Hungary backs $1.7 million to combat anti-Semitism in Europe

Hard to take seriously given their campaign against Soros and the overall xenophobic tenor of the government:

The Hungarian government says it will spend 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) a year to support programs countering anti-Semitism in Europe.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said Thursday that funds have been earmarked for a Hungarian Jewish civic group — the Europe Action and Protection League. It will have an office in Brussels and operate a hotline to report anti-Semitic incidents.

Other activities of the group will include evaluating local justice systems within the EU, advising on unified legislation to effectively combat anti-Semitism and a comprehensive analysis of state curricula and educational materials used in EU states.

Hungary’s government has been criticized for campaigns against billionaire George Soros which were seen as having anti-Semitic overtones and for views which seemingly diminished Hungarians’ involvement in the Holocaust.

Hungarian PM Accused George Soros of Fueling Anti-Semitism, MTI Reports – Bloomberg

Might be time for former PM Harper to reconsider his congratulatory message in his capacity as head of the International Democrat Union (IDU):

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused George Soros, the Jewish billionaire philanthropist who survived Nazi persecution, of fomenting anti-Semitism by helping immigrants come to Europe, MTI state news service reported.

Soros and his Open Society Foundations, which funds dozens of NGOs in Hungary, “bear responsibility for the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe,” Orban said in a letter to Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, MTI reported Friday. Soros, 87, who eventually emigrated to the U.S. after World War II, said last year that Orban used Nazi-era propaganda methods to try to discredit him in a national billboard campaign.

Orban has built a border fence to keep immigrants out in a vow to protect Hungary from people he’s called “Muslim invaders.” In the letter, he said immigrants to Europe included those whose “political and religious views markedly increased the sense of insecurity in Jewish communities.”

Orban won a fourth term as prime minister last month and has become a ringleader for anti-immigrant populist forces in Europe. Open Society Foundations said this week that it was moving its staff from Budapest to Berlin, citing a government crackdown on NGOs.

via Hungarian PM Accused George Soros of Fueling Anti-Semitism, MTI Reports – Bloomberg

International stories that caught my attention

One of the advantages of having a break from blogging (not tweeting) is that one can gather the various news items and commentary together to have a more complete picture. Here is what caught my eye over the past few weeks.

UK

An interesting looking back at Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, how elements remain today (An Anti-Immigration Speech Divided Britain 50 Years Ago. It Still Echoes Today) and how these perhaps help explain the inexplicable treatment of long-term immigrants and others as exemplified by Windrush immigrants (post World War II immigrants from former British Caribbean colonies).

There was considerable and justifiable on the callousness of UK immigration and citizenship policies, including both news articles and commentary, highlighting some of what I would consider ethical lapses in developing and implementing policy (British Citizen One Day, Illegal Immigrant the Next, UK removed legal protection for Windrush immigrants in 2014, Immigration scandal expected to spread beyond Windrush group,  Woman told she is not British by the Home Office despite living in UK all her life), ‘Not British enough’: ex-high commissioner’s baby denied UK passport in 2011Damian Green ‘dismissed Windrush citizenship pleas’.

Nesrine Malek’s It’s not just Windrush. Theresa May has created hostility to all immigrants makes perhaps the harshest critique:

If you are angry about the treatment of the Windrush generation it is important to understand that this anger cannot be selective, if there are to be no more violations. There is no cross-party, cross-media support for a different type of immigration policy victim than the Windrush scandal has managed to muster. Not for those who are illegally detained, those on hunger strike in protest against poor conditions. Not for those whose illnesses were treated as lies and to which they later succumbed. Not for the sexually exploitedand not for the children separated from their parents. Not even for those British subjects separated from their families by unreasonably high income visa requirements.

During my own long battle with the Home Office to secure residency, I spent many hours in Croydon. I went on one occasion to withdraw my passport, which had languished unprocessed for months, to travel to see my sick mother. Driven wild with fear that I would not be able to see her if the unthinkable happened, I was ready to risk not being allowed back in the country. The waiting room was a holding pen of quiet individual tragedies, full of people whose personal and professional lives had been thrown into turmoil by loss of documents, technical glitches and glacial incompetence. The cruelty we all experienced was not a bug, it was a feature.

The scandal of the Windrush generation is the kind of thing that happens when this rot sets in so deep that the infrastructure of a civilised society begins to fall apart. The rise in the number of the persecuted is analogous to the doubling in deaths of homeless people. There is only so much austerity an economy can take before the human toll rises. And there is only so much ideological fixation on “sending people home” before we are deporting grandmothers who arrived in this country when they were children.

And make no mistake, it is ideological. The Conservative party has been consistent in its aggressive immigration policy since 2010, when David Cameron decided that a tough stance on immigration was a flagship party offering to its base supporters. No ifs, no buts, he said. Detention, deportation and NHS treatment refusal is the culmination of the party’s most lucid positions. It is not incompetence, it is not even malice. It is an enthusiastic strategy that over the past decade has become a cornerstone, a defining element of Conservative governments. An immigration policy, very much like austerity, unafraid to be brutal if the deserving, whether they are the “indigenous population” of the country or hardworking taxpayers, are to be protected from those who are after a “free ride”.

