Anti-Semitism

During the years after World War II, a phenomenon emerged in several countries of communist Eastern Europe called “anti-Semitism without Jews.” Although the Holocaust had all but annihilated Jewish populations throughout the region, postwar communist regimes exploited lingering anti-Jewish sentiment to divert attention from their failures. Communist leaders would not, of course, refer directly to Jews when they denounced the enemies of socialism. They spoke instead of “cosmopolitan elements,” or used other stock phrases that evoked the notion of Jews as outsiders with suspect loyalties. The fact that few Jews—and no Jewish capitalists—remained in these countries was of little importance. When the leadership encountered difficulties, blaming the Jews remained a tried-and-true means of deflecting public frustrations over the lack of prosperity or freedom. Today, something similar is under way in Latin America, though Jews are not the chosen scapegoat. The pattern in this case could be described as “anti-imperialism without imperialists.”

It can be a devastating experience for a truly extremist party to realize that the “enemy” is within their own ranks. This is what happened to Hungary’s Jobbik two months ago, when Csanád Szegedi, a leading figure in the party and a founding member of the vigilante group Magyar Gárda, discovered that he is Jewish. Although it could have been a rare opportunity for the party to dispel claims of anti-Semitism, it remained true to its convictions, and Szegedi was forced to resign from his various positions (the official reason being that he lied about his origins). Jobbik thus reaffirmed its unconcealed anti-Semitic nature, which differentiates it from other European populist parties.

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