Alarm grows as Orban prepares to take ‘pure Nazi’ rhetoric to US |  Viktor Orbán

Alarm grows as Orban prepares to take ‘pure Nazi’ rhetoric to US | Viktor Orbán

A longtime adviser to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who resigned last week, has warned him that his far-right rhetoric could have tragic consequences.

The Hungarian leader sparked backlash at home and abroad with a recent speech in which he spoke out against “racial mixing”. Soon after, Zsuzsa Hegedüs, a sociologist who has known Orbán for 20 years, delivered her resignation, criticizing the prime minister for what she called a “pure Nazi” speech.

“I am a Jew. And our generation’s job is to stop something like this because we have seen what happened. Not only with Jews. Also in Rwanda. Ethnic hatred leads to genocide, Hegedüs said in an interview with The Observer.

Orbán’s speech came at an annual gathering in Romania last weekend, which the Hungarian leader often uses to make important announcements. During his speech, he said that mixing between Europeans was acceptable, but that Europeans mixing with non-Europeans created “mixed race”.

“We are willing to mix with each other, but we do not want to become people of mixed race,” Orbán said. He added that Western European countries where this was seen as acceptable are “no longer nations”.

Orbán, who in April won a fourth consecutive term as prime minister, has often used far-right rhetoric, especially since 2015, when he emerged as Europe’s fiercest opponent of accepting refugees and migrants. His repeated attacks on Hungarian-born Jewish businessman and philanthropist George Soros have also been widely criticized as anti-Semitic.

Orbán thrives on controversy, and his anti-migration stance, as well as regressive policies on LGBT rights, have made him a darling of the international right. In the coming days, he will travel to Dallas, Texas, and give the opening speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an influential gathering of American right-wingers.

In May, Orbán spoke at a special CPAC session in Hungary, when his speech referred to the “Great Replacement,” a conspiracy theory popular on the far right that claims there is a liberal plot to change the ethnic makeup of the U.S. and European country through immigration.

While Orbán’s statements have often drawn criticism from liberals, the reaction to Orbán’s words about racial mixing has been stronger than usual.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences condemned the comments, calling them “scientifically untenable” and “a dangerous ideology”, while Hungary’s chief rabbi, Róbert Frölich, also criticized the speech.

Hegedüs said she does not believe Orbán is racist and that she had previously defended him against claims of anti-Semitism, she said. For some time she had been concerned about the Prime Minister’s “illiberal turn”, but felt that the recent speech crossed a line.

“I told Viktor about the things I found unacceptable before. I yelled at him a few times. But he has never crossed this line before. It really was a Nazi speech, she said.

Numerous international politicians have also expressed their disgust at the speech.

– Racism is a poisonous political invention. There should be no place for that in Europe where our strength comes from diversity, said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.

The US envoy for combating anti-Semitism, Deborah Lipstadt, criticized Orbán’s “use of rhetoric that clearly evokes Nazi racial ideology”.

Dani Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem, also drew parallels with the Nazi past. “The statement by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is far too reminiscent of ideologies linked to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust. The Holocaust teaches us that we must address such expressions quickly and directly, Dayan said.

In a sign that the backlash may have blindsided Orbán, he took the unusual step of backtracking somewhat, insisting that he was not talking about the mixing of races, but of cultures.

“I don’t want Hungary to become a country of immigrants. It is not a question of race for us. It is about cultural differences, he said during a visit to Vienna last Thursday.

“Sometimes I can be ambiguous. We are talking about a civilizational position. We are proud of what Hungary has achieved in the fight against racism, he added.

As Orbán heads to CPAC, it is unlikely that many on the American right will have been disturbed by his speech.

– The far right represents an increasingly present part of republican society. The party has changed so radically. Ideas like the grand replacement theory have become mainstream for them, Rick Wilson, a former Republican strategist and co-founder of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Donald Trump political action committee, said in an interview.

Orbán had warm relations with Trump, and praise for Hungary’s “illiberal democracy” has often appeared on Fox News Tucker Carlson tonight performance. Carlson spent a week in Hungary last year and painted the country as a conservative paradise.

“Orbán is seen as anti-Europe, anti-immigration, anti-elite and anti-woke, which appeals to Republicans and conservatives,” said Tim Miller, the former political director of Republican Voters Against Trump.

Matt Schlapp, chairman of CPAC, was asked last week if Orbán was still invited to open the gathering. “Let’s listen to the man speak. We’ll see what he says. And if people disagree with something he says, they should take it up, he said.

In Hungary, Orbán supporters in pro-government media have worked hard to paint criticism of the speech as biased and irrelevant.

A recent article in pro-Orbán Magyar Nemzet accused Hegedüs of “deliberate lying, dishonesty and treason”. Other outlets used abusive language about her or downplayed her importance.

Hegedüs said she ignored the criticism, claiming she had received many private messages of support from people in Orbán’s Fidesz party who were also upset by the speech. “It’s reassuring,” she said.

Hegedüs said she had “accepted” Orbán’s clarification that he was referring to the mixing of cultures and not races and considered the matter closed. However, she does not plan to withdraw her resignation, saying that with a possible economic downturn around the corner, fiery rhetoric was particularly irresponsible.

“In times when people are desperate … it’s much easier to mobilize the hateful,” she said.

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