There has been no bureaucratic snafu. The only miscalculation was that everyone got a little bit cocky, and who can blame them. The error was that the dragnet picked up some people who fall into a popular sympathy sweet spot. The elderly ones who came here from the Commonwealth to rebuild Britain and who even the Daily Mail can look kindly upon. They appeal to a patrician nostalgia and have a humanising narrative that others who come to this country in different circumstances do not enjoy. An apology and exceptions made for Windrush cases alone is not enough. If we are to be content with only this, then the government’s furtive shimmy away from the crime scene will be successful, and the Home Office’s daily violations of human rights will continue. If we are to prevent the assaults against those we can relate to, we must also be angry for those we cannot.

The UK government was forced to reverse its policy given the public backlash.

And a few articles on UK perceptions of multiculturalism: Multiculturalism has failed, believe substantial minority of Britons‘Multiculturalism is defunct’: British Government signals U-turn on 70 years of social policy – Dr. Jenny Taylor.

US

Yet another article on the effect of Trump administration policies on the tech sector (Silicon Valley is fighting a brain-drain war with Trump that it may lose) but with one study suggesting the Valley is not as dependent on immigration as may appear (Shocker: San Francisco Tech Companies Not So Reliant On Immigrants):

A surprising survey by Envoy Global suggests that while San Francisco is not giving up on the H-1B, companies there need it less than they have professed to need it.  Call it an adjustment to the immigration policies of the new President. But despite a historical reliance on highly skilled foreign-born talent, most San Francisco employers say they do not consider sourcing foreign national workers as a top talent acquisition priority.

The San Francisco Insights on Immigration Report, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Envoy, aggregated the responses of 171 San Francisco-based HR professionals and hiring managers regarding global hiring practices. Key takeaways from the survey showed that local companies view hiring foreign talent is still very much a business norm, but today only 8% of San Francisco tech companies say they proactively seek out foreign employees compared with 24% of tech companies in other tech hubs who say they are looking abroad for talent. Some 54% of San Francisco tech companies said sourcing foreign national employees is not very important to their company’s talent acquisition strategy at the moment.

The de-emphasis on immigrant workers this year is the fact that the H-1B application process has become more cumbersome under Trump.  Trump has promised to make it harder for tech firms to hire foreign workers, though the companies all still insist they need them.

In response to changes in immigration regulations, 33% of San Francisco employers say they are hiring fewer foreign nationals compared to 26% of employers nationwide.

A further tightening of citizenship rules for children born abroad and out of wedlock to US parents USCIS tightens rules on US citizenship for children born outside America is being implemented.

Australia

A series of articles based upon the Australian race commissioner’s report on the appalling lack of diversity among Australian leadership (In a Proudly Diverse Australia, White People Still Run Almost Everything‘Dismal’ diversity among Australian business and civic leadersWhy we should look at targets to get more non-Europeans into top jobs: Tim Soutphommasane):

Based on the 2016 Census data on ancestry, we estimate about 58 per cent of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, 18 per cent have a European background, 21 per cent have a non-European background, and 3 per cent have an Indigenous background.

However, our examination of almost 2500 senior leaders in business, politics, government and higher education shows only very limited cultural diversity. Almost 95 per cent of senior leaders at the chief executive or “c-suite” levels have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. Of the 372 chief executives and equivalents we identified, 97 per cent have an Anglo-Celtic or European background.

Here’s a breakdown. Within the ASX 200 companies, there appears only to be eight chief executives who have a non-European background – enough to squeeze into a Tarago. Of the 30 members of the federal ministry, there is no one who has a non-European background, and one who has an Indigenous background. It is similarly bleak within the public service, where 99 per cent of the heads of federal and state government departments have an Anglo-Celtic or European background (that’s one of 103). Universities don’t fare much better: just one of the 39 vice-chancellors of Australian universities has a non-European background.

All up there are 11 of the 372 chief executives and equivalents who have a non-European or Indigenous background. A mere cricket team’s worth of diversity.

These are dismal statistics for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism. They challenge our egalitarian self-image. And they challenge our future prosperity as a nation. If we aren’t making the most of our multicultural talents, we may be squandering opportunities.

I often hear from people that it will only be a matter of time before cultural diversity is better represented. We should be encouraged, for example, that there doesn’t appear to be any lack of European backgrounds among senior leaders. Just as it took time before we saw Australian chief executives from Italian or Greek backgrounds, we may have to wait a little longer before we see more from Asian, Middle-Eastern, or African backgrounds.

Time alone may not resolve the problem. Economists at the University of Sydney, in a recent study involving resumes, found those with an Anglo name are three times more likely to be invited for interview, compared to candidates with a Chinese name. (The study also found that those with Chinese names who had an Anglicised first name doubled their chances of receiving a job interview.)

If we are serious about shifting numbers, it may be necessary to consider targets for cultural diversity – if not quotas. Such measures don’t stand in opposition to a principle of merit. After all, meritocracy presumes a level playing field. Yet do we seriously believe that a perfectly level playing field exists, when there is such dramatic under-representation of cultural diversity within leadership positions?

