of the manifesto being agreed at national conference. Headline issues like rail renationalisation have dominated the coverage going into this weekend, but there are other less flashy areas where we have some important work to do to finish the job we started in Government. We can be hugely proud of our record on LGBT rights, for me […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Labour’s big weekend – and re-orientation of what it means to be Labour

    Labour’s big weekend – and re-orientation of what it means to be Labour

    Ed Miliband’s speech to the National Policy Forum this morning was the media centrepiece of this weekend’s activity in Milton Keynes. That of course belies the fact that amendment meetings taking place across this sprawling conference centre are hammering out some of the policy detail and direction that will shape the party’s campaign – and the agenda for a potential Labour government. It was a strong speech. Unashamedly Labour, passionate about the need to tackle exploitation and deliver an offer to […]

    Read more →
  • News Full Text: Ed Miliband’s NPF Speech – A new settlement for a new era

    Full Text: Ed Miliband’s NPF Speech – A new settlement for a new era

    This weekend sees the final meeting of Labour’s National Policy Forum. Here’s the full text of Ed Miliband’s speech: As we meet here at the National Policy Forum, many of our thoughts will also be rightly focussed on two crises overseas.And I want to start by saying something about each of them.The tragic and horrifying end of flight MH17 has shocked people across the world. We mourn the 10 British victims and all those who were lost.These were innocent British people, […]

    Read more →
  • News Moving on from New Labour, not going back to old Labour – Miliband sets out programme for power at NPF

    Moving on from New Labour, not going back to old Labour – Miliband sets out programme for power at NPF

    Ed Miliband will make a speech to Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF) in Milton Keynes today, setting out a “programme of Government” that would leave New Labour behind without going back to old Labour. He will say that his plan for power is “more radical and more ambitious”, by dealing with the specific challenges of the modern era. He will say: “We have moved on from New Labour. And we are not going back to old Labour. Instead, our programme for Government is more […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Charging migrants to use the NHS is unethical – Labour should say so

    Charging migrants to use the NHS is unethical – Labour should say so

    It’s been a busy news week in Westminster – with the furore over David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle, the extremely worrying and invasive Data Retention and Investigative Powers Act (DRIP) passing through Parliament, today’s debate in the House of Lords over the Assisted Dying Bill debate and the tragic Malaysian Airlines crash. But, whenever there’s this much going on in UK politics, we should take a moment to think about what we’ve missed. One of the pieces of news that’s received […]

    Read more →