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Hungarian Anti-Soros Billboard Campaign Sparks Fears of Anti-Semitism

Orban and his cabinet deny such claims, insisting the target is not Hungarian-born billionaire’s ‘ancestry or identity but what he does.’

7 July 2017

It’s not what we intended, Hungarian politicians insisted after billboards from a campaign against Jewish businessman and philanthropist George Soros were defaced with anti-Semitic slogans.

 

"This matter is not about George Soros' ancestry or identity but about what he does," Janos Lazar, Orban's chief of staff said, according to AP. "[Prime Minister] Viktor Orban considers Soros a successful, very smart, and very talented Hungarian person."

 

Still, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities has asked Orban to put an end to the campaign, which, while not “openly anti-Semitic,” can lead to manifestations along those lines. "It is the historical responsibility of you, our elected leaders, to prevent hate from spreading in our nation, to not turn the Hungarian people against each other," the letter read, cited by AP.

 

Recent events could, however, cast doubt on Orban’s avowed appreciation for Soros. Last week, the prime minister said that Budapest supported the “original” European Union, which was “the EU of the founding fathers, rather than a Brussels kingdom, “ the Budapest Business Journal reported, citing kormany.hu. Orban then proceeded to talk about “kingmakers” in the background of such kingdoms, suggesting that Soros is one of them.

 

Defaced anti-Soros billboard in Budapest. Image via Adam LeBor/Facebook.

 

During his speech, Orban also accused Soros of being “a speculator operating an extensive mafia network, who is threatening Europe’s peace and future,” and for whom “migration is good business.”

 

“The reason (Soros) is so angry with Hungary – and me personally – is that we stand in the way of his grand plan and his grand business project,” Orban also said, according to kormany.hu.

 

Some argue that Soros is a convenient scapegoat for Orban ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for spring 2018. “He’s a very useful punching bag, because he’s both the insider and the outsider, the meddling foreigner and the Hungarian Jew,” Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute, told the Guardian.

 

 

  • In a gesture reiterating his government’s commitment to religious tolerance, Orban met yesterday met with a delegation of Jewish leaders at the inauguration of a new kosher slaughterhouse in Budapest, The Times of Israel writes.

 

  • Soros-funded Central European University (CEU) is considered one of the potential casualties in the war between its founder and the Hungarian leader. Several legal initiatives, such as a hastily passed education law that many believe specifically targeted the Budapest-based CEU, as well as a proposal that would force NGOs to disclose how much foreign funding they receive, led to protests both in Hungary and abroad. 

 

  • On 17 May, the European Parliament escalated the confrontation with Hungary over such moves when it passed a resolution to initiate a review of the country’s democracy record. That decision, which is without precedent, could eventually lead to a suspension of Hungary’s EU voting rights.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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