Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest son appeared this week at an event in Budapest put on by a Hungarian historian who has been accused of distorting the Holocaust.
According to a Channel 13 news report Thursday, Yair Netanyahu addressed the event hosted by Maria Schmidt, who is close with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government.
Schmidt, who has repeatedly equated and lumped together the Holocaust and the Soviet domination of Hungary, had been set to head Hungary’s new House of Fates museum on the Holocaust, prompting Yad Vashem and other Jewish groups to boycott it. The Simon Wiesenthal Center called Schmidt’s assertions a form of Holocaust distortion.
She also owns the pro-government weekly Figyelo, which last year depicted the head of Hungary’s largest Jewish organization on its cover surrounded by banknotes — a common anti-Semitic trope.
In a speech at the event, Yair Netanyahu railed against Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros, whom Orban accuses of fomenting migration flows to Europe.
“George Soros’s organizations are destroying Israel from the inside. Soros’s organizations are working day and night in order to rob Israel of its Jewish identity,” he was quoted as saying by Channel 13.
Yair Netanyahu defended his appearance at the event, calling Schmidt a supporter of Israel.
“Mrs. Schmidt is a true friend of the State of Israel who supports in every European forum she takes part in,” he told the network.
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) October 31, 2019
The elder Netanyahu has forged close ties with Orban, whom he has hailed for his support of Israel.
Orban has been criticized for promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes in his country, including through his campaign against Soros. He has also been chastised for his efforts to rehabilitate the reputation of Hungarian wartime leader Miklos Horthy, who deported hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths.
Orban’s government vehemently insists on its good faith toward the Jewish community, which at around 100,000 is the largest in central Europe.
It introduced Holocaust education in schools, has supported another Holocaust museum in Budapest, and the renovation of several synagogues.
Netanyahu has also lauded Orban for his proclamation of “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism.
Agencies contributed to this report.