In September, County Commissioner Andrew Friedman made an official visit to Hungary with his wife, as guests of Hungarian President Janos Ader. The Hungarian President invited Friedman, President of Bais Naftoli Orthodox Congregation, in appreciation of the accolade and respect he had received as the shul’s Reception, held in his honor this past June. At the June event the Hungarian President acknowledged the responsibility of Hungary in the murder of 500,000 innocent Jewish men, women and children during the Holocaust.
The Friedman’s enjoyed a 90 minute meeting at the historical Sandor Palace in Budapest, the official home of President Ader. Friedman presented the President with a certificate from Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Paul Koretz. Although the palace was resplendent with ornate tapestries and gold furnishings, the Friedman’s were served a meal on paper plates and plastic cups, reflecting the seriousness with which President Ader considers the issue of glatt kosher entertaining.
Friedman was updated with news that Hungary has now committed over eight million dollars to the refurbishing of Hungary’s aging synagogues and cemeteries. Additionally, this year, it is a Hungarian, Szabolcs Takacs, who will be chairperson of The International Holocaust Alliance, an event that includes representatives of more than thirty countries. Takacs will be visiting Los Angeles in December in an official capacity at a Chanukah Party.
President Ader and Friedman discussed the current migration crisis caused by the hundreds of thousands of Muslims fleeing Syria and beyond. The President agreed that the issue particularly affects Jews. When Moslem refugees arrive in Hungary, they are walking into a country which has a healthy respect for Israel but maintains a latent antisemitism. The concern is that Muslim immigrants will agitate this delicate issue.
The EU immigration policy for political and economic immigrants, mandates that new arrivals have to register in the country of arrival. Estimates show that as many as 175,000 undocumented refugees have tried to enter Hungary but only 60,000 or so have registered. ISIS claims they have sent thousands of terrorist immigrants into Europe and these criminals will avoid registration. So far, many Hungarian arrivals have left for wealthier northern European countries. The European Union has designated the number of immigrants that each member country will have to accept; Hungary is required to take a more manageable 1,500. The newly erected 15 foot fence around its borders is not coming down any time soon.
The President told Friedman that Hungary’s decision to close its border to new migrants is crucial for Hungary to maintain its unique identity. It should also benefit the Viktor Orban government, which is doing much to revitalize Jewish life in Hungary. At the same time, it is crucial to limit the power of the extreme right wing Jobbik party who are antisemitic and spreading their support network across Europe. Voters are quick to support right wing political parties who tout anti-immigrant policies but whose agenda is inevitably antisemitic as well.
Antisemitism is unique to each European country and the issues relating to the Arab immigrants will vary. Currently this is a humanitarian crises. The future will likely see a sympathetic response to those whose values are compatible with their chosen European country. Heinz-Christian Strache, was recently standing for Mayor of Vienna. His position was well-known; give preferential treatment to Christian migrants over Muslims to protect, “Austria’s western character.”
There will likely be a long-term sympathetic response to political refugees but a certain amount of repatriation of economic refugees. Friedman was told that 70% of refugees are men, 13% are women and 18% are children because the overwhelming reason for the immigration is economic. According to a recent article in Time magazine, an estimated 700 million people worldwide would like to relocate their families in order to achieve a better economic opportunity, this being wholly unviable.
Meanwhile, the newest EU assessment requires an assignment of immigrants throughout Europe with the numbers in France and the UK to double the number who have currently been admitted. The problem is that these countries already suffer from increased antisemitism and anti-Israel inclinations. Hate crimes associated with the burgeoning situation are being reported in twice as many instances over the last year.
Friedman is clear on the solution to the influx of Muslims to Europe, education of human rights, civil rights and Jewish rights as well as legal consequences for any form of hate crimes. In Hungary today it is a crime to deny the holocaust.