Hungarian government poster portraying financier George Soros and saying "Don't let George Soros have the last laugh" is seen at an underground stop in Budapest, Hungary July 11, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/LASZLO BALOGH)
BUDAPEST - US financier George Soros spoke out about a Hungarian government campaign against him for the first time on Monday, saying in a statement that the attacks contained "lies and distortions" and were designed to create a false external enemy.
Soros, a Hungarian by birth whose views have been squarely at odds with the ruling Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said Budapest was "stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, and employing antisemitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930's."
He rejected the seven statements in a "national consultation" conducted by Orban's government, which claim he wants to settle a million migrants a year in Europe, force them to resettle among EU countries and pay them each thousands of euros.
In July, a Budapest billboard campaign
initiated against migration and foreign influence, using the image of Soros alongside the words “Let’s not leave Soros the last laugh,” was accused of being a proxy for antisemitism.
Hungarian Jews urged Orban to halt the campaign. "Please make sure this bad dream ends as soon as possible," Andras Heisler, chairman of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Federations (Mazsihisz), said in an emailed statement.
Orban's spokesman said the campaign had nothing to do with antisemitism but rather sought only to counter what he called Soros's attempts to unduly change immigration policies in Hungary.
In another incident of alleged antisemitism, Orban included Miklós Horthy, a Hitler ally, among those he called “exceptional statesmen”
in Hungary for leading the country following the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. Horthy signed anti-Jewish laws in 1938 and 1939, as well as in 1920.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an official visit to Hungary in July, despite calls from Hungarian Jews to cancel as protest of those remarks by Orban.JTA contributed to this report.