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When it comes to standing up and being counted, Virág Gulyás is first in line

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Hungarian Israel advocate Virag Gulyas speaking at the 2020 Annual American Zionist Conference in New Jersey | Photo: Courtesy Virag Gulyas

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International activist Virág Gulyás is a well-known blogger who advocates for Israel on campuses throughout North America. She recently shared her remarkable journey as a proud supporter of Israel with TheJ.ca, from her home in Hungary.

What made you decide to become a pro-Israel activist?

I was a very antisemitic person, but I didn’t realize that until I met and began dating an Israeli guy in Brussels, where I lived. I was so prejudiced. I even called my parents and said, “It’s a Jewish guy. It’s an Israeli guy.” Immediately, all the stereotypes… Then, three months into our relationship, he said, “Let’s go to Israel.” I said, “I don’t really feel like going to Israel. There are too many Jewish people there.” I cannot explain why I felt like that – until today – but that was my perception. Then, I went to Israel for the first time, and something shifted dramatically. That was the [start of a] domino effect… I didn’t become an activist immediately. I just knew there was this emotional hook that I felt in Israel. Then, I wrote an article after my third or fourth time in Israel, and that went viral.

Your article ‘I Might Have Been an Antisemite’ caught my attention – What does that mean?

Exactly that. I really emphasize that I do believe there are different layers of antisemitism. The main distinguishing layer is whether it’s a conscious hate against the Jews or ignorance. That’s the category I would fall into. Look, people might say, “Oh, you are from Hungary, of course, you are an antisemitic person.” That’s not the case. I tried to go back and think, ‘Who told me all of these stereotypes about Jews. Why did I have this conception?’ I don’t remember. I only remember Jewish jokes. Plus, my ballet school was in the Jewish district in Hungary. So, my only [knowledge of] Jews was the Hasidic, Orthodox Jews. For me, that’s what I imagined. It sounds funny [in the context of the] current, young generation. But when you think about when I was young, we didn’t have social media or all this interconnectedness. We were just coming out of Communism. For me, those were the Jews. That’s it. I was very ignorant, really. 

You travelled to Israel nine times. When did political activism come into play?

I was always involved in politics. Before I got together with my Israeli ex, I was a diplomat for the EU, representing Hungary… For me, it really started in the Brussels food market, when I saw an international food section with flags, and the Israeli flag was always torn down, hidden, or placed in a way that you could not say, “That’s Israeli.” It started to hurt. The country that I love so much and [I was] dating an Israeli – how is that fine?

In Brussels, I didn’t speak French, my ex did. So, when I had to renew my ID card, we went to the clerks. Many of them were Arabs. They didn’t focus on me; they would focus on my ex. “What is your name? Where is that name from?” He always lied and said he was British. He had a British passport. But when we came out I was so angry. I’m such a patriotic person. I said, “How could you lie about that?” He said, “Did you want your papers or not?” I started to understand that you need to hide your Jewishness.

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How did you evolve from that to studying Judaism in New York?

I went to New York for three months. One of my friends suggested, “Why don’t you study Jewish Studies?” I thought that was a great idea because it gives me credentials in this field, and probably would help me to work in politics… I got a scholarship and started my vblog Almost Jewish, the moment I went to New York. The day after I moved to New York, I was at a rally against the UN, and it was downhill from there.

There are so many activists who claim they “properly” advocate for Israel. How do you so effectively?

I think you are asking a hard question. It was also hard for me to face when I lost my virginity around Hasbara. I don’t want to be part of Hasbara. It’s not cool. By building up Hasbara, you already put Israel in a whole different [status] than another country. I never need to be ‘pro-Hungarian’ even though there is a lot of Hungarian hatred out there. I just need to be a proud Hungarian. So, I don’t like to say I’m a pro-Israel activist, because it feels that I am against something. I’m not against anything. I just want people to understand that Israel has legitimacy.

Virag Gulyas lecturing at the University of New Haven in 2019 | Photo: Courtesy Virag Gulyas

What is it like being an advocate for the rights of Israel on campus?

First of all, it is never easy to stand up for something, but now with social media, these kids are really facing hardships. Most of the kids want to study and learn, and party. That’s what they should do. They don’t really engage. They say, “I’m Jewish, but why should I really emphasize my pro-Israel [beliefs] or Jewishness?” Israel is just the cherry on the cake as an issue. The whole college experience is being taken over by liberals and lefties. I always say that what starts with the Jews or Israel, does not end there. Literally, they are criticizing everything that is Western democracy.

When you meet a Jew on campus who opposes Israel’s action or even existence, and he or she says, “I’m Jewish and I know Israel”, what do you say to them?

For me, when they say, “I am Jewish”, it is something the UN does a lot. The UN invites speakers for Palestinian events so they can say, “They are Jews, and they say it is an apartheid state.” For me, there is value in being able to say, “I’m not Jewish, and I think it’s not apartheid.”

Virag Gulyas after speaking at Limmud Annual Conference in Manhattan 2019 with Holocaust survivor, Sami Steigman | Photo: Courtesy Virag Gulyas

You worked in the EU; it seems that the EU is extremely obsessed with Israel.

If you can see what is happening in the UN and the EU, it’s that the NGOs and lobby groups are really financed by the same circle.

Do you know how many minor groups are fighting for their sovereignty in the EU? You don’t hear about it, because it is not a thing to talk about within the EU, because we should all live in harmony.

As long as we focus on Israel, we don’t need to deal with internal issues. How crazy is it that in the middle of the COVID virus, the minister joined a meeting to talk about the annexation.

Whereas, we had a COVID situation, and the EU failed. So, it is really coming from the lobby groups. And because the Palestinians are the so-called “underdogs”, there is so much psychological (stubbornness) in this. Everybody feels that they are righteous if they support the Palestinian cause. It’s so twisted.

Igal Hecht is a documentary filmmaker and journalist who works all over the world. 

For more info visit www.chutzpaproductions.com

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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