BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) – World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder renewed criticism of Hungary’s prime minister for failing to crack down on the ultranationalist Jobbik party.
“Unfortunately,” Lauder told the WJC plenary assembly Monday, “we did not hear words about Jobbik and what they’re doing” in Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s speech to the gathering’s opening session on Sunday night. “Unfortunately it’s more and more important for governments to placate a group of voters than to say the truth.”
His comments expanded a WJC statement issued Sunday that had criticized Orban and expressed “regret” that he “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.”
Lauder, who was re-elected WJC president on Monday, told the assembly that the world “does nothing” in the face of anti-Semitism and delegitimization of Israel. He said the WJC would take concrete steps to counteract the unwillingness to act.
“We have the means, we have the power and we will act,” he said.
Lauder said plans include bringing lawsuits against individuals and others for anti-Semitic statements and actions, working to strengthen interfaith relations with Muslims as well as Christians, and instituting a public relations campaign through major international advertising agencies.
Orban in his address to the opening dinner of the plenary assembly said it is a “moral obligation” to “declare a zero tolerance policy against anti-Semitism.”
“Our answer to growing anti-Semitism is to be better Christians,” he said, adding, “We won’t be inactive. Please take this message to your local Jewish communities.”
The WJC meeting brought more than 500 delegates and observers to Budapest from countries around the world.
Usually held in Jerusalem, the assembly, which ends Tuesday, is being held in Budapest to show support for Hungarian Jews following a series of anti-Semitic incidents and the rise of the far-right Jobbik party, the third largest in Hungary, whose rhetoric includes virulent anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Also addressing the assembly on Monday was German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who issued a strong defense of Israel as “the only sustainable and functioning democracy in the Middle East.”
Westerwelle said Israel “has the legitimate right to defend itself” and Germany would “stand up when Israel is threatened or its legitimacy called into question.”
He said European values had to be defended in order to counter anti-Semitism, which Westerwelle said “has no place neither in Berlin nor in Budapest nor anywhere else in Europe or in the world. This fight is about preserving our common values.”
Lauder ran unopposed for the WJC presidency and will lead the group for another four years. “More work ahead and thank you for the support!” he said in a Facebook post.