Hungarian magazine blasts Israeli envoy for labeling cover a ‘disgrace’

A photo illustration of a Jewish leader among falling banknotes was slammed as antisemitic by Jews in Hungary, Israel and the U.S.

By
December 2, 2018 19:13
2 minute read.
The magazine portraying Andras Heisler in what has been seen as an antisemitic manner

The magazine portraying Andras Heisler in what has been seen as an antisemitic manner. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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A Hungarian business magazine accused of publishing an antisemitic cover last week pushed back against the allegations, saying in a Facebook post that Israel’s ambassador to Hungary overstepped his bounds in supporting the claim.

The cover of the magazine, Figyelo, portrayed Andras Heisler – head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) – amid falling Hungarian banknotes.

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Heisler and Mazsihisz are accused in the magazine of irregularities regarding a state-funded synagogue restoration project in Budapest.

The organization said the depiction of its leader on the cover of the pro-government magazine represents “incitement” against a religious community leader unprecedented since the country moved from communism to democracy in 1990.

The cover was printed last week just one day after the Hungarian government said it would earmark 1.5 million euros for a Hungarian Jewish group to counter antisemitism in Europe.

Agence France-Presse reported that “up until this week Figyelo magazine was owned by prominent pro-government historian Maria Schmidt, who has been involved in a row with Mazsihisz for its refusal to back a new Holocaust museum proposed by the government and supported by another, smaller Jewish organization.”

Following the publication of the cover, Israel’s embassy in Budapest posted a statement saying that Ambassador Yossi Amrani called Heisler to “express his personal dismay and shock” at the cover. He termed the cover “disgraceful.”

Figyelo, in an English post on its Facebook page on Saturday, said the editorial staff was “surprised” to read the ambassador’s comments.

“We feel that this is an unwarranted intervention in the editing practices of a Hungarian weekly,” the post read, adding, “this form of diplomatic pressure calls into question the integrity of the Hungarian press and constitutes a violation of the freedom of the press and of Hungarian sovereignty.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has forged close ties with Hungary and its right-wing leader Viktor Orbán, who has been accused himself of fanning the flames of antisemitism in Hungary by saluting World War II Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy and by his continuous attacks on Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros.


Regardless of the close bilateral ties – Hungary has emerged as one of Israel’s strongest supporters inside the European Union – Netanyahu’s foreign policy adviser Reuven Azar called Hungary’s ambassador to Israel over the weekend to condemn the cover.

According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, Azar asked the Hungarian government to denounce any “antisemitic nuance” in the internal Hungarian domestic debate.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog also issued a statement, saying that his organization was “appalled by the antisemitic insinuations” made against Heisler.

“This unacceptable stereotypic smear must be rejected and fought by all persons of good will,” he said.

And the American Jewish Committee issued a statement saying, “Jews with money is a familiar, disgraceful antisemitic trope.”

According to the statement, “This attack on Hungary’s Jewish community is shameful, especially since Prime Minister Orbán has declared a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on antisemitism.”

Just last week Netanyahu, in a CNN interview, praised Orbán for setting up an institute to combat antisemitism.

Netanyahu was interviewed following a CNN poll commissioned by the network showing the prevalence of antisemitic attitudes in Europe.

That poll found that in Hungary, 42% of the population believes Jews have too much influence globally in business and financial matters, and that nearly one in every five Hungarians holds an unfavorable attitude toward Jews.

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