Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Saturday condemned the depiction of the leader of Hungary’s largest Jewish group surrounded by banknotes on the cover of a pro-government magazine, saying there was no place for anti-Semitism in the central European country’s politics.
The image of Andras Heisler, head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), was featured on the front page of the Figyelo weekly.
The Prime Minister’s Office said a diplomatic adviser to Netanyahu spoke with Hungary’s ambassador to Israel and condemned the magazine cover.
“The adviser said Israel demands the Hungarian government denounce every variation of anti-Semitism in Hungary’s internal disagreements,” it said in a statement.
The PMO did not indicate if a similar condemnation was relayed directly to Hungary’s government or Heisler.
The Figyelo magazine accused Heisler and Mazsihisz of accounting irregularities in connection with a state-funded synagogue renovation project in Budapest, allegations that Mazsihisz denies.
The row comes as the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has itself previously faced accusations of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its virulent campaigns against liberal US billionaire George Soros — claims it denies.
Israel’s ambassador to Hungary said on Facebook that he had called Heisler, also a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, to express his “dismay and shock” over the magazine cover.
The Canadian ambassador said in a tweet she had also called Heisler to convey solidarity “in light of the despicable cover.”
Up until this week Figyelo magazine was owned by prominent pro-government historian Maria Schmidt, who has been involved in a row with Mazsihisz for its refusal to back a new Holocaust museum proposed by the government and supported by another, smaller Jewish organization.
Earlier this year Figyelo published a list of some 200 civil society workers, academics and journalists it said were in the pay of Soros.
Orban backed the publication of the list, saying it promoted “transparency.”
On Wednesday Netanyahu specifically named Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a European leader working to combat anti-Semitism after a Europe-wide poll of anti-Semitic attitudes commissioned by broadcaster CNN and published earlier this week, found 42 percent of Hungarians think Jews have too much influence in finance and business across the world and 19 percent admit to having an unfavorable opinion of Jews.
Orban visited Israel earlier this year on a trip that drew criticism from Israeli opposition politicians and Jewish groups due to the Hungarian leader’s praise for Hungarian wartime leader and Nazi ally Miklos Horthy and attacks on Jewish billionaire George Soros, which critics say flirt with anti-Semitic stereotypes.
The latest row comes after the government pledged to spend 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) every year on various projects to combat anti-Semitism in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe.