Hungarian community in fear of extremist violence

By Thomas Land, May 21, 2010
Jobbik leaders march to parliament with nationalist flags last week

Jobbik leaders march to parliament with nationalist flags last week

The Hungarian Jewish Congress (HJC) has issued a desperate appeal to the mainstream political parties, asking them to prevent the new, extreme-Rightist deputies from turning the parliament into a theatre of antisemitic demonstrations.

The appeal came in response to angry scenes in the opening session of parliament last week, when Gábor Vona, leader of the openly antisemitic, far-Right Jobbik party, took his oath donning the menacing black vest and white and red insignia of its private army, the Hungarian Guard. The banned paramilitary organisation is modelled on the notorious Arrow-Cross, which murdered thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

Jobbik has emerged from the margins of politics as one of the most virulent sources of racist demagoguery driving Eastern Europe's sharp tilt to the Right during the current recession. Its rise has caused widespread alarm in the Jewish community and beyond.

Mr Vona's demonstration was condemned immediately by President László Sólyom and by Gordon Bajnai, the outgoing prime minister.

The new Hungarian Parliament is dominated by the populist, ultra-Conservative Fidesz party, which holds a two-thirds majority.

Jobbik gained 47 seats in the 386-seat, single-chamber legislature, and commentators expect it to try and drive Fidesz further to the Right. The ruling Socialists -- whose last significant move in Parliament was the successful introduction of law to make Holocaust denial a criminal offence -- managed to retain only 59 seats.

In its message, the influential HJC has called on the democratic parliamentary forces to isolate the voice of intolerance in the legislature, to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that the rights of all Jews and other minorities are defended.

The HJC was formed in 2008 by the Association of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities, the largest Jewish organisation in the country, as an umbrella group for the community.

Last updated: 2:48pm, May 21 2010