Hungary’s government considers it its moral obligation to promote “zero tolerance” against anti-Semitism, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at the general assembly of the World Jewish Congress in Budapest on Sunday.
Orban said today’s Hungarian Christian Democratic government policy assumed a moral obligation to introduce a memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust in Hungarian schools and to create a Holocaust Memorial Centre and to listen to the Kaddish in parliament. It also considered it a duty to organise a memorial year in honour of Raoul Wallenberg, to ban paramilitary organisations and symbols of tyranny and to create the Holocaust Memorial Committee 2014, he said.
Orban said the Hungarian constitution offers real protection, security, human dignity and dignity of the community to the Jews “living with us and to all other minorities”.
He added that anti-Semitism was on the rise everywhere in Europe, including in Hungary, and that failed crisis management from European leaders have caused serious frustration, wearing down hope, increasing disillusionment, anger and hatred. In this situation it is especially important to make it clear that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and intolerable. His words were met with applause.
Anti-Semitism is a state when evil overpowers man and “this danger threatens even us Christians,” he said, adding that “we are aware that there had been bad Christians and bad Hungarians during history who committed serious crimes”.
In light of all this, the Hungarian government’s response to growing anti-Semitism is to “recall and strengthen the traditions of good Christians,” Orban said.
Hungary is a free country and guests do have the right to call attention to anything that troubles them or they see wrong. He thanked the participants of the assembly for calling attention to rising anti-Semitism.
“We need everyone’s help and unity to act against the spread of hatred,” he said.
He asked the representatives of countries where “anti-Semitism took the lives of schoolchildren and … where bomb attacks were mounted on synagogues, to share their experience so that Hungary does not become a country where such things could happen.”
He said Hungary is a country that lived through the inhuman destruction caused by anti-Semitism.
“With a broken heart we bow our heads to the memory of the victims and thank God that despite the Nazi and [Hungarian] Arrow Cross destruction, an authentic Jewish community could survive here,” he added.
He said the current generation was one of freedom-fighters and as there is no freedom without human dignity, the present generation will not tolerate anyone in Hungary being violated in their human dignity for their origins or religion.
Feldmajer: Jews, non-Jews must unite
The Jewish and non-Jewish communities should work together to prevent “the dark ages of anti-Semitism” from returning, the head of a major Hungarian Jewish organisation said at the opening of the World Jewish Congress on Sunday.
The Hungarian government is resolute in protecting the religious rights of Jewish communities and “always supports the secure existence of the state of Israel,” said Peter Feldmajer, President of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ).
Hungary is making every effort to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, and has gone to great lengths to incorporate the history of the Holocaust into the school curriculum, he said, adding that the Hungarian parliament was one of the first in the world to enact a law for observing a national remembrance day for the victims of the Holocaust,
At the same time, the Hungarian Jewish community is threatened by “vile ideas and acts inherited from the Middle Ages and the time of the Holocaust,” he said.
“This is a country where … an elderly chief rabbi is attacked on the street, where fascists are hailed … where streets and squares are named after ardent anti-Semites and where the works of Hungarian Nazi court poets are made part of the curriculum,” he said.
He argued that the Jewish community could live peacefully with support from the majority of the Hungarian population “if loud hateful voices did not submerge the voice of the reasonable and friendly majority”.
Feldmajer thanked participants for coming to Budapest and for expressing solidarity with the Jews of Hungary. The WJC earlier said it was holding its general assembly in Budapest in order to express solidarity with Hungarian Jews after what they perceived as rising anti-Semitism in the country.
The WJC assembly’s opening dinner was attended by Zoltan Balog, the Minister for Human Resources, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and Janos Lazar, the head of the prime minister’s office.
Attila Mesterhazy, leader of the opposition Socialist party, Gordon Bajnai, leader of the electoral alliance E14-PM and leader of the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition Ferenc Gyurcsany also attended.
Lauder: PM must stand firm
Before the dinner, Prime Minister Viktor Orban held a personal meeting with Ronald Lauder, President of the WJC.
Following the dinner Lauder said that Hungarian Jews expect Prime Minister Viktor Orban to take firm steps against anti-Semitism and make it clear to the entire Hungarian population that intolerance will not be tolerated.
Lauder said that he is concerned about one parliamentary party in particular, radical nationalist Jobbik. He said “with its anti-Semitism and anti-Roma hatred Jobbik throws mud on Hungary’s good reputation”.
Lauder thanked Orban for attending the WJC’s assembly an asked him to take firm steps to fight intolerance.