Iran finds it hard to make friends these days. Its closest ally, Syria, has been entrenched in a brutal civil war for almost two years, with no end in sight. The international sanctions, imposed on Iran due to its dangerous nuclear weapons program, have severed many of its trade and financial ties. And now, another “blow”- Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, one of Iran strongest allies in the global arena, passed away.
So close was the friendship between the leaderships that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced a national day of mourning, and in his eulogy in the form of a condolence letter (heavily criticised in Iran, as seen here and here) he referred to Chavez as a “martyr” (shaheed) and added that Chavez will return on the day of salvation, along with the Mahdi (the “Vanished Imam”), Jesus, and other “men of righteousness”. Chavez received the kindest words and highest praise imaginable. Ahmedinejad even got himself into trouble back home by hugging Chavez’s bereaved mother – according to the clerical regime in Teheran, Iranian men are not supposed to have physical contact with unrelated women.
Of course, one interesting aspect of the Iran-Venezuela partnership was that like Iran (if not quite as pronouncedly) the Chavez regime was noted for its antisemitic rhetoric. As was detailed in a previous AIJAC blog post, “Chavez had an ugly and long-standing habit of fostering enmity towards the Jewish community of Venezuela for his own political advantage.”
Since there is no guarantee that Chavez’s successors will maintain the close alliance with Iran, to whom might Iran turn?
Interestingly, the Iranians have formed an unholy alliance with none-other than the Hungarian ultra-nationalist rising power- the Jobbik party. On the surface, this might look like a strange choice of ally, a political party not even currently in power. But the Iranians have their reasons:
Jobbik was founded in 2003 and has been continuously gaining influence and popularity. Currently it is the third largest faction in the Hungarian parliament. What could an extreme right-wing Hungarian party have in common with the Iranian regime? On an ideological level they share anti-Western world views and hostility towards Jews. This, not surprisingly, sounds alarmingly familiar to the ideological ties between Iran and Chavez.
So far, two Jobbik local mayors signed twinning agreements between Hungarian and Iranian cities- the first one was set in 2010 by Jobbik’s Erik Fulop, between Tiszavasvari and Ardabil, then Juhasz Oszkar of Gyogyospata, signed a similar agreement with another Iranian municipality. This was followed by visits of Iranian delegations with Jobbik’s leader, Gabor Vona, visits by Jobbik politicians and Hungarian businessmen to Iran to deepen commercial ties and Jobbik participation (as one of only two parties) in the Hungarian parliament’s Hungarian-Iranian Friendship Committee.
The partnership with Iran is part of Jobbik’s foreign policy, as explained by its foreign policy chief Marton Gyongyosi at a Jobbik pro-Iran demonstration at the US embassy in Budapest in December:
“The Persian people and their leaders are considered pariahs in the eyes of the West, which serves Israeli interests… This is why we have solidarity with the peaceful nation of Iran and turn to her with an open heart.”
Hungarian sources affirm that Gyongyosi, who expressed hostile statements regarding Hungarian Jews, is largely incharge of the tightening ties with Iran:
“According to [investigative journalist Ferenc] Szlazsanszky a writer with the Hungarian weekly Hetek, the “driving force” behind Jobbik’s pro-Iranian stance is Gyongyosi, the foreign policy chief, who drew a volley of international criticism in November when he called for the registration of Hungarian Jews, citing their potential as a security risk. He said later he was referring to Hungarian Israelis.”
Shared feelings of isolation, rejection of the West, in the form of the United States and the European Union and antisemitic views were often cited as the links between Chavez and Iran, and now the model is being replicated with Jobbik. This, understandably, has potentially dire ramifications for the Hungarian Jewry, and local community leaders are pointing at Jobbik’s rise as a factor behind Jewish emigration out of Hungary.
Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman also expressed the connection between Jobbik’s anti-Semitism and its partnership with Iran:
“It is anti-Semitism that binds the Hungarian ultranationalists with the ayatollahs of Tehran in a nexus of hate…That is all they have in common.”
A “Times of Israel” investigation also points to a correlation between the intensification of anti-Jewish sentiment expressed by Jobbik officials and publications, and its closer ties with Iran
“Jobbik’s general antagonism toward Israel has blossomed in recent months into a fully fledged campaign. Gyongyosi has announced a national tour of lectures on the ‘Zionist threat to world peace.’ In parallel, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel articles now take up more than 30 percent of the content on the party’s English-language website.
“‘It is no coincidence that Jobbik is intensifying its anti-Israel propaganda the more it tightens its ties with Iran,’ said Joel Rubinfeld, co-chairman of the Brussels-based European Jewish Parliament, who recently returned from a round of talks in Hungary. ‘The time correlation is one of the ways in which we see the Iranian fingerprint on Jobbik.'”
In order to understand the destructive potential of alliances based on ideological hatred in general, and of Jews in particular, one does not need look further than the aforementioned Iran-Chavez partnership.
Venezuela under Chavez saw the majority of the country’s Jewish population flee and emigrate out of the country. Jewish leaders in Hungary are already noticing similar warning signs – and it is no coincidence that the Iranians are supporting and egging on the group responsible.
Iran claims to be leading an alliance of “oppressed” nations fighting for “justice” against “global arrogance.” Anyone who finds themselves sympathetic to this claim – and there are pundits and commentators in Australia who fit this description – needs to ask themselves why this “alliance” coincides so closely with the list of the most antisemitic groups and parties in the world.