The Hungarian government struggled to counter allegations of institutionalised anti-Semitism on Sunday after the country’s far-right Jobbik party staged a mass rally in the capital Budapest in protest against a meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in the city. The WJC usually holds its assembly in Jerusalem. But it chose Budapest for its meeting, which began yesterday, to highlight what it claims is growing anti-Semitism and a rise in support for the far right in Europe, where the economic crisis is fuelling distrust in mainstream political parties. Hungary has one of the largest Jewish populations in the European Union, but there is growing concern that the government is not doing enough to combat anti-Semitic rhetoric. Ronald S Lauder, the WJC president, complained last month that Hungary was on a “dangerous political path” and that its controversial right-wing nationalist Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, had “lost his political compass” and often told the far right “what they want to hear”. Last night Mr Orban addressed the issue of growing anti-Semitism in a speech at the opening of the assembly, which runs until Wednesday. He defended the notion of strong national identity as beneficial for mutual co-existence, but said it is a “moral obligation to declare a policy of zero tolerance against anti-Semitism”. In a gesture which underlined the problems in Hungary, the far-right and openly racist Jobbik party held a mass rally in Budapest on Saturday, less than 24 hours before the WJC was to open its assembly, claiming that the meeting was a “Jewish attempt to buy up Hungary”. The Hungarian Prime Minister had previously tried to ban the rally by the Jobbik party, but was overruled by the courts. Read More
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