By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– The United States on Tuesday, November 27, condemned calls by an influential Hungarian far-right parliamentarian to draw up lists of Jews who pose a “national security risk”, a proposal resembling the Nazi-era.
Marton Gyöngyösi, a leader of Hungary’s third-strongest political party ‘Movement for a Better Hungary’ (Jobbik) said the list was necessary because of heightened tensions following the brief conflict in Gaza and should include members of parliament.
“I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel, and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary,” he told parliament on Monday, November 26.
“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,” he added.
Gyöngyösi, 35, said the country’s foreign ministry had “rushed to make an oath of allegiance to Israel.”
In a statement to BosNewsLife, the U.S. embassy in Budapest said, “The United States utterly rejects and condemns in the strongest terms the outrageous anti-Semitic remarks made on the floor of Parliament by a Jobbik parliamentarian on November 26.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, which has been accused by critics of flirting with the far-right, also condemned Gyöngyösi’s statements.
The government takes “the strictest possible action against every form of racism and anti-Semitic behavior” and did “everything in order to ensure that malicious voices incompatible with European norms are driven back”, it said in published remarks.
“The government also makes it clear that every citizen will be protected from such insults.”
The U.S. embassy said it recognizes and support the government’s “immediate rejection” of the anti-Semitic statements.
“This type of atrocious, deeply offensive language must be met with immediate and harsh condemnation by all who hear it in any democracy, and particularly by the highest-ranking officials of the Hungarian government,” the embassy said.
However it warned that, “The recurrence of anti-Semitic and other racist statements in the Hungarian parliament demonstrates the need to further empower voices of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Hungary.”
This wasn’t an isolated incident. A Jobbik legislator was able to tell Parliament in April that Jews killed a Christian girl 130-years ago in the town of Tiszaeszlar. Zsolt Baráth said the 15 Jewish suspects were only acquitted after outside pressure.
Gyöngyösi’s remarks came on the heels of those uttered by Jobbik president Gábor Vona, who last week told demonstrators in front of Israel’s embassy in Budapest that “government members and parliamentarians should be screened” to see if they possess dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship.
In July, Gyöngyösi condemned investigators searching for Nazi war criminals in Hungary, and in January he was accused by the opposition Socialist party of engaging in Holocaust denial.
Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in World War Two when Hungary was a close ally of Nazi-Germany. One in three Jews who perished in Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau were believed to have been of Hungarian origin.
“I am a Holocaust survivor,” said Gusztáv Zoltai, executive director of the Hungarian Jewish Congregations’ Association. “For people like me this generates raw fear, even though it is clear that this only serves political ends. This is the shame of Europe, the shame of the world.”
Gyöngyösi tried to play down his comments, saying he had been wrongly understood as he was referring to citizens with dual Israeli-Hungarian citizenship.
“I apologize to my Jewish compatriots for my declarations that could be misunderstood,” he stressed in a statement.
However Parliament Chairman László Kövér, who is from the ruling Fidesz party, said he would call for sanctions against such behavior.
Jobbik, known for its rhetoric against Jews and the country’s up to 800,000 Gypsies, or Roma, has also taken its radical views to the streets. It has been linked to paramilitary groups, including the Magyar Gárda or Hungarian Guard.
Wearing uniforms and waving Arpad stripes used by Hungary’s pro-Nazi regime, Magyar Gárda has been marching through Roma villages and settlements.
The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), a major advocacy group, has said that groups such as Jobbik’s Magyar Gárda contributed to an atmosphere of hatred in Hungary where at least 9 Roma have been killed in racist attacks in recent years.
Founded in 2003, Jobbik’s support could prove crucial for the return of Orbán’s Fidesz party as it has lost one million votes, according to several opinion polls and analysts.
The fragmented left-wing opposition is trying to oust Orbán in 2014, saying he has become increasingly autocratic with laws threatening the independence of previously independent institutions, ranging from the Central Bank, to media and churches.