Jewish community leaders were “lost for words” after Hungarian far-right political party Jobbik claimed it met anti-Zionist rabbis in London this week.
Representatives and rabbis from the controversial group Neturei Karta met Jobbik leader Gabor Vona (pictured below right) on Sunday, just before he addressed crowds in Hyde Park following an unsuccessful bid to ban him from the UK.
An article posted to the Jobbik website read: “Half a dozen Orthodox Jewish rabbis, members of the Neturei Karta, also showed up to stand for Jobbik, not for the demonstrators.”
It continued: “Gábor Vona said the rabbis, who were supporting Jobbik, met him personally an hour before the event and had told him they could clearly see the essence of Jobbik’s political agenda, which is not anti-Jewish, but anti-Zionist.”
Jonathan Arkush, vice-president at the Board of Deputies, reacted with dismay. “I can’t imagine what Neturei Karta or any self-respecting Jew would have to do with a group like Jobbik,” he said. “I’m lost for words.”
Meanwhile the founder of Holocaust Memorial Day said the UK made “a grave mistake” by allowing the leader of a far-right Hungarian group into the country.
Anti-fascist campaigners barricaded Vona and supporters into Holborn tube station on Sunday, after room bookings were pulled, leaving party leaders giving briefings in the rain.
Nevertheless London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore, who called Jobbik “the most powerful outwardly fascist political party in Europe,” said Vona should never have made it past border control.
“Freedom of speech is vital to our democracy, but it is not an unfettered right,” he said. “Hate speech is a criminal offence and has no place in our tolerant country. That is why I called for Vona’s exclusion. Regrettably the Home Secretary did not reply to my letters.”
A 14,000-name petition calling for the 35-year old to be banned was earlier presented to Theresa May, with politicians and organisations representing the Jewish and Roma communities writing to her expressing concerns.
Those concerns fell on deaf ears, and dozens of police officers were left lining the entrances to the station, erecting barriers to prevent clashes between the groups. Ultimately, the episode passed off without incident.
“The Battle of High Holborn became a smaller and thankfully non-violent repeat of the Battle of Cable Street in 1936,” said Dismore, who likened the Hungarian far-right party to the Nazis.
“The parallels…are chilling, given Jobbik’s profoundly anti-Semitic views and hostility towards Roma people,” he added. “This is reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and it should not be allowed to continue in the UK, particularly on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.”
Earlier, Vona has denied claims that he intended to meet members of other far-right groups, including the British National Party.
Instead a party spokesperson said his visit was “a forum for Hungarian citizens” ahead of elections. “There are lots of Hungarians living in London and the election is coming up in Hungary,” she said.
However, anti-fascist groups said it was not just the presence of Jobbik that was provocative, but the timing.
“That this extremist leader arrived on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, when his party and its politicians have open and disgusting anti-Semitic views, is all the more deplorable,” said Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate.