A delegation of leading parliamentarians from Israel and Europe traveled to Budapest over the weekend, where they voiced their concern at the growing level of anti-Semitism in the country to senior Hungarian ministers and officials.
The main impetus for the visit was remarks made by Marton Gyöngyösi, a Hungarian MP from the far-right Jobbik Party, who last month called for the creation of a “registry” of Jewish MPs and government officials in Hungary. His remarks caused global outrage and were roundly condemned by senior members of the Hungarian government.
The visit was also specifically timed to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday, in order to provide greater emphasis for the urgent need to combat the surging anti-Semitism across Europe.
The 11-member delegation included Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein, British MP John Mann and a group of five Israeli current and former politicians headed by Yossi Peled, a Holocaust survivor, former minister and current chairman of the advisory board of the Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC).
Nirenstein, who recently announced her decision to leave the
Italian Parliament to make Aliyah, said “we will never allow antisemitism and
racial hatred to spread again its tentacles” and “will fight with all of our
might, with our minds, with our bodies, we will oppose with the strength of
culture and democracy the darkness of evil and of hate.” She adds, “and
we will win.”
During their visit, the Parliamentarians met with senior
Ministers from the ruling Fidesz party and members of the Opposition, including
Dr. Tibor Navracsics (Minister of Public Administration & Justice and Deputy
Prime Minister), Zoltan Balog (Minister of Human Resources - Culture, Education,
Welfare, Integration), Mihály Balla (Chairman of the Committee on Foreign
Affairs) and Lazlo Kovacs (Deputy Chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party and
former Minister of Foreign Affairs).
John Mann, MP, who heads the
Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, said “it is crucial
for us as elected members of our various parliaments to work together to combat
this scourge of racism and anti-Semitism”, adding that the kind of language
being used by the Jobbik party, “will not be accepted." Gyöngyösi has previously
openly questioned the Holocaust and said Israel was founded by "terrorists" and
today runs a "Nazi system.” In the past year, leading Jewish figures have also
been assaulted on the streets of Budapest, an Israeli flag was burnt by members
of the Jobbik party in front of the main Budapest Synagogue, while Jewish graves
have also been desecrated.
These actions underline that the surge of
antisemitism in Hungary is today being directed not only against the local
Jewish population, but also in the public vilification and delegitimization of
the State of Israel.
Asked during the press conference in the Hungarian
Parliament about the sizeable delegation from Israel, Einat Wilf, who is Chair
of Knesset’s Education, Culture & Sports Committee, said: “We feel a
responsibility not just for Jews in Israel but for Jews worldwide.”
Peled, a survivor of the Holocaust himself, noted that “with anti-Semitism once
again on the rise in Europe, this time also masking itself in the demonization
of Israel, it is more important than ever for Parliamentarians to show that they
stand united in the global fight against hatred, intolerance and
In large part, this was a key message that the
Parliamentarians from Europe and Israel sought to bring to their Hungarian
colleagues. This was not just an opportunity to raise their concerns about the
dangers of anti-Semtism, but to acknowledge the steps taken by the Government and
many in the Opposition, to condemn and root out this evil scourge.
departing on the trip, the Parliamentarians said “we believe it is important to
show our solidarity with our Hungarian colleagues in the Parliament and in the
Government to fight racism and antisemitism, while reinforcing our common values
of tolerance, human dignity and respect for all faiths and
Following their meetings, the Parliamentarians remarked they
were confident in the Hungarian government’s “unequivocal condemnation of all
manifestations of antisemitism and absolute steadfastness in combating it”, but
noting that a lot of work remains to be done and that they look forward to
working together to help eradicate this hatred.
Arsen Ostrovsky is an
international human rights lawyer and freelance journalist.