Hundreds in Hungary anti-Zionist protest ahead of Jewish meeting

Hundreds of Hungarians gathered Saturday in downtown Budapest for an anti-Zionist protest organised by the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party, just a day before a World Jewish Congress (WJC) meeting kicks off here.

Some 500 protesters, including some in the uniform of the banned paramilitary Hungarian Guard, took part in the demonstration, which the interior ministry had tried to prevent, according to an AFP photographer.

The event, aimed at "paying tribute to the victims of Zionism and Bolchevism", comes amid a recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Hungary, which encouraged the World Jewish Congress to take the unusual step of holding its meeting in Budapest.

In typically provocative comments, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona told protesters that money paid as compensation to Holocaust survivors could have been better used, ATV television reported.

Vona also said Jews should ask for forgiveness for the crimes committed under the Communist regime by leaders like Bela Kun or Matyas Rakosi, who were Jewish.

Jobbik, which won 17 percent of the vote in 2010 general elections, regularly makes headlines with its anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric.

A strong police presence was on hand Saturday, including at a smaller counter-protest near the Jobbik demonstration, and was to remain until the end of the WJC meeting on May 7.

Recent anti-Semitic incidents have included Hungary's chief rabbi being verbally abused on a Budapest street, anti-Semitic chants at a football match against Israel and pig's trotters being placed on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Budapest Jews in World War II.

"Many such individual cases taken together create a broad picture that is anything but rosy," WJC head Ronald Lauder said in an interview with the German newspaper Tagesspiegel published on Friday.