Board president vows to challenge Hungarian minister in controversial meeting

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Board president vows to challenge Hungarian minister in controversial meeting

Communal leader to meet Deputy State Secretary of Hungary, Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky, but insists she'll raise "a number of concerns"

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Marie van der Zyl is under fire for failing to condemn the Netanyahu-far right tie-up
Marie van der Zyl is under fire for failing to condemn the Netanyahu-far right tie-up

The Board of Deputies has defended its decision to meet a top member of Hungary’s far-right government, insisting it provides a chance to “convey our profound disquiet” about the country’s treatment of its Jewish population.

A community leader will raise “a number of concerns” about the actions of Hungary’s government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, when they meet Deputy State Secretary of Hungary, Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky, during his UK visit early next month.

Although no formal details have been arranged, the Board said that issues which they’ll seek to raise include the use of allegedly antisemitic tropes during the recent Hungarian elections, as well as attacks on the Jewish community in pro-government magazines, and moves to close the Aurora Jewish community centre in Budapest.

Board of Deputies President, Marie van der Zyl, said: “In response to these criticisms, Prime Minister Orban has suggested the Deputy Secretary of State, Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky, discuss these serious issues with us and to speak to a range of other Jewish organisations.  The Hungarian government is not able to ignore our repeated raising of these concerns.

Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky

“We will use this opportunity to convey our profound disquiet about the situation and our expectation that we will see rapid improvement in terms of the Government’s behaviour towards the Hungarian Jewish community.

“No meetings with the Board of Deputies or other British organisations should be able to be misconstrued as a show of support for the Hungarian Government while these issues remain outstanding. It is important that the Deputy Secretary of State is able to return to Budapest with a clear and unified message from the Jewish community that we care deeply that no form or racism, including antisemitism, should be propagated or tolerated.”

During the recent election campaign, the right-wing incumbent government were criticised for targeting Hungarian-born Jewish businessman, George Soros, with an allegedly antisemitic campaign. Speaking to Jewish News last year, Hungary’s Justice Minister insisted that whatever issues his country has with Soros, it has nothing to do with antisemitism.

In an exclusive interview with Jewish News, Minister László Trócsányi said he had “a lot of Jewish friends”, adding that he had “never ever heard them express any fear about anything in Hungary. The Jewish community can feel safe, they are safe in Hungary.”

After it became apparent the Board will meet with Mr Szalay-Bobrovniczky, the Deputy for Bromley Reform, Joe Millis called it “outrageous.”

“Only last week, the Board was heaping praise on the principal of King’s College London Ed Byrne for his support for Jewish students. In the minister’s Hungary, Jewish students or the rest of the community don’t feel safe because his government uses antisemitic tropes. His Prime minister Viktor Orbán is busy rehabilitating wartime leader and Hitler’s friend Admiral Horthi as a “great statesman”.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Corbynistas or Orbánistas, the Board must avoid dealing with these people.”

During his UK visit, Mr Szalay-Bobrovniczky, is also scheduled to speak at the University of Oxford’s Chabad Society. An anonymous Jewish Oxford student told Jewish News, that “Hosting a member of Viktor Orban’s government is a dangerous and misguided decision. To lay on a buffet dinner for Mr Szalay-Bobrovniczk, when we should be giving him contempt and silence, is a gross injustice to the Jews facing persecution in Hungary today.”

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