Amid what the World Jewish Congress called an “alarming rise of neo-Nazi political parties and anti-Semitic incidents” in Hungary, participants have gathered in Budapest for the group’s plenary assembly.
Highlighting these concerns, several hundred far-right demonstrators staged an “anti-Zionist” and anti-communist protest in downtown Budapest Saturday, despite the Hungarian government’s attempt to ban the rally.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is set to address more than 600 delegates and observers at the opening session of the WJC assembly Sunday night, had ordered a ban on the rally, organized by leaders of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, Hungary’s third-largest political group, but a Budapest court overturned this decision and allowed it to go ahead.
The protest lasted about two hours and ended without incident. Jobbik leaders blasted Israel for alleged trying to “buy” Hungary. “The Israeli conquerors, these investors, should look for another country in the world for themselves because Hungary is not for sale,” Jobbik chairman Gabor Vona told the crowd.
Another Jobbik leader, Marton Gyongyos, claimed that Hungary was “subjugated to Zionism” and a “target of colonization.”
These claims are a stock part of Jobbik’s anti-Zionist and often anti-Semitic rhetoric, stemming from remarks about Israeli investment in Hungary made in 2007 by Israel’s president Shimon Peres.
“We find it a worrying sign that these people express their anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli ideology in such a public way,” WJC spokesman Michael Thaidigsmann said, according to Reuters.
Security was very tight during the demonstration, which was held near the Hungarian Parliament building. There was also a heavy police presence in Budapest’s downtown Seventh District Jewish quarter, where streets were blocked around the city’s main synagogue.
Usually held in Jerusalem every four years, the Assembly, which ends Tuesday, is being held in Budapest to show support for Hungarian Jews. As many as 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, the vast majority of them in Budapest, where there are more than a dozen active synagogues, as well as Jewish schools, kosher restaurants, a JCC and other Jewish initiatives and institutions. The Seventh District itself is the scene of lively café, bistro and cultural activity.