Last week’s cover of the Hungarian business magazine Figyelő featured András Heisler, head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities. The problem? Paper money—20,000 forint bills—floated around and over the picture of Heisler, with one appearing to protrude from his forehead.
The federation, Hungary’s largest Jewish group, condemned the cover, which it described as “incitement,” saying it “revives centuries-old stereotypes against our community.” Jews as money-grubbers: It’s an insidious trope that Nazis, among other anti-Semites, have employed. Disgusting in any environment, it’s especially dangerous at a time when Jews in Hungary and throughout Europe face increased discrimination and violence. A new EU poll found that nine in 10 European Jews say anti-Semitism is getting worse.
Figyelő is closely linked to the government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who explicitly refused to criticize the cover. This is part of a pattern whereby Orbán—an aspiring autocrat who is slowly dismantling Hungary’s democracy—claims to maintain a “zero tolerance” policy on anti-Semitism while dog-whistling to anti-Semites.
From using anti-Semitic tropes to demonize George Soros to praising Miklós Horthy—the regent who presided over the murder of Jews during World War II—to seeking to honor the notorious World War II–era anti-Semite Bálint Hóman, Orbán, the self-styled defender of Christian Europe, has shown himself willing to tap into this hatred to score political points. The Figyelő cover, an attack on a prominent figure in the Hungarian Jewish community, appears to be a bold escalation by the leader whose Fidesz Party won a landslide victory earlier this year. Far from paying a political price for exploiting anti-Semitism, Orbán is thriving.