Multiculturalism can be as superficial as food and festivals. But if we’re serious about our diversity, we must be prepared to hold up a mirror to ourselves – and ask if what we see looks right for an egalitarian and multicultural Australia.

Hungary

Lastly, relevant and disturbing commentary on the recent Hungarian election and the country’s descent into autocracy (Hungary Is Winning Its War on Muslim Immigrants: Leonid BershidskyA Democracy Disappears: Andrew Sullivan), with Sullivan noting the parallels with the US under Trump:

The recipe is a familiar one by now. In a society where social mores, especially in the big cities, appear to be changing very fast, there is a classic reaction. More traditional voters in the heartland begin to feel left behind, and their long-held values spurned. At the same time, a wave of unlawful migrants, fleeing terror and deprivation, appear to threaten the demographic and cultural balance still further, and seem to be encouraged by international post-national entities such as the European Union. A leftist ruling party in disarray gives a right-wing demagogue an opening, and he seizes it. And so in 2010, Orbán was able to exploit a political crisis triggered by an imploding and scandal-ridden Socialist government, and, alongside coalition partners, win a supermajority for the right in parliament.

Once in power, that supermajority allowed Orbán to amend the constitution in 2011, reducing the number of seats in the parliament from 386 to 199, gerrymandering them brutally to shore up his party’s standing in future elections, barring gay marriage in perpetuity, and mandating that in election campaigns, state media would take precedence over independent sources. He also forced a wave of early retirements in the judiciary in order to pack the courts with loyalists.

As Mounk notes, Orbán also tapped into deep grievances rooted in Hungary’s loss of territory in the 20th century, by giving the vote to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring Romania and removing it from more culturally progressive expats. But it was in response to the migration crisis in 2015, that Orbán truly galvanized public opinion behind him. Hungary, as Paul Lendvai noted in The Atlantic, had been deluged with asylum claims: 174,000 in 2015 alone, the highest per capita in the EU. Orbán responded by spreading fears of an influx of terrorists and criminals, of a poisoning of Hungarian culture, and expressing visceral nationalist hostility to the diktats of the European Union. Added to all that, of course, was a generous salting of classic central European anti-Semitism. Voters especially in rural areas flocked to him.

He further shifted the public discourse by creating and advancing new media outlets that amplified his propaganda, while attacking, harassing, and undermining all the others. He erected a huge fence to keep Muslim immigrants out, and refused to accept any of the 50,000 refugees the EU wanted to settle in his country. His political allies began to get very rich, as crony capitalism spread. By last year, Orbán had turned George Soros into a version of 1984’s Emmanuel Goldstein — an “enemy of the state” — with billboards and endless speeches, demonizing the Jewish billionaire and philanthropist, and vowing to protect the nation from external, malignant forces.

It was a potent formula, especially when backed up by the rigging of the parliamentary seats. Last week, in a surge of voter turnout, Orban won almost 50 percent of the vote, but two-thirds of the seats, giving him another supermajority (this time without coalition partners) in parliament, with further chances to amend the constitution in his favor. His voters in the heartland swamped a majority for the opposition in Budapest. One of two remaining opposition newspapers, Magyar Nemzet, shut down on Wednesday after 80 years in print. Orbán had withdrawn all government advertising in it. Some wonder whether there will ever be a free election again.

If you find many of these themes familiar, you’ve been paying attention. In the middle of a reaction against massive social change and a wave of illegal immigration, a right-wing party decides to huff some populism. A charismatic figure emerges, defined by hostility to immigration, becomes an iconic figure, and even though he doesn’t win a majority of votes, comes to office. His party is further shored up by gerrymandering, giving it a structural advantage in gaining and keeping power, including a seven percentage-point head start in the House of Representatives. That party does what it can to further suppress the vote of its opponents, especially ethnic minorities, and focuses on packing the courts, even rupturing long-standing precedents to deny a president of the opposing party his right to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat.

Openly propagandist media companies emerge, fake news surges, while the president uses the powers of his office to attack, delegitimize, and discredit other media sources, even to the point of threatening a company like Amazon. A mighty wall is proposed against immigrants on the border, alongside fears of a mass “invasion” from the South. Social conservatives are embraced tightly. The census is altered to ensure one party’s advantage in future district-drawing. Courts are disparaged and the justice system derided as rigged by political opponents.

The difference, of course, is that Orbán is an experienced politician, and knows exactly what he’s doing. Trump is a fool, an incompetent, and incapable of forming any kind of strategy, or sticking to one. The forces arrayed against the populist right, moreover, are much stronger in the U.S. than in Hungary; our institutions more robust; our culture much more diverse. Our democracy is far, far older.

And yet almost every single trend in Hungary is apparent here as well. The party of the left has deep divisions, and no unifying leader, while the ruling party is a loyalist leader-cult. The president’s party is a machine that refuses to share power, and seeks total control of all branches of government. It is propelled by powerful currents of reaction, seems indifferent to constitutional norms, and dedicated to incendiary but extremely potent populist rhetoric. The president’s supporters now support a purge in the Department of Justice and the FBI, to protect the president from being investigated.

