Hungarian PM accuses country’s largest Jewish group of ignoring antisemitism

Viktor Orbán, himself accused of using antisemitic tropes, criticised Mazsihisz for not calling out remarks made by a far-right candidate 


Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has previously been accused of using antisemitic tropes, has accused his country’s largest Jewish group of ignoring antisemitism. 

Recently criticising Mazsihisz, a nonpartisan federation of Jewish communities and groups, Mr Orbán claimed the organisation had not spoken out loudly enough against the candidacy of Laszlo Biro, a member of the far-right Jobbik party. 

Mr Biro narrowly lost a vote for a parliamentary seat last Sunday, and has previously made overt antisemitic remarks.  

On Wednesday, Hungarian news site Mandiner reported the prime minister calling Mazsihisz “indecisive and weak”, despite the organisation saying they had called out Mr Biro’s remarks months ago. 

Mr Biro has claimed in social media posts that Orthodox Jewish tourists may be responsible for giving his dog fleas, and has branded Budapest “Judapest”. In one, he called for “disconnecting Jewish usury bank capital from the economy”.

Jobbik, or The Movement for a Better Hungary, previously had a paramilitary wing called the Hungarian Guard, which has been described in the past as a neo-Nazi movement. 

The party elected a new leader, Péter Jakab, earlier this year, who hoped to turn the party around – revealing his own great-grandfather had been killed in Auschwitz. In 2014, Mr Jakab also claimed that “it is Jewish leaders who generate the prejudices”. 

Despite his renowned as a prominent Jobbik party member, Mr Biro was the agreed-upon candidate by opposition parties to face off against the Fidesz candidate – Mr Orbán’s ruling party – including the centre-left Hungarian Socialist Party – which usually attracts Jewish voters. 

In a statement, Mazsihisz said: “There is a clear consensus within our association that we do not want to intervene in party political issues. Especially during campaign periods, it is important that no competing force can use us for political purposes.” 

However, they added: “We noted with relief that a candidate famous for his antisemitic statements did not enter the Hungarian Parliament due to the wisdom of the electorate”. 

Jobbik later responded that Mr Biro “has made unacceptable statements in the past, for which he apologized. Everyone has the right to accept or not to accept this apology, the leaders of the opposition parties have accepted this apology.” 

Mr Orbán has regularly directed questionable rhetoric towards George Soros, a Hungarian-born billionaire who regularly funds left-leaning causes. Jobbik itself has accused the prime minister of resorting to antisemitism. 

In Hungary's 2017 parliamentary election, Mr Orbán’s government launched a campaign that featured posters depicting a grinning George Soros, the financier who survived the Holocaust, with the slogan “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh!” 

Mr Orbán also once attacked Mr Soros in a speech, saying: “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. 

"Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.” 

Mr Orbán’s remarks have drawn the condemnation of Mazsihisz, but such criticism has been rejected by EMIH – a different, Chabad-affiliated federation – sparking a row between the Jewish groups. 

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