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In the week before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Hungary today, controversies sprang up. Although Netanyahu is likely to focus on business and building or deepening strategic relations with not only Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, but also Polish, Czech and Slovak leaders, his arrival is deemed ‘sensitive‘. There are two reasons for this.

The first accusation is that Orbán praised Hungary’s interwar leader Miklos Horty. In line with that accusation comes the claim, notably the Austrian media outlet Kurier that “Orbán did not mention his shared responsibility for the Holocaust.” These are very serious accusations, but it seems that they are levelled a little too casually. Quotations are very selective and the context is removed completely. It seems that the remarks are from a speech at the inauguration of a memorial centre for Kuno von Klebelsberg, when Orbán said that

The second and third decades of the twentieth century were an arduous ordeal in the history of the Hungarian nation. We owe a debt of gratitude to a few exceptional statesmen – Regent Miklós Horthy, Prime Minister István Bethlen and Minister Kuno Klebelsberg – for ensuring that history did not bury us under the immense weight of a lost world war, the 133 days of the Red Terror and the diktat of Trianon. Without the Regent, there would be no Prime Minister, and without the Prime Minister, there would be no Minister – and not even Hungary’s grim role in World War II can cast doubt on this.

The second accusation comes specifically from Amnesty International. Subtle and well argued, Amnesty International Hungary and Amnesty International Israel claim in a joint public statement that:

Orbán and Netanyahu are known as leaders who thrive on hatred towards universal human values and norms, delegitimizing voices of advocates for human rights and running smearing campaigns against activists and groups; and both lead legislation and bills, which seeks to limit non-governmental organizations, known for their struggle for democracy, securing human rights for all, and calling their governments for accountability.

Both Amnesty International offices voice their concern about “the poisoning of the public arena in both countries due to the smearing rhetoric of these leaders and their groundless accusations of human rights groups, Amnesty International included,” before predicting that:

In their upcoming meeting, Netanyahu and Orban will exchange not only anti-democratic values, but also means, which are aimed to execute these values. We learn from the media, that Orban is about to purchase additional security fences to keep refugees and migrants out of his country (…).

while also calling on both elected officials to:

refrain from populist attacks on fundamental rights and return to respecting and protecting these, respect the human rights of all regardless of their political views (…)

In reply to the joint statement, the Hungarian Government Communication Centre said that

Hungary is taking determined action against the organisations funded by George Soros, and so is Israel, according to news reports. Amnesty International is also an organisation that is funded by George Soros. The paid activists by George Soros want to bring hundreds of thousands of immigrants into Europe and are continuously attacking those countries that are protecting their borders.

This response comes after previous remarks about NGOs in general, and George Soros in particular from the Hungarian government:

The event highlights the absurdity we face these days. Here we have George Soros, a man who has been convicted for illegal financial dealings in certain countries and banned from several others and his extensive network of non-governmental organizations pushing his radical, countercultural, open society agenda. The media is fond of reporting that he “has spent a large part of his fortune funding pro-democracy and human rights groups”, but his agenda carries zero democratic mandate nor has any accountability to the citizens of these countries. It has set its sights on de-stabilizing governments in the Balkans, supporting enemies of Israel and sending to Europe hundreds of thousands of unchecked migrants from the Middle East and Africa, some of which are home to terrorist organizations that have publicly declared their hostile intent towards Europe and exploited the continent’s weak border security to move people and material. These facts are hardly news to most us (read more here, here and here).