The president himself has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for liberal norms; and despite a chaotic first year and a half, is still supported by a solid and slightly growing 42 percent of the public. Meanwhile, the immigration issue continues to press down, the culture wars are intensifying again, and the broad reasons for Trump’s election in the first place remain in place: soaring social and economic inequality, cultural insecurity, intensifying globalization, and a racially fraught period when white Americans will, for the first time, not form a majority of citizens.

History is not over; and real, profound political choices are here again. My hope is that the descent into illiberalism across the West might shake up the rest of us in defending core liberal democratic principles, wherever they are threatened, bringing us to the ballot box in huge numbers this fall, and abandoning the complacency so many have lapsed into.

Geddes tries to explain former PM Harper’s congratulations to Orban (Why Stephen Harper congratulating Viktor Orbán matters: John Geddes):

Tone matters. If this were only a pro forma note, Harper is more than capable, as anyone who followed him in Canadian politics can attest, of draining any message of liveliness or affect. And, by his own stated standard, he would have had grounds for keeping any hint of enthusiasm out of this one. After all, Harper has said that his aim as IDU chair is partly “ensuring that we address the concerns of frustrated conservatives and that they do not drift to extreme options.”

If we’re talking extreme options, Orban looks like a prime example these days. Numerous credible critics charge that he has coopted Hungary’s courts and schools, skewed its electoral system to his advantage, all while voicing admiration for Turkey and China, and criticizing Western European tolerance for Muslim immigration. Still, political science professor Achim Hurrelmann, director of Carleton University’s Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, says Orban’s core message—beyond his destructive domestic tactics—is being heard by conservatives outside Hungary. “[Fidesz] has primarily been anti-migration, emphasizing the Christian roots of Europe, and being very much against diversity,” Hurrelmann told me in an interview. “In that position, they find common ground with some other mainstream conservative parties.”

I can’t guess if Harper’s calculation in issuing that tweet took into account an awareness that Orban, dangerous as he may be, isn’t irrelevant beyond Hungary. Whatever Harper’s reasoning, he has undoubtedly damaged his reputation among many who view Orban with justifiable distaste and alarm. I’m reminded again of the steep learning curve Harper had to climb after barely travelling outside Canada, and concentrating almost entirely on domestic issues, rather than foreign policy, before his 2006 election win. “Since coming to office,” he told Maclean’s in 2011, “the thing that’s probably struck me the most in terms of my previous expectations—I don’t even know what my expectations were—is not just how important foreign affairs/foreign relations is, but, in fact, that it’s become almost everything.”

It’s worth noting that Andrew Scheer seems to be on his own version of that learning curve now. In this recent interview with my colleague Paul Wells, the Conservative leader surprised me by going on at some length about his reasons for supporting Brexit. Scheer spoke about how staying in the EU impinged on British sovereignty and embroiled Britain in the Brussels bureaucracy. He scoffed at “this notion that somehow they would lose access to the European market.” He repeated the debunked canard that EU rules required a certain curvature on bananas.

To my ear, all this pro-Brexit blather was by far the least convincing part of Scheer’s performance in that interesting conversation. Conservatism’s most treacherous currents are global, especially in the age of Donald Trump. In Harper’s congratulatory message to Orban, and Scheer’s laudatory position on Brexit, the difficulty finding a solidly respectable place to stand in that international discourse becomes glaringly obvious. These issues might not seem central to Canadian voters in any federal election, but, as Harper reminded us, they soon are to whoever wins one.

 

The Far-Right Arms Dealer Playing on Germany’s Migrant Fears

Interesting account of the dynamics between the xenophobic Hungarian government and the limits to its support of the far right:

The mechanic who ordered a gun from a website called Migrantenschreck (‘migrant deterrent’) told the German reporter who came to his home in the outskirts of Berlin that he did not intend to “kill” anyone. But still, he insisted: “The problem is (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel. Something needs to change here or there will be civil war.“

The founder of Migrantenschreck, Mario Rönsch—a German banker with a bald spot who describes himself as a “full-time activist”— was arrested in his fancy apartment in Budapest last Wednesday for illegally selling guns on the site. He advertised the arms as defense weapons against “Merkel’s raping invaders“ and “unwashed and impudent antifascists.“

The 34-year-old is accused of using the Internet and lax Hungarian gun-control laws to illegally export permit-requiring guns, along with rubber bullets that can kill from a short distance, back home to Germany.

Rönsch, who used to hang out at esoteric peace rallies in Berlin before he was radicalized, fled from his hometown in eastern Germany to Budapest in 2016. Back then he was already suspected of operating Anonymous.Kollektiv and Anonymousnews.ru— propaganda blogs that published various conspiracies to fuel hate against refugees and left-wing politicians. These sites got more readers than certain popular German news sites.

Rönsch’s sudden arrest comes a week before what some are calling the “last somewhat free and fair elections” in Hungary, which its strongman leader Viktor Orban looks set to win—not least because he has used his past eight years in power to rig the electoral system, the constitution and the judiciary in his favor.

