Exclusive: Hungarian minister criticises magazine’s ‘antisemitic trope’ cover

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Exclusive: Hungarian minister criticises magazine’s ‘antisemitic trope’ cover

Justice Minister László Trócsányi and Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl attack 'Figyelo' for depicting community leader Andras Heisler with cash floating around

Joe Millis is a journalist

Hungarian Justice Minister László Trócsányi
Hungarian Justice Minister László Trócsányi

Hungary’s Justice Minister has joined British Jewish leaders in sharply criticising a pro-government magazine which published a front cover showing the country’s Jewish leader surrounded by falling banknotes.

The cover of pro-government magazine Figyelo (Attention) showed Andras Heisler, head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), with cash floating around him.

The magazine accused Heisler and Mazsihisz of financial irregularities in connection to a state-funded synagogue rebuilding project in Budapest. Both Heisler and Mazsihisz deny any wrongdoing and hit back against the imagery and insinuation.

However, Justice Minister László Trócsányi told Jewish News: “Recently, some important national weeklies have featured known Hungarian Jewish leaders on their cover pages, accusing them of corruption.

“The rude visual realisation of these cover pages and the message they sent to the public sparked controversy and gave rise to concern in the Jewish communities. Because of the particularly tragic fate of the Hungarian Jewry, I firmly believe that any offensive or sensationalist representation of Jewish personalities and themes are unacceptable and should have no place in any media.

“I would like to reaffirm my commitment to the fight against antisemitism as a member of the Hungarian Government and as a Hungarian citizen.”

Hungary’s largest Jewish organisation said the front cover amounted to “incitement,” and Israel’s ambassador to the country said he was “shocked and dismayed” by the publication.

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said the magazine had tapped into an age-old hatred.

“We voice our support for the Hungarian Jewish community,” she said. “We are deeply concerned about the antisemitic rhetoric used in Hungary. The image [of Heisler] is abhorrent. It perpetuates centuries-old stereotypes and tropes against the Jewish community. We call on the Hungarian government to condemn this act.”

The front-cover was published just a day after the right-wing government of Viktor Orbán announced it was giving another Hungarian Jewish group €1.5 million to fight antisemitism, which Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself has been accused of perpetuating, with government attacks on Hungarian-born philanthropist and critic George Soros.

Hungary’s problems were further highlighted this week, when the deputy leader of far-right Hungarian party Jobbik stood down, after a recording emerged of him claiming to have hit a Jewish woman.

Istvan Szavay, who will remain a parliamentarian in Hungary’s second largest party, is heard saying: “She was yelling, ‘Nazis are stinking here,’ and I just knocked her out, dirty Jew, just like this.”

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