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.
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.
Ambassador I'm truly confused. Márton Gyöngyösi (bttm left) is a well-known anti-semite & Holocaust denier. @nytimes quotes him “Our country has become subjugated to Zionism..while we, the indigenous people, play only the role of extras.”
Fidesz opposes racism. Why don't you? https://t.co/tXnEUwh3Qk
— Shea Bradley-Farrell (formerly Garrison) (@DrShea_DC) April 6, 2023
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.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.