Jobbik pol slammed for disrespecting late chief rabbi’s memory


(JTA) — Jewish leaders in Hungary condemned a politician from the far-right Jobbik party who refused to honor the memory of a former chief rabbi.

The Mazsihisz federation of Hungarian Jewish communities issued its condemnation Friday against Laszlo Benke, an alderman of Budapest’s 13th district representing Jobbik.

According to Mazsihisz, Benke on Feb. 12 was the only one who remained seated despite the request by the district’s mayor, Jozef Toth, that the aldermen stand for a minute of silence in memory of Jozsef Schweitzer, who died on Feb. 5 at 92. Schweitzer was an honorary resident of the district.

Mazsihisz also said that Benke later boasted about his action.

“The overtly racist and anti-Semitic incident clearly shows Jobbik’s real face,” the Mazsihisz statement read. The group called on Jobbik to condemn his actions and on Benke to apologize and resign.

But in a statement also published Friday, Jobbik wrote that the commemoration “was not relevant from the perspective of the country’s progress and the people’s well-being.”

Following last year’s general elections, Jobbik is Hungary’s third largest party with 23 seats out of 199 in the parliament — an increase of seven seats over the previous election.

Even among Europe’s radical nationalist parties, Jobbik stands out because of many anti-Semitic and other racist statements by its top figures. The European Jewish Congress has called Jobbik neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic; the party rejects the description.

In 2012, Jobbik lawmaker Marton Gyongyosi generated a wave of condemnations when he said in parliament that Jews should be registered because they pose a security threat. He later explained that he meant to say Israelis rather than Jews.

Recommended from JTA