For the international far right, Orban, who talks about protecting “Christian Europe” from “Muslim invaders,” is a hero. And yes, Milo Yiannopoulos has already been invited to attend a conference about the future of Europe in Budapest, which is organized and funded by Hungary’s foreign ministry.

But Orban’s government does not roll out the red carpet for every white nationalist who is ready to come and express support for, as one alt-right publisher put it last year, “the strong nationalist feelings.”

In fact, Cas Mudde, a Dutch scholar on the European far right at the University of Georgia, says that “former mainstream” parties like Orban’s Fidesz Party (which is still a member of the European People’s Party, an association of Christian Democratic and center-right parties in the EU) that co-opt the radical right’s agenda, “are usually extra repressive towards the ‘real’ far right. This serves to prove they are not really radically right themselves.“

Last year, 81-year-old and wheelchair-bound Horst Mahler, a German right-wing extremist and former Marxist urban guerilla (he got inspired to switch sides after reading Hegel in prison) tried to ask Orban for political asylum. He wrote the Hungarian prime minister a note in which he promised to “put my destiny in the hands of (Orban’s) regime.”

But when the old man then skipped a court date in Berlin and arrived in a city at the western Hungarian border to try his luck, police officers greeted Mahler with handcuffs and sent him back to Germany, where he was given a 10-year prison sentence for denying the Holocaust.

For his part, Rönsch did not write a personalized letter to Orban asking for political asylum before he settled down in the capital to allegedly traffic 193 guns to customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (buyers included a doctor and a single mom who kept her gun by the bedside table because she had read online that “they assault women and grope them.“)

But Rönsch still appears to have had political contacts: the radical right-wing Jobbik Party—Orban’s main electoral competitor—invited him to view the Hungarian Parliament last year. A photograph taken on the balcony shows Rönsch standing and smiling with two Jobbik party members.

In recent years, the Jobbik Party has become more moderate by focusing its wrath on the “corrupt tyrant” Orban rather than on Hungary’s Jewish and Roma communities. If the party joins forces with the other opposition parties this week, then there is a chance that the prime minister will be unseated. But the radical party’s neo-fascist past remains the same (and right-wing extremists are still sitting in its ranks). Even though Fidesz tries to outflank Jobbik on the right, Mudde points out that the Fidesz Party can “weaken Jobbik” by “linking them to crime, extremism and violence.”

Since Rönsch’s arrest, Magyar Idok, a pro-government daily, has run the group picture with Rönsch on the balcony multiple times, while Index.hu, which is considered to be one of Hungary’s few trustworthy news sites but belongs to Orban’s Jobbik-supporting enemy Lagos Simicska, has remained silent on the case. One Fidesz politician called on Jobbik’s leader Gabor Vona to explain his contact with the German weapons dealer and accusing him of having relations with “Islamist and other extremist organizations.” (Vona denied that he had any contact to Rönsch.)

Ferenc Almassy (a pseudonym) is a national conservative French blogger who moved to Budapest when he was young. The 30-year-old used to be the Jobbik Party’s “advisor for French-speaking countries.” Now, Almassy says he no longer wants to work with a party that he sees as “corrupted“, because they “converted to liberalism“ and are doing things like promising to combat official corruption “only to get into power.”

A few years ago, Almassy appeared on Echo TV, a national television channel that belongs to Orban’s childhood friend, where the anchor cheekily asked him: “Where has the shine of France gone?” Almassy grinned and replied: “The France that I love doesn’t exist anymore. The ethnic proportions are changing so fast.”

Still, Almassy is skeptical of the other ultranationalist “expats” in Budapest. He says that most of the “other guys who came here, thinking it was a ‘white race safe space’ or whatever,” have already left again. He believes the reason is that “these men understood that being white and ‘right-wing’ was not enough to be warmly welcomed.”

The notorious Swede Daniel Friberg, who arrived in 2014 with a criminal record that includes weapons offenses and a dream to run his alt-right publishing company from the most expensive living quarter in the Budapest, has moved back to Stockholm, for example.

Meanwhile, Mario Rönsch is waiting to be extradited to Germany. The latest headline on Anonymousnews.ru reads “Civil Courage against Left-Wing Extremism: Brave Citizen Beats Jutta Ditfurth with Spirit.” The post celebrated the current real-life allegations that a young man ambushed a well-known leftist politician on the train with a metal pole last week. After four years of online terror, it looks to be his last post for now.

via The Far-Right Arms Dealer Playing on Germany’s Migrant Fears

Hungary′s Orban threatens pro-refugee NGOs, slams Muslim immigration | News | DW | 19.02.2018

Keeps getting worse:

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban amped up his anti-migrant rhetoric on Sunday as he geared up for national elections on April 8. To that end, Orban’s party has proposed new legislation that would penalize NGOs that assist refugees.

“If they do not stop their dangerous activities, we will simply expel them from the land, no matter how powerful or rich they may be,” he said during his annual State of the Nation address.

The new law would levy a 25 percent tax on all foreign funding for asylum seeker aid organizations, and bar their workers from entering settlement camps near the country’s borders.

