Anti-Semitism in modern Europe

Here’s an interesting if rambling article from Wednesday’s New York Times about the apparent rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary.  You can tell it’s written by an arts writer and not a reporter because it lacks any simple punchline.   To the extent that there is a thesis, it comes in a quote from Peter Gyorgy —

“Hungary is a deeply traumatized society since the First World War, and the Holocaust, of course,” Mr. Gyorgy said. “After the early years of Hungarian Communism, to be Jewish was one’s private affair. Then after Communism, in the early ’90s, when the multiparty system started, we missed our chance for a public discourse about this situation. Now there’s a confluence: the instability of the government, the hatred for the prime minister and the fact that Jewish culture has become more conspicuous. A new generation of Jews has emerged, which behaves like Jews.”

Thus there is of course no official discrimination against Jewish people, but yet an apparent standard by which being overtly Jewish is “too Jewish” — despite a broad sympathy for preserving what remains of Hungarian Jewish culture.  And as the article points out, on a day-to-day basis, the Roma face far more serious problems.   On the hand, there seems to be a contrast between the neo-fascists in Hungary and Italy — the latter having dumped previous anti-Semitic tropes and emphasized instead their pro-Israel stance, which has allowed a subtle alignment of their message with popular concerns about Arab immigration.  Gianni Alemanno didn’t need the tiny Jewish vote to be elected Mayor of Rome, but it certainly helped his PR that he managed to get it.

Overall though, articles like that in the NYT make for a depressing read, as one suspects that Hungary is not the only country where a direct airing of an ugly past was skipped in the rush to the EU and democracy.    In Ireland, we’re free of such problems, as explained in Ulysses

Mr Deasy halted, breathing hard and swallowing his breath.

— I just wanted to say, he said. Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?

He frowned sternly on the bright air.

— Why, sir? Stephen asked, beginning to smile.

— Because she never let them in, Mr Deasy said solemnly.

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