US ambassador invites Jobbik leader who questioned Holocaust death toll to embassy seder

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US ambassador invites Jobbik leader who questioned Holocaust death toll to embassy seder

Márton Gyöngyösi also suggested Hungary draws up lists of Jews who pose a “national security risk" and claims Israel run a "Nazi system, based on racial hatred".

US embassy in Hungary hosts a Passover Seder with Jewish community leaders as well as the controversial Jobbik party leader. Credit: US Embassy social media.
US embassy in Hungary hosts a Passover Seder with Jewish community leaders as well as the controversial Jobbik party leader. Credit: US Embassy social media.

The US ambassador to Hungary has provoked anger by inviting the controversial Jobbik Party leader to a seder at his residence alongside leaders of the country’s Jewish community.  

Party leader Márton Gyöngyösi has been persona non grata in Hungary’s Jewish circles for over a decade. In 2012 he sparked international outcry following a speech at Hungary’s parliament in which he called for drawing up lists of Jews who pose a “national security risk.”

Gyöngyösi’s remarks occurred amid a parliamentary question to then deputy Foriegn Minister Zsolt Németh on Hungary’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Jobbik party leader Márton Gyöngyösi at a seder hosted by the US embassy in Hungary. Credit: US embassy.

Reminded by Mr Nemeth of the importance to good bi-lateral relations of the sizeable Jewish community in Hungary, Gyöngyösi responded: “I believe the time has come to consider making a list of Jews living in the country, especially those who are in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who pose a national security risk to Hungary.”

Gyöngyösi also made highly controversial remarks in interview with the Jewish Chronicle in 2012, claiming: “It has become a fantastic business to jiggle around with the numbers” when asked about the fact that 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Gyöngyösi also claimed that Israel was founded by “terrorists” and runs a “Nazi system, based on racial hatred”.

“Look at (Avigdor) Lieberman, he’s no different to Goebbels. He is a pure Nazi,” he said.

Last week, the US embassy released a picture showing Gyöngyösi seated next to ambassador David Pressman at the seder. András Heisler, President of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ) was seated opposite Gyöngyösi and had not been informed about his presence beforehand.

In remarks reported by MAZSIHISZ’s website, Heisler said at the dinner’s end he told Gyöngyösi that “MAZSIHISZ does not engage in dialogue with Jobbik, and Gyöngyösi is considered undesirable in Jewish circles.”

Heisler also told MAZSIHISZ that Ambassador Pressman’s failure to inform other guests of Gyöngyösi’s presence beforehand was “not without fault.”

The invitation, and publicity offered by the embassy suggests US authorities wish to normalise Gyöngyösi as an opposition figure at a time when Washington’s relations with Prime Minister Victor Orbán’s government are strained by contrasting approaches to the war in Ukraine.

Questioned at a press conference on Wednesday, Pressman (who is Jewish) responded: “I’ve been attending Passover seders since the very first year of my life. In my household it is a robust debate on subjugation, freedom and liberty.”

Gyöngyösi was invited “not in spite but because of the fact he has used repulsive, repugnant antisemitic language that he has now purportedly disowned. That he was prepared to sit at my table, don a kippa surrounded by members of the lesbian, gay (and) Jewish community and have a discussion about these issues is significant,” Pressman said.

Gyöngyösi has moderated his position in recent years and offered apologies to the Jewish community but many Jewish leaders remain wary.

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