By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Hungary
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, October 24, condemned the “desecration of an Israeli flag” and attacks against fellow Jewish citizens by supporters of a far-right party amid mounting concern about anti-Semitic incidents in the country.
On Tuesday, October 23, an Israeli flag was burned in front of Budapest’s main synagogue, reportedly by followers of the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik).
The incident took place during a perceived antisemitic rally at the Dohány Street Synagogue, Europe’s largest synagogue, on the day that Hungary commemorated the 56th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution against Soviet domination and Communist rule.
Several Jewish people were also attacked by far right extremists, the Ministry said in a statement to BosNewsLife, without elaborating.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary declares – in response to the verbal and physical insult committed by extremists with anti-Semitic intentions in Budapest on October 23 – that it is unacceptable to disparage and insult our fellow citizens of Jewish identity.”
Additionally, “It is equally unacceptable to defile the national flag of the State of Israel,” the Ministry added.
The statement came only after Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, Ilan Mor, urged Hungary on Tuesday, October 23, to condemn the antisemitic incidents.
“Hungarian democratic forces should refuse this unacceptable anti-Israeli act and criticism,” he told Hungary’s opposition-leaning ATV television network.
Jobbik leader Gábor Vona as part of the Revolution’s commemoration reportedly criticized any cooperation between Hungary and Israel, saying the “agreement between Hungary and Israel should be canceled.”
While not mentioning Jobbik by name, Hungary’s Foreign Ministry made clear the government distanced itself from anti-Israeli rhetoric uttered during the anniversary of Hungary’s fight for freedom and independence.
“It is particularly disheartening for us that the provocations, which undermine the unity of our nation and damage our international reputation, took place on the 56th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution,” it said.
“The revolution demonstrated our national unity with unprecedented brightness and Hungary won the recognition of the entire free world,” the Ministry added. Therefore, “The Government of Hungary is committed to fighting all forms of anti-Semitism and racism, and stands firm, employing all means necessary, against the dangerous manifestations of extremism.”
Media was also a target, Tuesday, October 23, when a cameraman of Hungarian news website Index.hu reportedly broke his nose while covering an opposition rally in Budapest, after being punched in the face by a far-right activist. The latest violence has added to international pressure on Hungary’s center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to distance itself more openly from Jobbik, an influential parliamentary party, after previous anti-Jewish incidents.
A Jobbik legislator was able to tell Parliament in April that Jews killed a Christian girl 130-years ago in the town of Tiszaeszlar. In what was seen as one of Parliament’s most Anti-Semitic remarks in decades, Zsolt Baráth said the 15 Jewish suspects were only acquitted after outside pressure.
Additionally, a leading Jobbik figure was been forced to resign this summer after being exposed as Jewish: Csanád Szegedi’s grandmother survived death camp Auschwitz and his grandfather served in forced labour camps.
Anti-Semitic attacks have spread to the streets this year with the recent verbal assault of a 90-year-old respected rabbi, József Schweitzer, when a stranger came up to him in the street and said “I hate all Jews!”
In addition, there is concern about the vandalism of Holocaust memorials, Jewish graveyards, and the placing of statues for controversial head of state Miklós Horthy who allied this nation with Nazi-Germany.
Hungary’s current government also faces criticism over its decision to include Anti-Semitic writers like Albert Wass and József Nyirő, a supporter of Hungary’s pro-Nazi Arrow Cross regime, into the curriculum for schools.
The speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, withdrew an invitation to Hungarian parliament chairman László Kövér to a ceremony this year in Israel commemorating Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War Two.
Others go even further with Ákos Kertész, an 80-year-old prize-winning Jewish Hungarian writer, applying for political asylum in Canada.
Earlier, well-known Hungarian-born pianist András Schiff said he would no longer perform in his native country because of the increasingly hostile environment towards Jews and other minorities such as gypsies, who prefer to be known as Roma.
Antisemitism remains a sensitive in the country, as 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust of World War Two.
In July, authorities detained however 97-year-old László Csatáry, who topped the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center’s “most wanted” list for allegedly deporting nearly 16,000 Hungarian Jews to death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, and other war crimes.
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