The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities has called for the removal of government billboards targeting U.S. investor George Soros after they were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in several cities in Hungary.
The billboards, posted nationwide, depict a smiling Soros and the caption “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.”
In an open letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday, Andras Heisler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, asserted that the anti-Semitic slander defacing the posters in Budapest and other cities “recall Hungary’s dark periods.”
“The billboard campaign, while not openly anti-Semitic, can still very much unleash uncontrolled anti-Semitic and other feelings,” Heisler said. “This poisonous message hurts all of Hungary.”
Janos Lazar, the minister who oversees the Orban’s office, told reporters in Budapest that the government rejects the accusation that its attacks on Soros are enabling anti-Semitism, citing their “zero-tolerance policy.” Lazar contended that Soros’ stance on immigration—not Soros personally or his Jewish origin—is the focus of the billboard campaign.
According to the Budapest-based Holocaust Memorial Center, approximately 500,000 Hungarians—mostly Jews—were killed in the Holocaust. During World War II, Hungary was allied with Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
In June, Orban lauded Miklos Horthy, the head of state from 1920 to 1944 who oversaw the passing of Europe’s first anti-Semitic law following World War I, as an “exceptional statesman.”
“The Soros billboards are the latest attack on the financier in his native Hungary, where Orban has singled him out as a target for opposing his anti-immigration position and for supporting organizations, such as ones working for human rights and government transparency, that he said are out to undermine his power.”
After calling for the “sweeping out” of Soros-funded groups, Orban’s lawmakers last month approved legislation aimed at foreign-funded non-governmental organizations. The measure came after previous legislation that threatened to shutter the Soros-funded Central European University in Budapest.
The European Parliament passed a resolution this year stating that Orban’s government was a “clear risk of a serious breach” to the rule of law.
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