Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and WJC
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and WJC Puder PR

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) opened in Budapest Sunday, with hundreds of representatives of worldwide Jewish communities in attendance, even as Hungary has come under fire for rising anti-Semitism.

In a speech to some 500 delegates attending the meeting, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of turning a blind eye to recent racist incidents, insisted that anti-Semitism was "unacceptable and intolerable".

"Hungary has a moral duty to have zero tolerance of anti-Semitism," he said, according to AFP.

"There is no freedom without human dignity, we won't tolerate anyone offending the dignity of any ethnic or religious community," he added, noting that the new constitution introduced last year provided protection and dignity for all minorities in Hungary.

The WJC reacted critically, however, to Orban's comments, expressing "regret" that he did not address recent incidents.

"Nor did he provide sufficient reassurance that a clear line has been drawn between the government and the far-right fringe," it said in a statement quoted by AFP, following Orban's speech.

"Actions speak louder than words, no matter how well intended they are," it added.

Anti-Semitism in Hungary has been on the rise in recent years, and the WJC meeting was taking place amid tight security.

Recent anti-Semitic incidents include Hungary's chief rabbi being verbally abused on a Budapest street, anti-Semitic chants at a football match against Israel and pig's trotters being placed on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Budapest Jews in World War II.

On Saturday, hundreds of Hungarians also gathered in downtown Budapest for an anti-Zionist protest organized by the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party.

In late November, a far-right deputy from the party called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.

The comments came after another Jobbik parliamentarian released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government.

The conference will begin properly on Monday with a speech by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, followed by debates on Middle East peace prospects and the rise of neo-Nazism in party political systems in Europe.