Hungary Bans Anti-Semitic Rally on Holocaust Memorial Day

Hungary banned a rally organized under the slogan “Give Gas” that was planned to coincide with a Holocaust memorial march after a Jewish group complained that it amounted to a call for genocide.

Budapest police will deploy “all legal means” to stop the rally by bikers, whose “provocative” name and timing is “an offense,” according to the statement. Prime Minister Viktor Orban had called for the ban, saying the protest was an affront to human dignity, state news service MTI reported today.

The name of the Apr. 21 rally, which would pass in front of the capital’s main synagogue, “unequivocally refers to the tortuous deaths of more than 400,000 of our compatriots killed in Auschwitz with poisonous gas and is a call to repeat these harrowing deeds,” Hungarian Jewish group Mazsihisz said in a statement on its website. The bikers, who describe themselves as “patriotic,” called it a “simple demonstration,” according to a posting on their Facebook page.

Antisemitism has been on the rise in Hungary, with the radical nationalist Jobbik party now the third-biggest party in Parliament. Jobbik lawmaker Marton Gyongyosi on Nov. 26 called for a list to be drawn up of Jewish legislators and government members who pose a “national security risk.” More than 500,000 Hungarians, mostly Jews, were killed in the Holocaust, according to the Budapest-based Holocaust Memorial Center.

‘Obviously Provocative’

The motorcycle protest, coinciding with the annual “March of the Living,” is “obviously provocative,” Antal Rogan, head of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s parliamentary group, said in a statement yesterday. It was “extraordinarily tasteless” and he “deeply condemned” it, Rogan said.

Last month, the government decorated television journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo, whose program was fined for antisemitic and anti-Roma messages. The government asked the journalist to return the award after protests by Israel and the U.S.

Jewish groups criticized the government last year for expanding the reading curriculum for schools to include books by Jozsef Nyiro, a member of Parliament during World War II and an ally of Ferenc Szalasi, a former head of the fascist Arrow Cross party who was executed for war crimes. Parliament speaker Laszlo Kover, who co-founded the ruling Fidesz party along with Orban, organized a reburial ceremony for Nyiro last year. The government has denied seeking to legitimize anti-Semitic views.

‘Far-Right Fringe’

Stung by the international criticism, the government invited members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to visit in July and sent officials to the U.S. to meet with Jewish groups. In January, European and Israeli officials from the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism met with officials in Budapest.

Orban “panders to the far-right fringe of Hungarian politics,” Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said in an article published by Suddeutsche Zeitung on April 4, which was posted on the organization’s website. The WJC will hold its Plenary Assembly next month in Budapest in a “strong signal” that Hungary is on a “dangerous track,” Lauder said.

Orban accepted an invitation to participate in the meeting, MTI state news service reported this weekend, citing Bertalan Havasi, the premier’s press chief.

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