Jewish groups reacted furiously on Tuesday to far-right Hungarian political leader Marton Gyongyosi’s suggestion that the government draw up a list of Jews in Hungary who posed a “national security threat.”
Speaking on Monday in the Hungarian parliament about the recent hostilities between Israel and the Hamas regime in Gaza, Gyongyosi said, “I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who pose a national security risk to Hungary.”
Gyongyosi, who is deputy leader of the far-right Jobbik party, was addressing his country’s diplomatic stance toward Israel’s recent Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip.
He added that Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi had “rushed to make an oath of allegiance to Israel” during the conflict.
Gyongyosi and the Jobbik party are fiercely critical of Israel and have a history of inflammatory and controversial comments on issues pertaining to the Holocaust and the Jewish state, as well as against his country’s Roma population and homosexuals.
Following the outbreak of the recent fighting in Gaza, Gyongyosi, who is the party’s spokesman for foreign affairs, accused Israel of continuing “its genocidal activities against the Palestinian people.”
Jobbik is the third-largest party in the Hungarian parliament with 47 out of a total of 386 seats, while the conservative Fidesz party, which currently holds power, has 263 seats.
Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced Gyongyosi’s comments on Tuesday, saying that it was reminiscent of the “genocidal Nazi regime.”
“The fact that after making such a demand in the Hungarian Parliament, Gyongyosi has not been forced to resign, is a sad commentary on the current rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary, which is being propagated primarily by the Jobbik party, the heirs of the fascist Arrow Cross,” said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the SWC in Israel, referring to the Hungarian Nazi party during World War II.
Zuroff welcomed the condemnation that the Hungarian government issued on Tuesday, but warned that the lack of effective action against Gyongyosi “will only encourage Jobbik to continue its campaigns of hatred against Hungarian Jews and Roma.”
On Tuesday, Gyongyosi said on the Jobbik website that his comments had only referred to Hungarians with dual Israeli citizenship.
“I apologize to my Jewish compatriots for my declarations that could be misunderstood,” he wrote.
The Hungarian government spokesman’s office issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the Jobbik politician’s speech, and saying that the office “takes the strictest possible action against every form of racism and anti-Semitic behavior and does everything in order to ensure that malicious voices incompatible with European norms are driven back.”
During the parliament session on Tuesday, several Hungarian lawmakers donned yellow Stars of David in protest of Gyongyosi’s speech.
Ilana Stein, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said in response to the comments that Israel “strongly condemns the anti-Semitism which manifests itself in declarations such as these.”
She added that Jerusalem expected the “democratic forces in Hungary to come out against such statements” and take “all necessary measures to prevent the spread of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in their country.”
The European Jewish Congress, a federation of Jewish communities on the continent, also criticized Gyongyosi’s speech and called for the Jobbik party to be proscribed in the European Parliament, where it has three sitting MEPs.
“These remarks present an important challenge for the Hungarian and European Parliament. Either they place boundaries on hate speech and incitement to violence within representative parties in their parliaments, or it will lose its moral compass,” said EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor.
“We demand outrage from senior Hungarian and European Union officials after these comments,” he said.
“Refraining from a wide-scale outrage will leave the Jewish community feeling there is acquiescence that this constitutes acceptable speech and parliamentary conduct.”