Hungarian government faces anti-Semitism claims amid vilification of George Soros

Key Points
  • A government campaign casting George Soros as a promoter of illegal immigration has caused an outcry in Hungary.
  • Critics claim the billboards evoke Nazi-era anti-Semitism.
  • The campaign comes amid continued conflict between the billionaire businessman and the Hungarian Prime Minister.
Billboard campaign by the Hungarian government shows George Soros smiling next to the words "Let's not let Soros have the last laugh." The graffiti translates to "dirty Jew."
Photo: Akos Stiller

A government campaign portraying billionaire businessman George Soros as the enemy of the Hungarian people has prompted a public outcry with people accusing the ruling right-wing Fidesz party of Nazi-era anti-Semitism.

The election campaign run by incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orban casts the American-Hungarian investor as a supporter of illegal immigration, intent on undermining the government's strict refugee policies.

Television adverts and billboards posted around the country show Soros – who was born in Hungary to a Jewish family that survived the Nazi occupation - next to the words: "Let's not let Soros have the last laugh."

Critics say the posters recall anti-Semitic imagery of the 1930s, which portrayed Jews as political manipulators. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry in Budapest say the government has a "duty to defend our homeland and citizens," according to Israeli news publisher Haaretz.

Members of the international community have also hit out at the displays, with Israel's ambassador to Hungary saying on Monday that the campaign "sows hatred and fear." However, hours later Israel's foreign ministry issued a "clarification" saying that Soros was a legitimate target for criticism. This comes just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet Orban in Budapest.

The campaign is the latest in a continued onslaught by Orban against the 86-year-old investor.

The Hungarian premier has often vilified Soros, whose ideals are squarely at odds with Orban's view that European culture is under an existential threat from migration and multiculturalism.

In April, the pair came to loggerheads amid moves by Orban to shut down the Central European University, the school founded by Soros.

Orban has also been attempting to tighten the rules which govern non-governmental organizations (NGOs), many of which have been beneficiaries of the some $400 million donated by Soros to support justice, education and human rights in Hungary.

Soros has not commented on the campaigns though he has been vocal in his criticism of Orban, who he accuses of building a "mafia state."

When contacted by CNBC, the Hungarian embassy provided a statement made by Orban Friday to Hungarian radio in which he said that Soros' immigration agenda would remove power from Hungary and place it in Brussels.

"A development over the past week is that they (Soros and associates) are trying to set up a European institution, an asylum authority at European level, which would appropriate these powers from the nation states. According to this, we would not decide who we accept into our countries. Indeed, this would also deprive nation states of distribution activities related to the admission of refugees," Orban told Kossuth Radio.

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