Tomorrow, Boris Johnson hosts Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, as he tours European capitals. Downing Street reportedly sees co-operation with Orban’s government, which has eroded press freedoms and basic democratic values, as ‘vital to the UK’s security and prosperity’.
Conveniently Orban is an admirer of Johnson, calling our Prime Minister, who once famously avoided an interview by seeking refuge in an industrial fridge, “one of the bravest European politicians”.
He has stoked anti-Jewish racism through the antisemitic vilification of Jewish philanthropist, George Soros, the glorification of the Nazi-aligned Horthy regime and the minimisation of Hungarian state collaboration in the murder of over 500,000 Hungarian Jews in the Holocaust. Equally concerning has been his Islamophobic comments calling refugees “Muslim invaders” and his targeting of LGBT and Roma communities.
In Britain antisemitism has caused alarm when it has been perpetrated by individuals and fringe groups, but in the case of Hungary it appears to be state-sponsored. Such prejudice has had consequences for Hungarian Jewish communities.
Nearly two decades ago, a group of young Hungarian Jews established Marom Budapest as a safe space to explore and rediscover their Jewish identity and culture. Marom Budapest run the Aurora community center which helps promote social justice and democracy in Hungary, organising human rights projects with LGBT groups, refugees and the Roma community. Marom Budapest and Aurora are inspiring. They allow young Hungarian Jews to embrace and revive their Jewish identities, often lost or forgotten in the wake of the Holocaust and decades of repression under communism.
But Orban’s cultivation of far-right antisemitic rhetoric has directly threatened this Hungarian Jewish community. Aurora has been subjected to attacks by neo-Nazis, politically-motivated administrative harassment by the Hungarian authorities, and has been defaced with anti-Soros slogans.
In September 2018, I was proud to join UK Marom members in our campaign to call out these attacks and stand with our sister organisation in Hungary. Orban’s arrival in the UK has prompted Marom’s parent organisation, the Masorti Jewish community, and the Jewish Labour Movement, to jointly call on the Prime Minister to challenge Orban on his hate speech against Jews and other minority groups.
It’s vital that Johnson listens to our call. Rising anti-Jewish racism across Europe and the UK is causing genuine fear within Jewish communities.
In his meeting last week with UK Jewish leaders to address concerns over rising anti-Jewish hate, Mr Johnson stated we must be “continuously vigilant and emphatic” in calling out antisemitism. If he is indeed serious about standing against antisemitism, Johnson should call it out when one of its sponsors is staring him in the face.