Hungary pledges to remove anti-Soros signs ahead of Netanyahu visit

BUDAPEST - The Hungarian government announced on Wednesday that it would remove posters attacking Jewish business baron George Soros by the end of this week. The posters had been put up across the country as part of a government-led campaign, which drew condemnation from the Hungarian Jewish Community, several political parties, NGOs and intellectuals due to the anti-Semitic atmosphere it created.

The government said that the posters would be removed by July 15. Following reports that this move was being made due to pressure ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled visit and meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán, in Budapest, the government said that the campaign was ending as originally scheduled, implying that it was unrelated to the Israeli leader’s visit. 

It was not clear when and whether the posters would be removed from all their positions across the country and the media , or just in certain parts of Budapest included in the route used by international guests and tourists.

The posters used in the media campaign show a large picture of the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor laughing, beside the caption: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh”, a reference to government accusation that Soros has been pushing, through NGOs he funds, for the settlement of a million migrants in the European Union.

Since the posters appeared on billboards, tram cars, television, online, in print media, and other public spaces around the country last week, as well as on television, several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti have been reported, including on the posters, and vandalism of Holocaust memorials.

The president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ), András Heisler, asked Orban in a letter to take immediate measures to halt a government-run campaign targeting the Jewish businessman George Soros, citing its dangerous anti-Semitic undertones.

“The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) has raised attention from the beginning that the “anti-Soros” campaign carries serious risks. This campaign is not openly anti-Semitic however it is very much able to raise uncontrolled, among other things, anti-Semitic anger. The recent days have given us the proof that our fear is not baseless. On the streets of Budapest and some other major cities across Hungary have arisen scripts that recall the dark times of Hungary’s history, but the invisible damages on the society is probably even more serious."

“As representative of our community and as Hungarian citizen I ask you and your government to immediately take measures to stop the campaign and to retract the posters from our streets and squares."

“You as our elected leaders have the historical responsibility not to let hatred spread out in our country and not to confront Hungarians against each other. These toxic messages harm all of Hungary. We raise our voice not only for ourselves but the protection of our pride of Jewishness and the dignity that is part of our Hungarian identity,” Heisler wrote. 

In his answer, Prime Minister Orban said "We are raising the political and legal power of the Hungarian state against anyone who attacks the security of Hungary -  irrespectively of his origin, religious affiliation and wealth. You could not want me to differentiate between the citizens of Hungary according to their roots."

Several organizations criticized the campaign for singling out publicly an Auschwitz-survivor and blaming him for more than questionable reasons. Jewish organizations expressed concern that images depicting a laughing rich Jew and accusing him of an unknown dark international plan confirmed old conspiracy-theories and legitimized openly anti-Semitic speech. 

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