László Bernát Veszprémy’s article was published in the blog section of The Times of Israel (TOI), and was then hastily reviewed by the Hungarian online paper, Mandiner. The article was also posted on the site of the Hungarian-Israeli Media Center, with a link to Veszprémy’s article on TOI. Thus, and not for the first time, the Israeli press again was used to launch attacks on the Hungarian opposition using the Jewish card by the pro-government press before the upcoming general elections, in a way as if criticism of the Hungarian opposition had come directly from Israel. This time, however, TOI has taken down the manipulative article, but declines to comment on the incident.
It is appropriate to know what is appropriate
The Times of Israel is one of the largest English-language news sites in Israel, where basically anyone who can jot down a meaningful piece of writing can start a blog. Of course, there are long-running TOI blogs with many, many readers, as well as newer, less interesting ones. Section bloggers can express their private opinions on any topic of public interest, whether active politicians – see Yair Lapid’s blog – or artists, photographers, poets. According to the blog rules, the posted writings reflect only the opinion of the third party who posted them, and TOI is not responsible for the veracity of their content. Anyone who finds the content of a blog offensive may lodge a complaint.
Veszprémy also maintains a blog on TOI, and writes mostly about anti-Semitism in Hungary. He recently published an article entitled “Can a homophobic and anti-Semitic politician defeat Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán?”. The piece calls Márki-Zay not simply a challenger of Orbán, but an outright “enemy”, and goes through the reasons why the author believes Márki-Zay can be considered homophobic and anti-Semitic. He lists, among other things, that he posed for a photo with Tamás Sneider (Hungarian Guard); that he said on the BBC that “half of the Hungarian government is gay”; that Jews can rest easy if they vote for Jobbik; that the president of the World Federation of Szeklers (Székelyek Világszövetsége), Barna Csibi, took part in his campaign; and that when he spoke about the Pegasus scandal, he showed Orbán in front of an Israeli flag as an illustration.
Knowing the above rules of the TOI blog, there is no need to argue with the “facts” of the article – nor would the apparently minuscule number of original readers justify such an effort. However, Veszprémy’s article has prompted several complaints to Miriam Herschlag, the editor of the Blog, accusing him of manipulation through the article posted in Israel.
It can be seen that, on the one hand, the “About the Author” section lacks essential information that would allow the reader of Veszprémy’s blog to put the author’s statements into context. Veszprémy presents himself merely as a historian, a doctoral student at ELTE, a former editor of a “Jewish” newspaper, an Israeli-Hungarian media observer and a blogger for the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC). That’s all.
Yet, he simply omits such facts as Veszprémy is a (former) researcher at the Századvég Migration Research Institute and also works for Mandiner, an online newspaper belonging to the Hungarian government controlled KESMA / Mediaworks holding. Furthermore, it may be obvious to the Hungarian reader, but not to an English-speaking Israeli journalist/readership, that his above activities are – not secretly – directly funded by the Orbán government.
There may be politically motivated messages on the TOI Blog, but then the reader should be made aware of it. When Yair Lapid, now Israel’s Foreign Minister, blogged on this site, his name was listed as (then) the chairman of the Yesh Atid party and leader of the opposition, not hiding his agenda. Or Danny Danon, who introduces himself as the President of the Likud World Union in the headline of his blog – and publishes his “not so private” opinion.
Another sucker wanted
The Hungarian government seems to prefer using Israel for its campaigns: during the last elections, the Jerusalem Post was the “sucker”. In the last election, the Israeli newspaper used an audio-recorded article to try to “prove” in Hungary that “the Soros network wants to pit European governments against each other in order to promote the admission of illegal immigrants”.
Four years ago, the campaign’s aim was to pay lip service to the Soros line-up and to stir up anti-Semitic sentiment. That is why an article on Soros, which had nothing to do with Israel, had to be ‘planted’ in the Jerusalem Post. But it was used to reinforce the Jewish connotation of George Soros – by falsely implying in Hungary that this information came from Israel.
