Israel has backtracked after calling on Hungary to halt a poster campaign targeting George Soros, saying it stands against anti-Semitism but that criticism of the US billionaire is also legitimate.
On Saturday, Israel’s ambassador in Budapest Yossi Amrani issued a statement criticising the poster campaign that Jewish leaders say stoked anti-Semitism.
The posters show a large picture of the Hungarian-born Jewish emigre laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not leave Soros the last laugh”, a reference to government claims that the 86-year-old wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.
The campaign is the fourth media blitz by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government this year against Brussels or Soros for their alleged attacks on Hungary’s hardline anti-immigration stance.
Since the latest posters appeared on billboards and at public spaces last week, several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti daubed on them have been reported.
“It’s our moral responsibility to raise a voice and call on the relevant authorities to exert their power and put an end to this cycle,” Amrani said in a statement.
“I call on those involved in the current billboard campaign and those responsible for it to reconsider the consequences.
“At the moment, beyond political criticism of a certain person, the campaign not only evokes sad memories but also sows hatred and fear.”
But late Sunday — reportedly at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office — Israel’s foreign ministry issued a separate “clarification”.
Israel’s right-wing accuses Soros of backing human rights groups critical of the government.
Netanyahu, who heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in his country’s history, is also to visit Hungary on July 18, the first such trip by an Israeli premier since the EU member’s transition from communism in 1989.
“Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred,” the foreign ministry statement said.
“This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary.
“In no way was the statement meant to delegitimise criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organisations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”
Soros’s Open Society Foundations had not immediately responded to a request for comment.(AFP)