Hungarian Prime Minister to Address World Jewish Congress in Budapest

Responding to a rise of anti-Semitic rehetoric and incidents, Viktor Orban pledged ahead of the WJC conference to 'take the most decisive possible action against all manifestations of hate speech and behavior.'

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will address the opening of a large World Jewish Congress conference on Sunday in Budapest, amid concerns of rising anti-Semitism in the country and recent accusations that his government has not done enough to contain extremist trends.

More than 600 delegates and observers from around the world will attend the WJC Plenary Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the organization, which meets every four years to elect officers. The three-day conference will devote its sessions to the rise of extreme right-wing parties and anti-Semitic incidents in several European countries, including Hungary, and the geopolitical situation in the Middle East.

“This will be a good opportunity to show that by standing united, world Jewry can make its voice heard and can improve things,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder in a statement ahead of the conference.

Orban’s conservative party, Fidesz, won 53 percent of the vote in elections held in 2010. Of late, the prime minister has tried to distance himself from the far-right and virulently anti-Semitic party, Jobbik, which captured 17 percent of the vote in the last election and is the third largest party in parliament.

In a statement issued several days ahead of the conference, the Hungarian prime minister’s office noted that Orban had instructed Budapest police to prohibit an “anti-Bolshevist and anti-Zionist” demonstration that had been planned to coincide with the opening of the WJC conference.

Referring to the recent neo-Nazi assault on Ferenc Orosz, head of the Raoul Wallenberg Association, the statement noted that “this foul deed has not dissuaded the government and in fact has strengthened their resolve to take the most decisive possible action against all manifestations of hate speech and behavior in the future.”

Other keynote speakers at the conference include German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwell, Israel’s Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, and various special envoys to the Middle East.

The event is organized in cooperation with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Hungary, the official representative body of Jews in the country.

"The fact that the WJC is holding its Plenary Assembly in Budapest is a symbol of solidarity with our Jewish community, which has been faced with growing anti-Semitism in recent years,” said Peter Feldmajer, the president of the federation.

Hungary is home to an estimated 100,000 Jews, most of whom live in Budapest. It is the largest Jewish community in central Europe.

The WJC is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations. Among the delegates attending the conference will be representatives of the small Jewish communities of Zimbabwe, Namibia and Swaziland.

Delegates attending the conference will elect a new WJC Executive Committee for the next four years.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban.Credit: Reuters

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