The same purpose may now be served by calling anti-Semite the main opposition leader as part of a smear campaign – precisely in Israel. In this way, Veszprémy’s allegations can be made to appear in the Hungarian newspapers and media sites that picked up the article as if they had appeared in an Israeli newspaper – because that is where they are being reviewed from.
No one more
In this case, however, TOI’s editorial team acted swiftly following a comment by an Izraelinfo article and several readers’ remarks/complaints. TOI did not provide an explanation for the deletion of the article.
However, it was obvious from Veszprémy’s highly biased statements and style, as well as his parables, that this was a partisan article about the internal politics of a country with which the majority of TOI readers are hardly familiar. The author of the blog post is a prominent representative of institutions and press organs supported and maintained by the Hungarian government, and as such is in all likelihood part of the media warfare built up by the Orbán regime, or at least his writings are used for that purpose.
Since the author does not disclose to the readers his real background – i.e. his attachment to the current government – and the fact that this article will be quoted in pro-government newspapers as an article published in Israel, TOI, as an independent and impartial media, could not have given space to Veszprémy’s writing even under the principles of free exchange of opinions. The article, which manipulated the Israeli/Jewish public opinion reading in English with the labels “anti-Semitism” and “homophobia” and thus gave space to Hungarian government propaganda, was this time deleted.
The deletion of the blog entry gives hope that Israel will not be used for campaign purposes in Hungary after this – justifying and manipulating it with Jewry and anti-Semitism.
The specific aftermath of our article
The night after the above article on László Bernát Veszprémy’s attempted intervention was published and quoted in several Hungarian media outlets and even by the Hungarian Press Association, Izraelinfo’s whole site content was deleted from the site’s server. Even though there is no proof that it was an actual hacker attack and can be of a technical reason, it actually happened for the first time in the site’s history.
Also, the next day, Veszprémy launched a series of complaints about the deletion of his blog entry and his attack by the “left”. He also claimed, with no evidence presented at all, that he and his family have received threats from “oppositionist commentators” on Facebook and by mails, strangely, all of them with harsh anti-Semitic slurs. Simultaneously, the Hungarian government-related media also launched a strong campaign against the deletion of the article and against Péter Márki-Zay himself, quoting again and again that he was an anti-Semitic person, and that an “international journalist network” deleted the TOI article and that actually they are aware who has just “pressed the button“…
Veszprémy claimed in his article, that was distributed in endless occasions by the government related media, that on one occasion his home address was published by one of the commenters together with an incitement for physical violence against him personally. In this matter Veszpérmy was involved in a peculiar contradiction, since the comment actually appeared on the commenting page of Izraelinfo itself and was immediately deleted by the site’s administrator. Thus, one may legitimately conclude that only Veszprémy (besides Izraelinfo) could know about the whole incident, and as such, probably the comment was his own – failed – provocation attempt. In addition, as Rabbi Zoltán Radnóti had written on the specifics: the commenter, named Zsolt Roth, who had tried to post the address and the incitement was – most probably – a fake profile. From Radnóti’s investigation it seems that it is a carefully constructed “personality” and – surprise! – often promoted our pro-government journalist/historian’s work on Facebook.
It is now interesting to see how even the deletion of the TOI blogpost was used by the pro-government media to continue and accuse the Hungarian opposition of anti-Semitism for campaign purposes. Elections are coming up in Hungary in April, and the government’s campaign focuses on convincing the Israeli and Hungarian public that only the current government is a “friend” of the Jews and Israel, and that the cooperation of the opposition parties is not for the Jewish communities’ interest.
Finally, it is important to quote the Israeli ambassador to Hungary, Mr. Yaacov Hadas-Handelsman, who was recently interviewed and asked to comment on Veszprémy’s blogpost on TOI, saying what should be the conclusion of this saga:
“We require to leave the (Hungarian) Jewish community and Israel out of the election campaign”.
Link to the original article in Hungarian: