Hungarian Jews blast incitement against leader

Hungary's largest Jewish organization blasts pro-government magazine which depicted its leader surrounded by banknotes.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff,

Jews in Hungary
Jews in Hungary
Yoni Kempinski

Hungary's largest Jewish organization on Friday condemned what it termed "incitement" against its leader after he was depicted on the cover of a prominent pro-government weekly surrounded by banknotes, AFP reported.

The image of Andras Heisler, head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), on the front cover of the pro-government magazine "revives centuries-old stereotypes against our community," the group said in a statement.

"The appearance on a front cover of such incitement against a religious leader -- without any factual basis -- is unprecedented" since Hungary's transition to democracy in 1990, it added.

The Figyelo magazine had accused Heisler and Mazsihisz of accounting irregularities in connection with a state-funded synagogue renovation project in Budapest, allegations that Mazsihisz denies.

Israel's ambassador to Hungary said on Facebook that he had called Heisler, also a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, to express his "dismay and shock" over the magazine cover.

The Canadian ambassador said in a tweet she had also called Heisler to convey solidarity "in light of the despicable cover".

Up until this week Figyelo magazine was owned by prominent pro-government historian Maria Schmidt, who has been involved in a row with Mazsihisz for its refusal to back a new Holocaust museum proposed by the government and supported by another, smaller Jewish organization.

The row comes as the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has itself previously faced accusations of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its virulent campaigns against US billionaire George Soros -- claims it denies.

Orban has led several anti-Soros campaigns warning against the billionaire’s plan to let into the European Union hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East. Soros’ foundation closed its operations in Hungary earlier this year over what it called “government repression”.

Jewish groups in Hungary have in the past accused Orban's right-wing government, in power since 2010, of downplaying Hungary's role in the Holocaust during which some 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished.

In 2015, however, Orban admitted his country’s role in the Holocaust, saying many Hungarians chose "bad instead of good" in helping deport Jews to Nazi death camps.

He has also come under fire for failing to condemn the anti-Semitism of the Jobbik party.

In November of 2012, one of Jobbik’s members released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government.

He was followed by another Jobbik member who called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.

The latest row comes just a day after the Hungarian government pledged to spend 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) every year on various projects to combat anti-Semitism in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe.

It also comes several days after a Europe-wide poll of anti-Semitic attitudes commissioned by broadcaster CNN found that 42 percent of Hungarians think Jews have too much influence in finance and business across the world and 19 percent admit to having an unfavourable opinion of Jews.

However, according to the World Jewish Congress, Hungary's Jewish community -- Central Europe's largest -- faces only "occasional anti-Semitic incidents" and has "every facility" to express its heritage and religious life.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)


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