Hungary: War of words between George Soros and Fidesz heats up | News | DW | 20.11.2017

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Hungary: War of words between George Soros and Fidesz heats up

The Hungarian government has renewed its attacks on George Soros, saying Hungary faces "a frontal assault" from the US-Hungarian philanthropist. Soros said Fidesz is peddling "distortions and outright lies."

A Fidesz campaign poster reads: Don't let Soros have the last laugh!

A Fidesz campaign poster reads: Don't let Soros have the last laugh!

Hungary's governing right-wing party Fidesz on Monday slammed claims by US financier George Soros that the government had lied in a recent campaign.

Fidesz's vice chairman Gergely Gulyas also refuted allegations the campaign had used anti-Semitic tropes to undermine Soros, an 87-year Hungarian-born financier turned philanthropist who has been a thorn in the side of the government.

Soros has used money made on international markets since the 1990s to fund civil society and educational groups in Hungary that Fidesz sees as threatening to national unity.   

Gulyas reiterated earlier government claims that Soros was "attacking Hungary" via his non-government organizations (NGOs) and manipulation of EU bureaucrats.

Since coming to power in 2010, Fidesz has been highly critical of foreign-sponsored NGOs, and has launched attacks on the free media.

It has also adopted a euroskeptic and anti-immigration agenda, often treading close to a line separating representation of  Soros — who is Jewish — and anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of those used by interwar Hungarian fascists.

Fidesz has sought to target billionaire Soros personally and is widely seen to have targeted many of his projects in Hungary.

Rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary

The survey

In early October, Prime Minister Viktor Orban sent all households by mail a seven-point "national consultation" survey asking for feedback on what it called the "Soros Plan," including his alleged views on immigration.

The government has called the survey an "exercise in democracy." It has been accompanied by a nationwide media campaign that prominently features the emigre financier's laughing face (see main photo).

In a 2015 opinion piece Soros said the EU should take in at least a million migrants annually.

Since the refugee crisis in Europe began in 2015, Hungary — alongside several other states in Central Europe — has been opposed to taking in even a small fraction of the estimated 2 million refugees coming into Europe and has said it will not adopt the EU's quota for refugee intake, instead building a fence and asking the EU to pay for it.

Orban, who is running for re-election in 2018, has said the "poison" of Muslim immigration is a security risk and threatens Europe's Christian culture and identity.

The Fidesz vice chairman added on Monday that Soros and the EU were "pushing the same pro-migrant agenda" and rejected claims by Soros that the government's campaign had fired up anti-Muslim sentiment and deployed anti-Semitic tropes.

Soros answers back

Soros said in statement on his website on Monday that Orban's government has portrayed him as "an outside enemy" with the aim of "distracting citizens" from "health care and education systems in distress" and "rife" corruption.

The billionaire behind the university Hungary's Orban wants to shut

The recent national consultation "survey" was part of an "ongoing propaganda effort" since 2015, the statement said, including a "Stop Brussels" consultation earlier this year and a referendum that vilified migrants and refugees in 2016.

"The government selected George Soros for this purpose, launching a massive anti-Soros media campaign costing tens of millions of euros in taxpayer money, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s," the statement continued.

Each of the statements in the survey "contains distortions and outright lies that deliberately mislead Hungarians about [my] views on migrants and refugees," it added.

Parliament, dominated by Orban's ruling Fidesz party, approved a law earlier this year seen as targeting NGOs supported by Soros and another threatening with closure a Budapest university he founded in the 1990s, the Central European University (CEU).

Without being outrightly anti-Semitic like the far-right Jobbik party, Fidesz appears to be playing on deeply embedded cultural stereotypes that persist in parts of Eastern Europe that associate Jews with national disloyalty, international manipulation, finance, social liberalism and secularism, all seen as undermining of Christian culture.

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jbh/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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