BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — As the World Jewish Congress pressed Hungary to crack down further on the Jobbik party, WJC President Ronald Lauder apologized to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
In a resolution passed Tuesday, the WJC called on the Hungarian government to implement laws to protect all citizens, “in particular vulnerable minorities such as the Roma and the Jews,” against “threats of violence, racist hate and insults and the denial of the Holocaust.”
In closing remarks to the WJC plenary assembly, however, Lauder apologized for some of the criticism he had leveled during the assembly at Orban. On Monday, he chastised Orban for not mentioning Jobbik, the country’s third-largest political movement, in the prime minister’s speech to the opening session and suggested Orban was being soft on Jobbik in order to win right-wing votes.
Lauder said he had not known about an interview Orban gave to the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot ahead of the WJC meeting in which Orban had called Jobbik “a real danger, an increasing danger.” Lauder read out Orban’s interview statement, which said that “if we want to protect democracy, we must take a firm stand against Jobbik. Jobbik has developed a political ideology that quite obviously violates the human rights of Jews at both an individual and community level.”
The WJC meeting, usually held every four years in Jerusalem, took place in Budapest to show solidarity with Hungary’s Jewish community in the face of Jobbik’s political rise and a series of anti-Semitic incidents.
Jobbik, which uses virulently anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Roma rhetoric, won nearly 17 percent of the vote in the last elections.
On Tuesday, the WJC presented a report on the rise of neo-Nazi parties in Europe that focused on Jobbik as well as Golden Dawn in Greece and the National Democratic Party in Germany.
Delegates applauded an announcement by David Saltiel, the president of the Greek Jewish community, that the Greek justice minister would introduce in the coming days in parliament a bill outlawing racial, religious, ethnic or homophobic incitement, to be punishable from three months up to six years in prison or a fine of more than $26,000.
The assembly issued a resolution decrying the rise of such nationalist parties, especially in Hungary and Greece, and called for concrete action to thwart them. The resolution pointedly singled out Hungary, but it also urged “parliaments and governments of countries” in general to enact and enforce legislation. It also urged “the peoples of Europe not to allow extremist hate mongers to once again undermine democracies and to defeat any such parties at the ballot box.”
Other resolutions called on governments to reaffirm the rights of Jews to carry out circumcision and kosher slaughter, urged measures proscribing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and called for a resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.