Yesterday, Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros responded to the Orbán government’s latest billboard campaign attacking him as somehow being the ‘enemy’ of the Hungarian people.
Reacting to the campaign, which calls on Hungarians to “not let Soros be the one laughing at the end,” and which Jewish groups and critics worldwide have described as having anti-Semitic overtones, Soros said
I am distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of anti-Semitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign.
Soros, who has become the primary target of the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition’s political messaging, added that he was “heartened that together with countless fellow citizens the leadership of the Hungarian Jewish community” spoke out against the billboards.
The Hungarian-American financier’s comments come on the heels of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz)’s letter to the government, calling on it to end the controversial billboard campaign.
Writing to Orbán, Mazsihisz leader András Heisler asked the Prime Minister to remove the billboards, because they have “stirred up anti-Semitic feelings”, including graffiti that
has appeared on some of the billboards that is reminiscent of some of the darkest days in Hungary history. And more than this, the invisible society damage that this campaign has caused is even worse.
The PM’s response has done little to ease concerns: he said that he would not remove the signs because Soros is somehow supposedly using “his wealth, power, influence and the network of NGOs he finances to settle migrants in the European Union by the millions.” While this argument has become a standard piece of Fidesz rhetoric, there is no concrete evidence to support such an assertion.
Speaking to the press, Soros’ spokesman said that
The government has consistently and willfully misrepresented Soros’s views on migration and refugees.
And, as we have also reported, while Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary Yossi Amrani also criticized the billboard campaign, the Israeli foreign ministry quickly performed an about-face on the matter.
Acting on instructions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed sharp criticism of Soros, saying that he supports organizations slandering Israel, and questions Israel’s right to self-defense. Netanyahu, who also fills the post of foreign minister, had not been consulted before the Israeli embassy in Budapest issued its statement on Saturday, according to an Israeli newspaper report.
In the end, however, the question of whether or not to remove the signs may soon become moot: news portal ATV reports that, according to “an unnamed influential Fidesz politician,” the signs will be removed by the end of the month, so that “the champions of the FINA Swimming World Cup” won’t have to see them as they leave the country.
Via the Guardian and the BBC
Images via Getty/AFP and hirtv.hu