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“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 told parliament.
Hungary’s centre-right government condemned the remarks, for which Gyongyosi later apologised, and the U.S. Embassy in Budapest called them “outrageous”.
Although anti-Semitism has not yet led to serious physical confrontations, hate crimes have included desecration of Jewish cemeteries and a verbal attack in Budapest on 90-year-old former Chief Rabbi Joseph Schweitzer.
“I don’t think all people who vote for Jobbik are anti-Semites,” said Slomo Koves, the chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation.
“But if Jobbik brings it into the public discourse, even people who were not anti-Semites before, they feel like it’s a way to show your frustration… The problem is that this has an effect on the state of mind of all Hungarians.”
Andras Heisler, a leader of Mazsihisz, the Association of Jewish Communes in Hungary, said Jobbik was a danger to Hungary.
“I think this is real racism and inciting hatred. A bad economic situation, recession, usually flames tempers and this is the case now as well.”
Laden with debt and hit hard by the wider debt crisis in Europe, the country is struggling to end recession and sort out its finances, and a series of austerity measures have increased tensions on the street.
Anti-Semitism has made some Jews more determined to stand up for their heritage, said Zoltan Jakal, a 36-year-old financial analyst and part-time cantor.
“I have several friends who have strengthened their Jewish identity because of a few incidents with anti-Semites,” Jakal said. “When there’s peace people tend to forget they are Jews. If nobody else reminds them of this, anti-Semites will.”
Hungary’s political elite showed a rare gesture of unity at a big rally on Dec. 2, where ruling and opposition party leaders expressed their disdain for Jobbik’s politics.
So far, polls suggest Jobbik has retained its voter base. Among young voters its support is nearly 20 percent, making it the strongest party in the age group below 30, according to a Republikon Institute poll earlier this year.
But unlike its hugely successful anti-Roma rhetoric, anti-Semitism may end up working against Jobbik on the long run, Republikon Institute Director Csaba Toth told Reuters, because it will put off potential coalition partners.
“Anti-Semitism gets far fewer votes,” he said.