BUDAPEST (JTA) — Hungary’s Jewish umbrella has called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to halt a government campaign against Jewish-American billionaire George Soros, saying it is provoking more anti-Semitism.
András Heisler, president of the Federation of the Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz, on Thursday demanded a stop to the government campaign, which last week included billboards posted nationwide showing a grinning Soros and the words “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.”
The government objects to Soros’ call for Hungary to allow migrants to enter the country.
Several anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country have reprotedly been spurred by the campaign against the Hungarian-born Soros, a philanthropist who bankrolls pro-democracy efforts in Hungary and elsewhere. The latest occurred in Zalaegerszeg, where the town’s Holocaust memorial was damaged. Many of the posters also were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Heisler appeared Thursday on the opposition’s Club Radio to demand an end to the anti-Soros campaign. In an open letter issued that day, he wrote: “The billboard campaign, while not openly anti-Semitic, can still very much unleash uncontrolled anti-Semitic and other feelings. This poisonous message hurts all of Hungary.”
Orban’s chief of staff, János Lázár, told journalists on Thursday, “The Hungarian government’s goal is to stop Soros’ migrant campaign, which is supporting the migration of illegal migrants into our country. The government is not criticizing George Soros for his Jewish origin, but for his supporting the growing number of migrants entering in uncontrolled crowds into Europe.”
Lazar added that Hungarian Jews “should not be afraid because they can count on the Hungarian government, which always will defend them.”
Hungarian Jews have called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel an official visit to Hungary scheduled for July 18, to protest remarks by Orban in praise of Hungary’s anti-Semitic leader during World War II, Miklós Horthy.
Late last month, Orban included Horthy, a Hitler ally, among those he called “exceptional statesmen” in Hungary for leading the country following the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. Horthy signed anti-Jewish laws in 1938 and 1939, as well as in 1920.
In Israel, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid on Wednesday also called on Netanyahu to cancel his visit to Budapest over Orban’s actions.