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Hungary pledges 1.5 million euros to fight anti-Semitism

"Let's not leave Soros the last laugh," says a poster bearing the image of US billionaire George Soros, in this picture taken in Szekesfehervar, Hungary on July 6, 2017
ATTILA KISBENEDEK (AFP)

The Hungarian government said Thursday it will spend 1,5 million euros ($1.7 million) every year on various projects to combat anti-Semitism.

Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has been accused of fostering anti-Semitic sentiment through a virulent campaign against Hungarian-born liberal US billionaire George Soros, who is Jewish.

Orban vehemently denies any anti-Semitism and has pointed to his close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who has also criticized Soros -- as proof of his good relations with the Jewish community.

Netanyahu has offered the controversial leader rare support, despite accusations of anti-Semitism, while the US and EU seek to isolate the right-wing anti-immigration champion.

The 1,5 million euros will go towards supporting a Hungarian Jewish organisation, the Action and Protection League of Europe (APLE), according to government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs.

It will help the organisation fund various projects across Europe, including education programs and a hotline to report anti-Semitic incidents.

APLE will also open an office in Brussels "to make its voice heard" at European institutions, Kovacs said.

Orban says Soros' Jewish identity does not preclude him from criticism and accuses him of plotting to increase migration to Europe -- a charge which Soros denies.

Some of the huge billboards used by the government in its 2017 poster campaign against Soros were daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Kobi GIdeon (GPO)

Hungary's largest Jewish organisation Maszihisz branded that campaign "toxic" and called for it to be scrapped.

In a blog post on Thursday, Kovacs stressed the government's "zero tolerance" approach to anti-Semitism and pointed to several measures it had taken to foster Jewish life, including devoting resources to the reconstruction of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.

According to a Europe-wide poll of anti-Semitic attitudes commissioned by broadcaster CNN and published earlier this week, 42 percent of Hungarians think Jews have too much influence in finance and business across the world and 19 percent admit to having an unfavorable opinion of Jews.

However, according to the World Jewish Congress, Hungary's Jewish community -- Central Europe's largest -- faces only "occasional anti-Semitic incidents" and has "every facility" to express its heritage and religious life.

Concerns have also been raised about the way the government has dealt with Hungary's history during the Holocaust. Acclaimed Hungarian-born Holocaust historian Randolph L. Braham -- who died last week -- returned a state honor in 2014, accusing Orban's government of minimizing Hungary's role in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to Nazi death camps.

In July, Orban visited Israel for the first time where he was warmly welcomed by Netanyahu.

During a joint press conference in Jerusalem, Orban stressed that Hungary has "zero tolerance for anti-Semitism", which in modern times could come in the form of anti-Israel behavior.

"I can assure the prime minister that Hungary has a policy of zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism," Orban said during remarks alongside Netanyahu ahead of their talks.

Speaking in Hungarian, Orban said he was proud Jews in Hungary could freely identify themselves comfortably and he vowed to cooperate with Israel on the war on anti-Semitism, purportedly declining in Eastern Europe while rising in Western Europe.

(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Speaking first, the Israeli premier set the agenda, saying that “the past is always before us because anti-Semitism continues.”

Hungary in December abstained when the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reject the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

It also joined the Czech Republic and Romania in blocking a European Union statement criticising Washington's decision to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

"You have stood up for Israel time and time again in international forums," Netanyahu said. "It is deeply appreciated, and it is important."

He also welcomed “tremendous opportunities for cooperation” between their nations and commended the Hungarian leader in funding projects supporting Jewish establishments.

Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Budapest since the fall of communism in 1989.

During his stay in Israel, Orban also met with President Reuven Rivlin before heading to visit Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Critics have panned Netanyahu’s overtures to Orban, who has often expressed admiration for Hungary’s wartime fascist leader, Miklos Horthy, who collaborated with Adolf Hitler during World War II and passed various anti-Semitic laws and policies against Hungarian Jews, over half a million of whom were eventually deported to Nazi death camps.

Both Netanyahu and Rivlin expressed deep concern over CNN's poll this week. Rivlin warned about growing international neo-fascist and anti-Semitic tendencies while Netanyahu said the denial of Israel's right to exist is the "ultimate" form of anti-Semitism, describing it as part of the rise of a “new anti-Semitism” stemming from the far-left and radical Islam.

Comments

(1)

Soros has move on.... he is not 30. Then there is son..... another billionaire who will mess up countries economy. They play god with people and the money. Disappear , you lost the mid-term election despite the billions.....

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