The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has defended its invitation to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to speak at its quadriennial assembly, despite his failure to denounce the hate speech of his close friend and one of his party’s founders, Zsolt Bayer.
Mr Bayer, a journalist, has written an article calling British journalist Nick Cohen “[a] stinking excrement called something like Cohen”. Also in the article, in reference to a massacre of mostly Jewish communists in 1919, Mr Bayer expressed disappointment that “they were not all buried up to their necks in the forest of Orgovány”.
Maram Stern, deputy secretary general of WJC, which represents Jewish communities in 100 countries around the world, said of the meeting due to take place in May: “We have invited Prime Minister Orbán because we want to hear his reaction to the rise in antisemitic and racist incidents in this country, including those involving Zsolt Bayer. I am sure Prime Minister Orbán will listen to our concerns, and we will listen to what he has to say.”
In January this year, Mr Bayer caused further outrage by calling Roma in Hungary “animals” who are “unfit for co-existence”. Despite this, he and Mr Orbán remain close friends and the Fidesz party refused to comment on the inflammatory statements.
The WJC’s statement came after an estimated 10,000 people marched in Budapest on Sunday protesting against antisemitism as part of the annual March of the Living. The march traditionally commemorates those who died in the Holocaust but, this year, thousands more than normal turned out carrying Israeli and EU flags in protest against the growing climate of antisemitism in Hungary.
Abraham Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “We encourage Prime Minister Orbán to make the fight against antisemitism, hatred and bigotry a priority for his government and to demonstrate that commitment through action, as he recently did by protecting the March of the Living from an antisemitic protest event.”