The Hungarian outlet Figyelo has sparked outrage in a number of Jewish organisations after it published a cover portraying the head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities amid falling banknotes.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has stood up for the Hungarian magazine Figyelo in a letter to the president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder, Israeli Channel 10 TV News reports. He accused the organisation of attacking the freedom of the press.
By calling it offensive, the head of the Hungarian government reacted to Lauder’s letter, written after the outlet published a collage with head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities Andras Heisler showered with Hungarian banknotes. Lauder slammed the cover as “one of the oldest and vilest caricatures of the Jewish people”. According to the activist, “it places not just the magazine, but all of Hungary in a very bad light. The timing of this is especially critical because people in the United States, and elsewhere, are paying greater attention to the upsurge in anti-Semitism throughout Europe and, especially, in Hungary”.
Expressing his “respect the boundaries of a free press”, the head of the international Jewish organisation called on Orban to voice “strong, public condemnation of this very clear attack on all Jewish people”. He said it would distance Orban “from this most disgusting hatred, worthy of the Nazi era” and place the Hungarian authorities and “all of Hungary in a better light”.
In his written response, Orban stated that his government pursues a policy of zero tolerance toward anti-Semitism and ensured Lauder he could count on this in the future, but refused to fulfill his request “to limit the freedom of speech and freedom of press”. Additionally, he accused his opponent of continuously demonstrating the “clear left-wing and liberal bias in Hungarian public affairs”. According to Orban, Lauder reacted only when “a left-wing public figure of Jewish descent was at the centre of a debate” and ignored similar situations with citizens who supported the government or expressed right-wing views.
Orban was subject to criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism during his campaign for advertising his anti-immigration stance with billboards of Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros.
At the same time, Orban’s government earlier insisted that mass migration is driving anti-Semitism throughout Europe, putting the continent’s Jewish community under threat. The Cabinet’s spokesperson claimed that central Europe is safest for Jews, as many states in other parts of the continent have taken in millions of migrants in recent years.
Orban’s Fidesz Party and its coalition partner, Budapest has maintained an anti-immigration stance, defying the EU by refusing to settle refugees in Hungary. EU member states that did accept scores of migrants are looking to redistribute some of them to other parts of the EU, via the bloc’s proposed distribution quotas.
However, Hungary and other nations that didn’t accept migrants remain staunchly opposed to migration and have publicly criticised Brussels’ efforts to force them to take in migrants, warning they pose a security risk and threaten to erode European culture and values.