The shadow of anti-semitism falls on Europe once more as Hungary's far-fight Jobbik party protests against World Jewish Congress meeting in Budapest - Europe - World - The Independent

The shadow of anti-semitism falls on Europe once more as Hungary's far-fight Jobbik party protests against World Jewish Congress meeting in Budapest

Jewish leaders gather in Budapest to highlight rising extremism and the failure of Hungary's PM to tackle it

The Hungarian government struggled to counter allegations of institutionalised anti-Semitism on Sunday after the country's far-right Jobbik party staged a mass rally in the capital Budapest in protest against a meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in the city.

The WJC usually holds its assembly in Jerusalem. But it chose Budapest for its meeting, which began yesterday, to highlight what it claims is growing anti-Semitism and a rise in support for the far right in Europe, where the economic crisis is fuelling distrust in mainstream political parties.

Hungary has one of the largest Jewish populations in the European Union, but there is growing concern that the government is not doing enough to combat anti-Semitic rhetoric. Ronald S Lauder, the WJC president, complained last month that Hungary was on a "dangerous political path" and that its controversial right-wing nationalist Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, had "lost his political compass" and often told the far right "what they want to hear".

Last night Mr Orban addressed the issue of growing anti-Semitism in a speech at the opening of the assembly, which runs until Wednesday. He defended the notion of strong national identity as beneficial for mutual co-existence, but said it is a "moral obligation to declare a policy of zero tolerance against anti-Semitism".

In a gesture which underlined the problems in Hungary, the far-right and openly racist Jobbik party held a mass rally in Budapest on Saturday, less than 24 hours before the WJC was to open its assembly, claiming that the meeting was a "Jewish attempt to buy up Hungary". The Hungarian Prime Minister had previously tried to ban the rally by the Jobbik party, but was overruled by the courts.

Jobbik is Hungary's third largest party and won 17 per cent of the vote in the last elections. Several hundred of its supporters, some wearing the black uniform of the party's banned Hungarian Guard paramilitary wing, gathered in central Budapest, despite attempts by the government to prevent the rally going ahead.

Marton Gyongyosi, an outspoken Jobbik MP, told the rally that Hungary had become "subjugated to Zionism." Last year, Mr Gyongyosi sparked outrage by demanding that all government officials of Jewish origin be officially listed as they were a potential "national security risk."

Michael Thaidigsmann, a WJC spokesman, said the rally showed that people could publicly flaunt their anti-Semitic views with impunity.

"We find it a worrying sign that these people express their anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli ideology in such a public way," he said.

Mr Orban's ruling conservative Fidesz party and its Christian Democratic People's Party coalition partners also face accusations of anti-Semitism. Fidesz members have openly praised the former fascist Hungarian leader, Miklos Horthy, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.

Last month international criticism was heaped on the Hungarian government after it awarded its top journalism prize to a television presenter notorious for spreading Jewish conspiracy theories and describing the country's Roma minority as "human monkeys". Ferenc Szaniszlo, a presenter for the pro-government Echo TV channel, was eventually forced to hand back his award.

Concern has also been voiced over the Fidesz government's apparent "Kulturkampf" which has seen anti-Semitic actors and directors installed in one of Budapest's leading theatres.

Peter Feldmajer, the president of Hungary's Jewish Community, told Germany's Spiegel online web site last week: "For most members of our community the increasingly intense right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic attacks are creating very uncomfortable feelings."

More than half a million Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust. The country was once a thriving centre of Jewish life in Europe, and still has one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe, with between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews helping make up Hungary's population of 10 million.

It is not only Hungary which is seeing a surge in support for the far right. The WJC said in a statement that it was concerned about the "alarming rise of neo-Nazi political parties and anti-Semitic incidents in several European countries."

The organisation is expected to express concern about the rise of the far right in Greece, where the once marginal Golden Dawn party now has 18 seats in parliament. Its supporters openly use neo-Nazi symbols and have been accused of attacking migrants, spurred on by the nationalist rhetoric of the party. Europe is also seeing a rise in popularity of nationalist parties, some of which campaign against immigration. Elections in Bulgaria on 12 May are expected to boost the showing of the far right.

Israeli researchers warned last month that there had been an increase in attacks against Jewish communities across Europe, reporting a 30 per cent jump in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism.

The study by Tel Aviv University attributed the rise in part to the economic crisis, with extremist parties taking advantage of people's frustrations about financial hardships.

"Neo-Nazis have been once again legalised in Europe – they are openly sitting in parliaments," the president of the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor said when the report was released. He urged the European Union to do more to punish member states where anti-Semitic propaganda went unchallenged.

Right-wing movement: The rise of Jobbik

The rise of the right-wing nationalist party Jobbik, also known by its slogan "The Movement For A Better Hungary", coincided with public discontent over the centre-left coalition's handling of the floundering economy from 2002 to 2010.

Having registered as a political party in 2003, Jobbik quickly became known for vilifying Jews and the country's 700,000-strong Roma population, though it has denied that it is racist.

The group gained notoriety after it founded the Hungarian Guard, an unarmed vigilante group reminiscent of World War Two-era far-right groups. It became Hungary's third-largest political party after the 2010 elections.

Jobbik grabbed international headlines late last year when one of its leaders, Marton Gyongyosi, above, urged the government to draw up lists of Jews who pose a "national security risk", prompting outcry from Hungarian Jews and Holocaust survivors.

Jobbik presents a problem for Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party. Though Fidesz calls itself a conservative and patriotic party, and has moved to the authoritarian right (most recently cementing its power over public institutions such as the judiciary by replacing a more liberal constitution with one that critics say strengthens the power of the state), it insists that it is not anti-Semitic.

Jobbik could hold the balance of power in the 2014 elections between Fidesz and the fragmented left-wing opposition.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week