The prime minister of Hungary condemned a rising tide of anti-Semitism in his country before a meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Budapest following an “anti-Zionist” rally outside the premises of the congress.
In a speech at the opening ceremony of the Congress on Sunday, Viktor Orban acknowledged that anti-Semitism is increasing in Hungary but that his government would not tolerate such hate, BBC reported.
"Anti-Semitism is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," Orban declared. “[We have a] moral duty to declare zero tolerance on anti-Semitism.” One day prior, the extreme right-wing Jobbik Party -- who hold the third- largest number of seats in parliament -- held a rally to protest the WJC meeting, which they claimed promoted Zionism and Bolshevism.
At the rally, Reuters reported, Jobbik chairman Gabor Vona told the crowd: "The Israeli conquerors, these investors, should look for another country in the world for themselves because Hungary is not for sale.”
Hundreds of people attended the demonstration, with many wearing the black garments of Jobbik's outlawed paramilitary wing, the Hungary Guard, which have reportedly attacked Roma (Gypsy) camps over the years.
Another Jobbik official at the rally, MP Marton Gyongyosi, warned that Hungary had "become subjugated to Zionism, it has become a target of colonization while we, the indigenous people, can play only the role of extras.”
Gyongyosi, like many top Jobbik members, has a long history of making anti-Semitic statements. Last year, he demanded that the government release a list of Jewish MPs and cabinet members who might pose a “national security risk” to Hungary.
Typically, Jerusalem is the host for Congress meetings; this year, however, the organizers selected Hungary to point out what it called an "alarming rise of neo-Nazi political parties and anti-Semitic incidents in several European countries, including Hungary."
Orban had tried to ban the Jobbik rally, but was overruled by a Budapest judge.
Despite Orban’s reassuring words, the WJC was upset that he did not specifically refer to Jobbik in his speech.
"The prime minister did not confront the true nature of the problem -- the threat posed by the anti-Semites in general and by the extreme-right Jobbik party in particular," WJC said in a statement.
Ronald Lauder, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist, who is president of WJC, expressed his fears that Jews may not be safe in Hungary in 2013.
Ironically, last year, it was revealed that the former leader of Jobbik, Csanad Szegedi, is himself Jewish. It was even revealed that his grandmother was a Jewish Holocaust survivor.
In a bizarre interview with the Hungarian press, Szegedi tried to downplay the revelation by declaring: “I think that what counts is not to know who is a pure race Hungarian, the important thing is the way one behaves as a Hungarian. To be Hungarian for me has always been a responsibility [toward my country], that has nothing to do with racial supremacy.”
Szegedi was forced to resign from Jobbik.
Jews have had a long, illustrious (and ultimately tragic) history in Hungary -- today, there are about 100,000 Jews left in the country, mostly concentrated in Budapest, down from an estimated 850,000 in 1941, just prior to World War II, according to Jewish Virtual Library.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.