Over the past weeks giant posters vilifying George Soros have gone up all over Hungary – the latest campaign by the Hungarian government against the 86-year-old Hungarian-born philanthropist.
The campaign uses an image of a grinning George Soros with the slogan “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh!” referring to his support for a more open immigration policy and for human rights NGOs.
In his response to the Fidesz campaign Michael Vachon, Spokesperson of Mr. Soros shared Soros’ view on immigration:
“Soros’s actual position on migration is that the international community should provide more support to the developing countries that today host 89% of refugees and that Europe should accept several hundred thousand fully screened refugees through an orderly process of vetting and resettlement. He believes that qualified asylum seekers should not have to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach safety.
He also believes that Europe needs a common asylum system that equitably shares responsibility for protecting legitimate refugees, rather than placing that burden on only a few countries. Soros’s position is entirely consistent with mainstream European values.”
Nevertheless, Soros’ opinion on immigration is besides the point, but the government-orchestrated hate-campaign against the philanthropist is not going to stop any immigrant from crossing the border but has certainly already caused more hatred against the Jewish community in particular in the country.
Andras Heisler, Head of the Federation of Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) said in a statement: “The billboard campaign, while not openly antisemitic, can still very much unleash uncontrolled antisemitic and other feelings. This poisonous message hurts all of Hungary.”
This unprecedented personal targeting and diabolisation of has reportedly spurred several antisemitic incidents throughout the country.
Since the posters appeared on billboards and at public spaces around the country, as well as on television, several incidents of antisemitic graffiti such as “Stinking Jew” or Stars of David daubed on them have been reported. Some of these posters were glued to the floor of trams so that people can’t enter the tram without stepping on Soros’s face.
In Zalaegerszeg, the town’s Holocaust memorial was damaged and many of the posters defaced with antisemitic graffiti.
On Saturday (7th July), Israel’s ambassador in Budapest Yossi Amrani also criticized the poster campaign, saying it “evokes sad memories but also sows hatred and fear.”
But late Sunday — reportedly at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office — Israel’s foreign ministry issued a separate “clarification” that criticism of Soros was legitimate.
“Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon in a statement. “This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary.
“In no way was the statement meant to de-legitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself,” Nahshon added.
Netanyahu is due to visit Hungary on 18th July, the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since the end of communism in 1989.
Benjamin Fischer, President of EUJS said: “We stand with the Jewish community during these troubling times when antisemitism is on the rise. We call on Fidesz, the governing party in Hungary, to recognise the harmful rhetoric such campaigns can cause. This is not simply criticism of George Soros, but a personal witch-hunt. Furthermore, it condones antisemitic repercussions and is in line with a series of troublesome Soros-images and conspiracy theories that were previously used in political discourse.”
EUJS calls on other Jewish organisations to join in supporting the Hungarian Jewish community and on the government of Hungary to stop the hateful campaign.