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US Ambassador under Fire for Inviting Far-right Leader to Jewish Holiday

Hungary Today 2023.04.11.
Márton Gyöngyösi
Jobbik President Márton Gyöngyösi and actor Ervin Nagy at the US Embassy’s Seder

The attendance of Márton Gyöngyösi, chairman of the opposition Jobbik-Conservatives party, at the Passover Seder of the US Embassy in Budapest caused a great uproar.

According to photos published by the embassy, Gyöngyösi, also an MEP of the right-wing party, was the only politician at the event, attended by representatives of the academic and artistic worlds as well as Jewish leaders.

The reason why Gyöngyösi’s invitation caused outrage and surprise was that the politician – and this is well-documented in the international press, also in the US – said the following in the Hungarian Parliament in 2012 (as translated by Reuters):

“I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel, and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary. I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.”

As the Hungarian press recalled, this was not the only problematic speech made by Márton Gyöngyösi. At a 2013 protest, the politician said:

“the reason why everyone who criticizes the policies of the State of Israel and the rise of Zionism should be branded as anti-Semitic is to obscure and divert attention from the crimes of Zionism.”

The politician went on to say that the world’s “Jews in the service of Zionism played a dark role” in the running of communist dictatorships. He also noted that “how Israel (…) is displacing the indigenous Palestinian people from their land is genocide on a scale that even the ideologues of Nazi Germany would have marveled at.”

Speaking to Mandiner, Chief Rabbi Tamás Róna, president of the Hungarian Jewish Prayer Association (ZSIMA), sharply criticized András Heisler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ), for sitting at the same table with Gyöngyösi at the Seder. Róna said this “fundamentally upsets the real, believing Jewish community in Hungary.”

Heisler said he did not know who was on the guest list and was surprised by Gyöngyösi’s presence, but did not want to cause a scandal by getting up and leaving because he could not offend US Ambassador David Pressman. In any case, he considers it “not without fault” that he had not been informed in advance of Gyöngyösi’s participation.

At the end of the event, however, Heisler approached Gyöngyösi and told him that although Jobbik had been asking for a personal meeting for weeks, he had not responded to these requests and asked Gyöngyösi not to expect a reply from him afterward either.

Gyöngyösi’s invitation also caused a stir among American conservatives, too. Shea Bradley-Farrell, President of the Counterpoint Institute, reacted on Twitter:

Several people in the press and on social media have called it ironic that while the Hungarian government is often accused of anti-Semitism in the US press, the American ambassador is compiling such a guest list.

Hungarian Rabbi Refutes Accusations of Antisemitism by The Wall Street Journal
Hungarian Rabbi Refutes Accusations of Antisemitism by The Wall Street Journal

Tamás Róna was astonished to read that the American newspaper's publicist called Viktor Orbán antisemitic.Continue reading

Featured photo via Facebook/US Embassy Budapest

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