Hungary under fire as World Jewish Congress opens in Budapest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 3:48am


The World Jewish Congress (WJC) opened in Budapest with hundreds of representatives of worldwide Jewish communities attending, even as Hungary came under fire for rising anti-Semitism.

In a speech to some 500 delegates, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of turning a blind eye to recent racist incidents, insisted that anti-Semitism was "unacceptable and intolerable".

"Hungary has a moral duty to have zero tolerance of anti-Semitism," he said.

"There is no freedom without human dignity. We won't tolerate anyone offending the dignity of any ethnic or religious community," he said, noting that the new constitution introduced last year provided protection and dignity for all minorities in Hungary.

The WJC reacted critically, however, to Orban's comments, expressing regret that he did not address recent incidents.

"Nor did he provide sufficient reassurance that a clear line has been drawn between the government and the far-right fringe," it said following Orban's speech.

"Actions speak louder than words, no matter how well intended they are," it said.

Earlier, when introducing Orban to the podium, WJC president Ronald Lauder said: "Hungarian Jews need you [Orban] to take a firm and decisive lead".

Anti-Semitism in Hungary has been on the rise in recent years, and the WJC meeting took place amid tight security.

Recent anti-Semitic incidents include Hungary's chief rabbi being verbally abused on a Budapest street, anti-Semitic chants at a soccer match against Israel and pig's trotters being placed on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Budapest Jews in the second world war.

On Saturday, hundreds of Hungarians also gathered in downtown Budapest for an anti-Zionist protest organised by the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party.