World Jewish Congress begins in Budapest
BUDAPEST- The World Jewish Congress (WJC) got underway in Budapest on Sunday evening with a gala dinner addressed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and WJC President Ronald Lauder.
The meeting was opened by Lauder, who thanked the Hungarian prime minister for his presence. He pointed out that a century ago one-fourth of the population of Budapest had been Jewish. He cited physicists Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann and other prominent international figures, pointing out that all had been forced to leave Hungary because of persecution. One-third of the 1.1 million Jews murdered at Auschwitz were Hungarians, he said. He expressed concern over current signs of anti-Semitism in Hungary, which have included the current glorification of Hungary’s WWII leader, Miklos Horthy, an anti-Semite, as well as verbal and physical attacks against members of the Jewish community.
Lauder warned of the hazards of anti-Semitism, which included an anti-Semitic demonstration on Saturday by the far-right Jobbik party, which he said was “dragging the good name of Hungary through the mud.”
He called on the prime minister to send a message to the entire population that intolerance would not be tolerated.
In his address, Orban welcomed the international as well as the local Jewish community, “particularly those who have come home, because their roots are here.” This was a reference to Lauder himself, whose family background is Hungarian. Orban particularly welcomed the fight against anti-Semitism, although he noted that manifestations in Hungary had essentially consisted of verbal rather than physical attacks and that Hungary had one of Europe’s strongest Jewish communities.
He acknowledged his understanding that one reason Budapest was chosen as the conference venue was to send a message to the Jews of Hungary and the world, calling on all to combat anti-Semitism. Orban said he was particularly pleased with their choice for this reason.
He acknowledged that anti-Semitism was growing throughout Europe, which he blamed partly on the European Union’s unsuccessful management of the economic crisis, which triggered disillusionment.
Orban called anti-Semitism unacceptable and advocated an investigation of what had been done wrong over the past twenty years. One mistake, he said, was to disrespect religious beliefs in general, for a strong belief in Christianity gave rise to the moral responsibility to respect Judaism as well as other beliefs.
There is no freedom without human dignity, Orban said, adding that he would not tolerate discrimination. He said he foresaw a time when people would consider anti-Semitism as inconceivable as a return of the plagues of the Middle Ages. At the same time, he warned that the victory of evil required only that the forces of good do nothing. Hungary will not do nothing, he said.
The World Jewish Congress holds its 14th Plenary Assembly in Budapest from Sunday to Tuesday to discuss matters of importance to the Jewish people globally, including the alarming rise of Neo-Nazi political parties and anti-Semitic incidents in several European countries and the situation in the Middle East. Several hundred representatives of Jewish communities from 100 countries attend the meeting.
Monday’s session will be opened by German Foreign Minister Guido Westwewelle and will include the election of new officials as well as a discussion of prospects for resolving conflicts in the Middle East. On Tuesday the subject will be the expansion of extreme right wing ideologies.
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WJC reaction: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speech did not confront true nature of problem in Hungary
05 May 2013
World Jewish Congress
BUDAPEST – The World Jewish Congress appreciates Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s decision to address the international Jewish community by speaking here tonight. We welcome that the Prime Minister made it clear that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and intolerable.
However, the Prime Minister did not confront the true nature of the problem: the threat posed by the anti-Semites in general and by the extreme-right Jobbik party in particular. We regret that Mr. Orbán did not address any recent anti-Semitic or racist incidents in the country, nor did he provide sufficient reassurance that a clear line has been drawn between his government and the far-right fringe.
As the Jewish people have learnt throughout history: Actions speak louder than words, no matter how well intended they are. The WJC will continue to urge all democratic forces in Hungary and elsewhere to combat with great determination rising extremism, anti-Semitism and hatred. We will continue to evaluate the situation in this regard.
The World Jewish Congress is the international organization that represents Jewish communities and organizations in 100 countries around the world. It advocates on their behalf towards governments, parliaments, international organizations and other faiths. The WJC represents the plurality of the Jewish people, and is politically non-partisan.
The WJC, the ‘Diplomatic Arm of the Jewish People’, has been active in countless campaigns since its inception: advocating for justice for Holocaust victims and their heirs, including the payment of reparations for hardship suffered under the Nazi’s; protecting the memory of the Holocaust; obtaining restitution of, or compensation for, stolen Jewish property, and negotiating a settlement with the Swiss Banks for assets held in so-called ‘dormant’ accounts; campaigning for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel, for those who wished, or to stay and practice their religion freely; exposing Austrian President and former UN Secretary.
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