Hungarian Jewish Federation Calls on Orbán to End Government Anti-Soros Billboard Campaign
Tom Szigeti 2017.07.06.
Today, András Heisler, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz), called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to end the government’s recent billboard campaign depicting Hungarian-American financier George Soros.
The campaign is just the latest Fidesz-KDNP “government information” propaganda drive that the government has spent millions on. Earlier this year, Hungary was plastered with signs saying “Stop Brussels!”, calling on citizens to participate in a “national consultation” whose questions were described by EU leaders as being full of “factually incorrect or highly misleading” claims.
And the Hungarian-born billionaire Soros has become a particular target of Fidesz criticism, as can be seen in the latest billboard drive that paints the Jewish-Hungarian as the enemy of the Hungarian people; the message on the signs reads “Don’t let Soros be the one laughing at the end.”
A “government information” billboard warning Hungarians to “not let Soros be the one laughing at the end,” with the words “DIRTY JEW” scrawled over George Soros’ face (Photo: 444.hu)
This creation of a ‘Soros-boogeyman’ can also be seen in the government’s controversial “Lex CEU” legislation, higher-education law amendments that have been widely viewed as an attack on the elite English-language Central European University that was founded by Soros, as well as in its recently passed law targeting foreign-funded NGOs. The latter was, according to Fidesz’s own rhetoric, aimed at NGOs belonging to what the party has termed a ‘Soros-network.’ Both laws have drawn widespread domestic and international criticism, with both “Lex CEU” and the NGO law receiving critiques from international bodies, academics, and the US government.
Discussing the latest billboard campaign, Heisler said on Thursday that while it is “not openly anti-Semitic”, it is capable of inciting anti-Semitic sentiments in people.
Referring to the recent appearance of anti-Semitic graffiti on some of the billboards in Budapest, Heisler said Mazsihisz’s fears were not unfounded. The leader of the Jewish group said that the signs have “stirred up anti-Semitic feelings.” He added that, because of this
In Budapest and several other larger cities, graffiti 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.
He said members of the government had “a historical responsibility to prevent the spread of hate and division” in Hungary, to “not turn Hungarian people against each other.”
He also argued that
These poisonous messages damage Hungary as a whole.
“I ask you to take action so that this nightmare can end as soon as possible,” Heisler wrote.
Earlier in the day, Istvan Hollik, a lawmaker of the co-ruling Christian Democrats, told a press conference that the government had zero tolerance for anti-Semitism.
Asked to comment on an earlier letter by Heisler warning that the campaign could stir up anti-Semitic sentiments, Hollik said the reason the government fought against illegal migration was so that it could protect Hungarians and Hungary’s Jewish community. He added that Soros, on the other hand, “is putting pressure on the Hungarian government” over illegal migration. “This is what the billboard campaign is about,” Hollik claimed.