(JTA) – Opposition parties in Hungary are protesting the nomination of a figure described as a far-right activist and anti-Semite as the country’s new ambassador to Italy.
The Parliament’s Committee for European Affairs accepted the nomination by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s rightist government of Péter Szentmihályi Szabó, but he still must face a hearing in the Committee for Foreign Affairs and be accepted by the Italian government.
Two opposition parties protested the appointment, noting that Szentmihályi Szabó has published articles in several far-right newspapers and been associated with a radical-right political party. The leftist Democratic Coalition wrote to Italy’s foreign minister urging Italy not to accept his appointment. “It would be shameful not only for the government but for the whole of Hungary if the ambassador were allowed to take his post,” the letter said, according to the Hungarian news agency MTI.
The U.S.-based anti-Orban blogger Eva Balogh described Szentmihályi Szabó as a “raging” and “inveterate” anti-Semite. She quoted an article written by him in 2000 in the far-right Magyar Forum, called “The Agents of Satan,” which, though it doesn’t specifically use the term “Jew,” clearly describes Jews in classic anti-Semitic terms similar to those used in Nazi propaganda.
The Hungarian Jewish leadership did not immediately respond to the nomination. But a source close to the leadership of the main Jewish umbrella group Mazsihisz told JTA that the nomination was a “very unfriendly gesture from the government” during the year designated by the government as an official Holocaust Memorial Year.