BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungarian politicians and Jewish groups on Tuesday condemned a far-right politician who called for the screening of Jews for national security risks.
Marton Gyongyosi, a deputy of the far-right Jobbik party, said Monday in Parliament that the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict presented an opportune occasion for his plan.
"I think now is the time to assess ... how many people of Jewish origin there are here, and especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who represent a certain national security risk for Hungary," Gyongyosi said.
Gyongyosi made his comments while criticizing Hungary's Foreign Ministry for siding with Israel and failing to step up in defense of Palestinians' rights.
Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including around a third of the victims who died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hungary's Jewish population is estimated at 100,000 today, and while physical attacks are rare, an elderly rabbi was insulted recently near his home and Jewish and Holocaust memorials have been vandalized.
Members of Jobbik, the second-largest opposition party in Parliament, have repeatedly made racist comments targeting mostly Jews and Hungary's largest minority, the Roma.
In statements released Tuesday, the government said it "most categorically condemns" Gyongyosi's remarks, while the largest opposition group, the Socialist Party, advocated for stricter laws against hate speech. Deputies from the other opposition groups said they were also outraged by Gyongyosi's proposal.
Some opposition politicians wore yellow stars while attending Tuesday's parliamentary session and an anti-Jobbik protest was to be held outside Parliament.
Parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Kover announced plans to change parliamentary rules and allow sanctions against deputies for statements or acts similar to Gyongyosi's.
Gyongyosi made a qualified apology for his statements Tuesday, saying his call to screen Jews was directed only at dual Hungarian-Israeli citizens.
"Jobbik believes that the national security risk assessment ... is important exclusively in the case of dual citizens," Gyongyosi said in a note posted on Jobbik's website. "I apologize to our Jewish compatriots for my equivocal statement."
"Hungary should not be afraid of Jobbik but of Zionist Israel and those serving it also from here," Gyongyosi concluded.
Gyongyosi also accused the press and his critics of bad faith and bad intentions regarding his statements.
Jobbik president Gabor Vona said recently that since Israel was a "terrorist state," politicians holding dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship had to be banned from becoming parliamentary deputies.
Rabbi Slomo Koves, of Hungary's Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch community, described Gyongyosi's proposal as "a chemically pure form of Nazism" and said he would file a complaint to prosecutors against the lawmaker for incitement against the Hungary's Jews.
International Jewish organizations also issued strong rebukes, comparing Gyongyosi's words to those of the Nazis.