|"Hungarians protest outside a parliament building against anti-semitic remarks by a far-right politician in Budapest November 27, 2012." (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)|
By Marton Dunai
Reuters dispatch, November 27, 2012
"A call in the Hungarian parliament for Jews to be registered on lists as threats to national security sparked international condemnation of Nazi-style policies and a protest outside the legislature in Budapest on Tuesday. The lawmaker, from the far-right Jobbik party, dismissed demands he resign, however, and said his remarks during a debate on Monday had been misunderstood -- he was, Marton Gyongyosi said, referring only to Hungarians with Israeli passports. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside parliament, many wearing the kind of yellow stars forced on Europe's Jews in the 1940s and some chanting "Nazis go home" at Jobbik members. 'I am a Holocaust survivor,' local Jewish leader Gusztav Zoltai said by telephone. 'For people like me, this generates raw fear.' Though he dismissed the comments by Jobbik's foreign affairs spokesman as opportunistic politicking, the executive director of the Hungarian Jewish Congregations' Association, added: 'This is the shame of Europe, the shame of the world.' The centre-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the remarks by Gyongyosi, whose party surged into parliament two years ago on a campaign drawing on suspicion of Roma and Jewish minorities and attracting support from voters frustrated by economic crisis. But in Jerusalem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the government for a tardy response, more than 16 hours after the event, and called the failure to penalize Gyongyosi as 'a sad commentary on the current rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary'. About 500,000 to 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, according to a memorial centre in Budapest. Some survivors reached Israel. Some 100,000 Jews now live in Hungary.
Gyongyosi's intervention in parliament on Monday afternoon came after discussion of last week's fighting in the Gaza Strip and after a junior minister at the Foreign Ministry had made a statement to the house saying the government favored a peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict as it would benefit Jews and Palestinians in Hungary and Israelis of Hungarian descent. The Jobbik member, one of 44 in the 386-seat parliament, said: 'I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary.' In his remarks, a video of which Jobbik posted on its party Web site, he went on: '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, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.' The deputy speaker chairing the debate was a Jobbik member and did not intervene. Socialist opposition lawmaker Pal Steiner, himself Jewish, said on Tuesday: 'There was little reaction beyond sheer shock ... We couldn't really digest what we'd heard, we're so used to remarks like this from Jobbik.' Slomo Koves, chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, recalled references by Jobbik members to historic Christian bigotry against Jews and wrote: 'Jobbik has moved from representing medieval superstition to openly Nazi ideologies.' [...]"