BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — The World Jewish Congress welcomed comments by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban condemning anti-Semitism but said he did not go far enough.
Orban, addressing the opening dinner Sunday of the World Jewish Congress plenary assembly in Budapest, called anti-Semitism “unacceptable and intolerable,” and said it was a “moral obligation” to “declare a zero tolerance policy” against it.
A day earlier in the Hungarian capital’s downtown, several hundred far-right demonstrators staged an “anti-Zionist” and anti-communist rally, highlighting what the WJC called an “alarming rise of neo-Nazi political parties and anti-Semitic incidents” in Hungary. The rally organized by the anti-Semitic and ultranationalist Jobbik party, the third largest in Hungary, lasted approximately two hours and ended without incident.
Orban had ordered a ban on the rally but a Budapest court overturned the decision and allowed it to proceed.
Security was tight during the demonstration, which was held near the Hungarian Parliament building. There was also a heavy police presence in Budapest’s downtown Jewish quarter, where streets were blocked around the city’s main synagogue.
The WJC meeting brought more than 500 delegates and observers to Budapest from some 100 countries. The three-day assembly, a quadrennial event usually held in Jerusalem, is being held in Budapest to show support for Hungarian Jews following a series of anti-Semitic incidents and particularly the rise of Jobbik.
A WJC spokesman welcomed Orban’s statements, but in a statement criticized the Hungarian leader for failing to confront what he said was the “true nature of the problem: the anti-Semites in general and by the extreme-right Jobbik party in particular.”
“We regret that Mr. Orban did not address any recent anti-Semitic or racist incidents in the country, nor did he provide sufficient reassurance that a clear line has been drawn between his government and the far-right fringe.”
The WJC called on Orban, whose rightist government holds a firm grip on power with a two-thirds majority in Parliament, to back up his words with deeds.
In his speech to the WJC gathering, WJC President Ronald Lauder decried “growing ignorance, growing intolerance, growing hatred.” Again, he said, “we see the outrage of anti-Semitism. This is by no means only in Hungary, but also in other places in Europe — in Greece, in Ukraine and elsewhere.”
As many as 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, the vast majority in Budapest.