Israeli Ambassador to Hungary praises Viktor Orban's government

Ambassador Hadas-Handelsman called the relationship between the Orban government and Hungary's Jewish community strong.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel's ambassador to Hungary, Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, praised Hungary's Fidesz government while condemning antisemitic incidents, in an interview with German news company DW.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Europe’s most prominent nationalist and anti-immigrant leaders who has often faced accusations that he is too soft on far-right antisemitism, leads Hungary's Fidesz party government.
"The Orban government has made its position clear on many occasions, and Orban has expressed his solidarity with the Jewish people. This also speaks for itself,"  Hadas-Handelsman told DW, after being asked about criticism levied against the government for state awards bestowed against people charged with antisemitism.
Hadas-Handelsman called the relationship between the Orban government and Hungary's Jewish community strong saying that the "government is investing a lot of money in renovating and refurbishing Jewish institutions, like cemeteries and synagogues. It is even doing so in places where Jewish life ceased to exist in the summer of 1944 because Jews from these communities were murdered in Auschwitz."
When asked if he feels safer being identified as Jewish in Budapest or Berlin, Hadas-Handelman said that, as an ambassador, he is always safe, but that Hungary's record for the safety of Jews is strong in  comparison to many parts of Europe.
"The latest figures show Hungary last year recorded the fewest antisemitic incidents in Europe by far. Of course, these figures do not fully reflect reality. But they do convey the dimensions. For someone who can be identified as Jewish through their appearance, Hungary is thus a country where such a person can be least afraid of walking in the streets," Hadas-Handelsman told DW.
During the decade that Orban has been in power, critics have alleged that he has pursued increasingly authoritarian, xenophobic and nationalist policies — among them a public campaign targeting George Soros, the Hungary-born Jewish billionaire and Holocaust survivor who funds left-leaning causes in his native country and features in many international antisemitic conspiracy theories.
But not all of Hungary’s Jewish groups share that criticism. EMIH, a Chabad-affiliated federation of Jewish communities, has defended the government’s anti-immigration policy and dismissed allegations that its anti-Soros campaign is antisemitic.
When asked about accusations that Orban has been spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories, in particular in relation to Soros, and that this contributed to the Halle attacker's attack on a synagogue in Germany, Hadas-Handelsman told DW that, "I think George Soros is famous or infamous enough regardless of the Hungarian government."
He went on to say that the problem is that thought antisemitism may start as hatred of Jews, it may develop into something different. The problem is that the "anti" in antisemitism cannot be limited to just antisemitism. It may start with hatred towards Jews. But when there are no Jews, other groups may get targeted — be that Muslims, homosexuals, people with a different skin tone. That is what the Halle attacker did. He could not find any Jews, so he found other people that seemed foreign to him."
Cnaan Liphshiz contributed to this report.