In an interview with the Associated Press, World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder said Sunday that he was “concerned” about the rise of the far right in Hungary. Young people, said Lauder, have been flocking to Jobbik, which specifically rejects Jewish and Israeli investment in Hungary, but the party's supporters are not necessarily all anti-Semitic themselves, he said.
The problem is that the current government, run by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party and a coalition that includes socialist parties, is not providing hope for the the country's youth. The youth, he said, “are looking for an alternative. They’re looking for something different.”
Polls show that Jobbik, which was first established in 2002, is now the second most popular political party in Hungary, a country of about 10 million. Jobbik did well in local elections in 2014, winning control of fourteen cities and towns, and causing great concern among the local Jewish community, which consists of about 100,000.
During Operation Protective Edge, Jobbik supporter Mihaly Zoltan Orosz, mayor of Erpatak in eastern Hungary, held an anti-Semitic ceremony in the city's main square. During the ceremony, effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres were "hung" in a mock execution. Another Jobbik party member and parliament representative caused an uproar when he called on the government to make a registry of all of Hungary's Jews.
Nevertheless, Lauder believes that dialog is the right way to deal with Jobbik. “I believe ... that it’s important to speak to them,” Lauder told the AP. “I believe it’s important to speak to anybody who’s willing to listen.”
For him, he said, it would be difficult, because as the head of the WJC, such a meeting could be seen as a sanctioning of Jobbik's politics, but in general, dialog is the best way to clear the air on this and other issues, Lauder said.
"The Jewish people, and also Christians and other faiths, have to meet together with anybody to talk about what can be done in the future."