Although the prime minister’s Fidesz party does not currently have the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to pass the bill, it will likely make significant gains in April’s vote.

Orban also used his yearly address to suggest that the increase of Muslims in Europe is a harbinger of the fall of Western civilization.

“Dark clouds are gathering over Europe because of immigration,” said Orban, who is hoping to be elected to a third term in April.

“Nations will cease to exist, the West will fall, while Europe won’t even realize that it has been invaded,” he ominously declared. “Christianity is Europe’s last hope.”

Since Europe’s refugee crisis began in 2015, Orban has emerged as one of the most high-profile nationalist voices in the European Union. During the height of the crisis, Hungary enacted some of the most draconian responses to the influx of people fleeing war and famine, such as constructing a razor-wire fence along the border with Serbia.

Orban’s time in office has also coincided with a clampdown on foreign influence in the country. Last spring, a bill was introduced to parliament that could potentially shut-down foreign-funded universities such as Budapest’s Central European University (CEU). Written under the auspices of putting Hungarian universities on a level playing field, many see the legislation as unfairly targeting CEU because it is largely financed by Orban critic George Soros.

via Hungary′s Orban threatens pro-refugee NGOs, slams Muslim immigration | News | DW | 19.02.2018

Hungary Citizenship Plan Reaches 1 Million Mark in Orban Boost – Bloomberg

Electoral strategy:

Hungary’s program to extend citizenship to ethnic kin who are nationals of other countries reached the 1 million mark, boosting Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s already strong chances for re-election next year.

The millionth citizenship under the program, one of the first laws approved by parliament after Orban returned to power in 2010, was awarded to a 36-year-old ethnic Hungarian farmer in Serbia, President Janos Ader said at a ceremony in Budapest over the weekend that Orban also attended.

Ethnic Hungarians living abroad, most of them in areas of neighboring countries that were cut off from Hungary after World War I, overwhelmingly backed Orban in the 2014 parliamentary elections, when more than 95 percent of almost 130,000 of those votes were for the premier’s Fidesz party. Fidesz has a wide lead in all opinion polls over a fragmented opposition ahead of elections next year, where Orban is looking to further consolidate the first “illiberal state” in the European Union, modeled on Russia and Turkey. Orban has said he expects elections to take place in April.

Unlike hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who’ve moved West, ethnic kin living abroad who’ve received citizenship can cast ballots by mail, a recurring criticism for opposition parties who say the rule is discriminatory. At the same time, ethnic kin living abroad get only one vote — for party list — versus two votes for others who also get to pick the candidate for their electoral district to represent them in parliament.

In 2014, 8.2 million Hungarians were eligible to vote, including almost 194,000 ethnic Hungarians living abroad, according to the website of the National Election Office.

via Hungary Citizenship Plan Reaches 1 Million Mark in Orban Boost – Bloomberg

George Soros decries Hungary’s Orban for anti-Semitic attacks

Speaks for itself:

Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros is denouncing a propaganda campaign waged against him by the government in his native country.

Soros, whose political views are in stark contrast to Budapest’s ruling Fidesz party, said Monday he had been targeted by an administration “stoking anti-Muslim sentiment and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s.”

In a statement published on his website, Soros also rejected seven statements in a “national consultation” orchestrated by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which claimed he wanted to settle at least 1 million migrants a year in Europe and pay them each thousands of euros.

The Hungarian prime minister has often vilified the Jewish-born investor, whose ideals are squarely at odds with Orban’s view that European culture is under an existential threat from migration and multiculturalism. Orban has previously described Western liberalism as “spiritual suicide” for Central Europeans.

‘Lies and distortions’

Orban launched a nationwide television and billboard advertising campaign in July accusing Soros of devising Europe’s refugee crisis. Critics of Orban’s drive to condemn the 87-year-old investor said posters were not dissimilar to the anti-Semitic imagery of the 1930s, which portrayed Jews as political manipulators.

Meanwhile, the Fidesz party sent out 8 million letters to Hungarian citizens last month, attempting to provide further detail about Soros’ alleged political agenda.

Soros responded publicly for the first time Monday and said attacks from Hungary’s government contained “lies and distortions” that were designed to create an “outside enemy.”

via George Soros decries Hungary’s Orban for anti-Semitic attacks

George Soros: Hungarian government posters ‘anti-Semitic’ – BBC News

Sad:

Financier George Soros has accused the Hungarian government of using “anti-Semitic imagery” in its poster campaign against him.

Mr Soros has been vilified in a campaign costing the right-wing Fidesz government an estimated 5.7bn forints (£16.3m; $21m).

Many Hungarian Jews fear that open or concealed anti-Semitism lies behind the campaign, which the government denies.

This is the first time US-based Mr Soros, 86, has echoed that fear.

However, he also thanked those who had made it their mission to tear the posters down.

The most recent series of posters – many of which have had anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on them – show a grinning Mr Soros beside the words, “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh”.

The slogan is a reference to the government’s claim the philanthropist is working to settle a million migrants in the EU.

