Let there be no mistake: Hezbollah's aim is not an independent, democratic Palestine, nor a multicultural, multiparty Lebanon. It seeks the kind of cruel, bloody tyranny, the worst kind of eastern dictatorship, that exists in the two countries financing its actions.

The paramilitary wing of Saint Michael's Party, a Romanian nationalist movement, yesterday came across the Hungarian border. They attacked a Hungarian border guard station with firearms. They killed eight soldiers and kidnapped two. SMP is part of the Romanian government coalition. The Budapest government has been demanding for years that the neighbouring country's authorities disarm the SMP paramilitary army, which sees itself as a successor to the fascist Iron Guard movement. But Bucharest has always looked the other way.

What would the current Hungarian government do if this nightmare were to come true. Obviously, more or less what Israel has done recently with Lebanon. They would use all means to destroy the self-declared guerillas' hide-outs, from which, in this nightmare scenario, they were bombarding Nyiregyhaza, Debrecen and Bekescsaba. We are hardly taking a huge risk with the assumption that no democratic state would react otherwise.

The EU's foreign ministers, among them Kinga Goncz, have issued a joint statement holding Hezbollah responsible for starting the crisis, but saying that Israel has reacted disproportionately. Living in peace for 50 years, they have passed judgement over the state of Israel, whose existence has been threatened continuously since 1948. It is outrageous to draw even indirect comparisons between a democratic Israel and an illegal death squad.

It would be wrong to idealise the Jewish state. But it is still the only country in the region that is not ruled by mass-murdering clan chiefs, life-long absolute monarchs, mass-murdering military uniform-wearing dictators, despots friendly with the West, or - as in Afghanistan and Iraq - toy parliaments dependent on American support.

Israel is governed by a sovereign, democratically elected, democratically oustable government. It is the only state where homosexuality is legal, where women have rights, where there is a free market and a free press, where it is possible to demonstrate against the government, against war and against compulsory military service.

It is true that Israel has the 1982 bloodbath in the Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Satila on its conscience. But these events outraged Jewish public opinion. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated and a parliamentary committee found the then defence minister Sharon guilty. Menahem Begin sacked the minister, and then himself resigned.

At the same time, we see little sign of the Palestinian Muslims demonstrating in the name of humanity against the brutal actions of Hamas and Hesbollah, against kidnappings, against suicide bombings, against political gangsterism. On the contrary: CNN has shown pictures of Hamas activists distributing sweets to jubilant motorists following the "successful" rocket attack on Haifa.

There is no pluralism in Lebanese public life. Armed Christian and Islamic fundamentalists have shattered this tiny country. Political chaos went hand in hand with corruption and with drugs and arms dealing.

The country was not governed by mass political parties, but by antidemocratic ethnic-religious parity. For decades, the head of state was a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni, the President of Parliament a Shiite. This false harmony was destroyed by Syria's ambitions, by the killing of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, by the aggression of the militant Islamic party, and by the recent murderous activities which forced Israel to respond. Which is why Lebanon has a good chance of becoming the Yugoslavia of the Middle East, rather than a tourist paradise.

László Tamás Papp English version

Quality or quantity?

The summer often begins nowadays with a sigh: yet another education reform! More classes, tuition fees, Bologna... Each week, a new plan for education is born. There are piles of papers, all of which aim to prove that a given institution of higher education is capable of offering both BA and MA degrees. In the name of speed and efficiency, institutions are trying to squeeze what once took five years into just three. At the same time, humanities and sciences students are beginning to envy lawyers and doctors, who are not obliged to follow the 3+2 system. Let there be no misunderstanding: it is not 3+2 which is the problem - the routes of the problems run much deeper.

HVG English version

"We are too dependent"

Janos Koka, Hungary's 34-year-old minister for economics and transport wants to both deepen and weaken Hungary's dependence on Russian gas. He hopes that Hungary can become Europe's centre for gas distribution. English version

Ultra-rightist fan clubs

After campaign newspapers like Magyar Vizsla, it seems that demonstrations can also be outsourced. For days, the press has been buzzing with rumours that Fidesz is behind a series of demonstrations against the government that began on 5 June. It seems certain that the organisers belong to peripheral ultra-rightist fan clubs. The man pulling the strings is supposedly Gabor Kubatov, an experienced Fidesz strategist.

English version

Gyurcsany Package Meets Strong Opposition

Opposition parties and interest groups in Hungary are questioning the direction of the government's reform policy and resisting the announced budget cuts. Political analysts cannot rule out social unrest and economic turmoil in the coming months. English version

Political Parties Want More Money

Illegal political financing has consistently been at the root of Hungary’s corruption problems, but even after numerous scandals few politicians had been held accountable.

HVG English version


The Hungarian treasury account is fluctuating every more violently - a sure sign of poor budget planning. English version

How much do stallholders make at the Sziget?

Entrepreneurs are queueing to set out their stalls at the popular summer festivals. But is it worth renting a space at the Sziget Festival or in the Valley of the Arts given the fixed prices? Is it about prestige or profit?