A poster showing George Soros, on which someone has written Image copyrightAKOS STILLER
Image captionA poster showing Mr Soros, saying “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh!” Someone has written “dirty Jew” on his forehead

In a statement, Hungarian-born Mr Soros said: “I am distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of anti-Semitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign.

“Equally, I am heartened that together with countless fellow citizens the leadership of the Hungarian Jewish community has spoken out against the campaign.”

Mr Soros has spent $12bn, mostly through his Open Society Foundations, on civil initiatives to reduce poverty and increase transparency, and on scholarships and universities around the world, especially in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, since the 1980s.

It has seen him come up against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has declared war on liberalism.

Most recently, the university Mr Soros founded has come under attack after MPs passed a bill which could force it out of Hungary.

The posters have also drawn anger from outside the country.

Guy Verhofstadt, the chief Brexit negotiator at the European Parliament and leader of the Parliament’s liberals, wrote on Facebook: “The Hungarian regime’s xenophobia and demonization of refugees are anti-European. The claim that Soros is promoting a scheme to import a million illegal immigrants into Europe is Victor Orban’s fantasy. Darkness falls in Hungary. We cannot let this happen.”

Source: George Soros: Hungarian government posters ‘anti-Semitic’ – BBC News

Evil Soros; Invisible Finkelstein-Orban’s Anti-Semitism – The Forward

Good long read on the complex relationships between Orban, Soros and Finkelstein:

At the time, conservatives and liberals from across the spectrum hailed Soros’s work.

In the difficult years of post-communist transition, Soros’s foundations provided humanitarian assistance in the form of school breakfasts and hospital equipment. Today, his foundations still provide some funding to nongovernmental organizations in Central and Eastern Europe — in particular in the human rights field. CEU, in the heart of Budapest, was designed as an English-language magnet school for Central and Eastern Europe’s best and brightest, and has become world-renowned.

 Soros, Konrád observed in his open letter to the prime minister, “devoted a considerable part of his fortune to young students’ needs, allowing the state to direct its resources elsewhere. He established a number of outstanding institutions in Hungary, even though in 1944 this land dealt with him so callously that it nearly cost him his life.”

Yet despite Orbán’s bristling against Soros as a foreign influence, his Fidesz party has been working for nearly a decade with Finkelstein, a New York-born secular Jew who is not afraid of embracing the very stereotype that Orbán deploys against Soros. Asked by Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley early on in their friendship whether he pronounced his last name as “Finkelsteen” or “Finkelstine” (with a long ‘i’), the consultant replied, “If I was a poor Jew, it would be Finkelsteen, but since I am a rich Jew, it’s Finkelstine.”

Finkelstein, moreover, is a gay rich Jew, long married to a male partner. Nevertheless, the self-professed libertarian, who first imbibed his ideology as a Columbia University student directly from libertarian icon Ayn Rand, has been critical to putting in office as prime minister a man with the declared goal of converting Hungary from a liberal democracy into a more authoritarian, government-heavy “illiberal state,” one with restricted rights for gay men and lesbians. In 2014, Orbán praised Russia, Turkey and China as “successful nations…none of which is liberal and some of which aren’t even democracies.”

“I don’t think that our European Union membership precludes us from building an illiberal new state based on national foundations,” he said.

Over the decades, Finkelstein, who worked early on for Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign, has rarely let his ideology interfere with his choice of clients, as long as those clients were on the right. Some estimate that at one point in the 1980s, half of Republican U.S. senators were Finkelstein clients. But over the past two decades, Finkelstein’s focus shifted abroad, where he did his most high-profile work for Israel’s Netanyahu.

GEB International, a consultancy under the leadership of Finkelstein and fellow strategist George E. Birnbaum, has taken credit for the election of Ariel Sharon and the success of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party in 2009. Finkelstein also reportedly orchestrated the 2012 alliance between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu.

Through GEB International, Finkelstein has been providing consulting services to Fidesz since 2008, helping shape the party’s strategy in both local and national elections, including its control of a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Finkelstein’s successes — in the United States, Israel and Central Europe — can be attributed in large part to his approach to political communication.

“He likes campaigns that have signature issues, where the candidate would be known for one issue or a series of related issues,” Shirley said.

This approach has been evident in Orbán’s campaigns, which often focus on one simple message repeated over and over again — as has been the case with the prime minister’s repeated attacks on Soros.

…Orbán’s relationship with Hungary’s Jewish community, estimated at roughly 120,000 people in a country of 10 million, is complex. According to a recent survey, about 37% of Hungarians hold anti-Semitic views, telling pollsters that they “agree” or “completely agree” that “there’s too much Jewish influence in Hungary.” This was an increase from previous years: In 2013, only 27% gave positive replies to this question.

Growing up outside Budapest, Orbán likely had little exposure to Jews, who reside primarily in Budapest, before he moved to the capital to attend university. When he initially began his political career as a young, liberal anti-Communist in the late 1980s, however, he befriended Jewish Hungarian intellectuals and dissidents. Unusual for a Hungarian not of Jewish origin, Orbán’s eldest daughter, born in 1989, was given the Hebrew name Ráhel.

But very few Hungarian Jews supported Orbán’s nascent political party, and as Orbán began moving more and more to the right and adopting a nationalist stance, he alienated much of the Jewish community.

“During the [2013] World Jewish Congress in Budapest… Orbán spoke about ‘us’ the Hungarians and the ‘Jews,’” Pfeifer recalled. In the United States, he pointed out, it would be unimaginable for a sitting president to refer to “Americans” and “Jews” as separate groups.

For many Hungarian Jews, Orbán crossed a red line in 2014, when his government constructed a memorial to the “victims of German occupation” that many, including the U.S. State Department, saw as rejecting Hungary’s own complicity in the Holocaust. The Jewish community has since set up a permanent informal memorial to the victims of the Holocaust as a protest against what it sees as the government’s distortion of history.

But Orbán’s rhetoric on Soros over the past months has raised new concerns about government-sponsored anti-Semitism.

Konrád told Orbán in his open letter, “The real turning point for me was that, in the interest of the arbitrary extension of your power, you dipped into the hypocritical repository of political anti-Semitism and pulled out its shrill slogans with both hands.”

Not everyone shares this view.

“Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s policies aren’t anti-Semitic at all,” the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, known as MAZSIHISZ, said in a statement to the Forward. “His government supports the large Jewish organizations in achieving their goals, the Jewish community is not a victim of any kind of official discrimination, and there’s no real chance that it will change in the foreseeable future.”

Similarly, Slomó Köves, executive rabbi of EMIH Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, an affiliate of Chabad, told Hungarian state media May 12 that he “does not know of an internationally accepted norm” by which anti-Soros rhetoric is considered anti-Semitism.

Both Köves’s Chabad operation in Hungary and MAZSIHISZ receive significant funding from the government. Köves did not respond to emailed questions from the Forward.

Source: Evil Soros; Invisible Finkelstein-Orban’s Anti-Semitism – The Forward

Why are so many Hungarians deported? A look at Canada’s ‘Unwelcome Index’ 

The Globe continues to impress me with some of its serious evidence-based reporting (e.g., unfounded sexual assault cases by police department) with this being another good example of reporting by obtaining and analyzing data and explaining what it means:

The U.S. government’s determined efforts to restrict immigration and the number of refugees entering the country has invited comparisons with Canada, heralded by some (including The Economist) as a last bastion of openness among Western countries. But Canada has its own apparatus for ejecting the unwelcome; the Canada Border Services Agency is charged with removing people who don’t meet entry requirements.

To understand who Canada deports, and why, The Globe and Mail requested data from CBSA showing total removals by year, broken out by citizenship, the destination to which the person was sent and justifications for these removals. The data shows Canada removed Hungarian citizens in disproportionate numbers over the past few years. The story of those thousands of unwelcome people contrasts with international perceptions of Canada’s warm embrace of foreigners.


The unwelcome

The CBSA ejects thousands of people annually. However, the data doesn’t reveal much about why those people were removed: By far the most common official justification was “non-compliance,” a sweeping category. Fewer than 10 per cent of removals cited criminality, the second most common justification.

A clearer picture emerges when one examines the citizenship of removed persons: Hungarians topped the removals list during the five-year period from 2012 to 2016.

It is perhaps unsurprising to discover large numbers of Americans and Chinese on the list: Both countries rank among the world’s most populous, and the United States and Canada share the world’s longest border between two countries. Mexico has been a major source of immigrants, and also refugee claimants: The government of prime minister Stephen Harper responded in the late 2000s by imposing new visa requirements on Mexican visitors; removals surged.

Hungary is less populous than those countries, and distant to boot. What gives?

Hungary stands out even more when one compares numbers of removals with numbers of people of the same citizenship accepted as permanent residents. The result is a crude sort of “Unwelcome Index.” Between 2011 and 2015, more than three removal orders were issued for every Hungarian granted permanent-resident status.


Backstory of an exodus

Most Hungarians removed during this period were Roma, explained Sean Rehaag, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto who specializes in immigration law. Studying a random sample of 96 decisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board between 2008 and 2012 involving Hungarian claimants, Mr. Rehaag and his colleagues found 85 per cent involved Roma.

Roma comprise Hungary’s largest ethnic minority. There, they encounter “discrimination and exclusion on a regular basis” concerning education, employment, housing, health and much else, according to a 2014 report by Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights. The late 2000s witnessed the rise of right-wing political parties and paramilitaries, accompanied by increasing rhetoric, rallies and attacks directed at Roma. Many Roma sought asylum abroad; thousands arrived in Canada after it lifted visa requirements on Hungarians in 2008.

Gina Csanyi-Robah, a teacher and human-rights activist with Hungarian Roma roots met many applicants in her capacity as executive director of the Roma Community Centre in Toronto, and also at Toronto schools. They fled Hungary because they were “scared that their home was going to be burned down,” Ms. Csanyi-Robah said. “Tired of their children getting beaten up at school and put into segregated classes. Tired of being subjected to verbal, psychological, physical violence when they left their homes.”

 Source: Why are so many Hungarians deported? A look at Canada’s ‘Unwelcome Index’ – The Globe and Mail