‘A danger to humanity’: Activists block Hungarian PM’s convoy at Yad Vashem

Dozens of demonstrators, including Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors, block Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s convoy outside Israeli Holocaust museum. ‘He is a danger to humanity.’

By Oren Ziv

Dozens of demonstrators blocked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s motorcade as he left Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, in Jerusalem Thursday, as part of his official visit to the country. The demonstrators were protesting Orbán’s anti-Semitism, as well as his iron-fisted policies toward asylum seekers in his country.

The demonstrators held signs in both Hebrew and Hungarian and yelled the word “shame” while blocking the convoy as it tried to leave the museum. Within minutes the crowd was dispersed by Shin Bet agents and police officers, with the protesters continuing to chant as Orbán planted a tree in The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, dedicated to non-Jews who aided Jews during the Holocaust.

Orbán has been waging an anti-Semitic campaign against billionaire George Soros, himself a Hungarian Jew, and has enacted harsh policies against refugees, including by building detention camps and a separation barrier on Hungary’s borders.

“I am here because I believe Orbán has no reason to be in Yad Vashem,” said Veronica Cohen, a Holocaust survivor born in Hungary. “Because of his anti-humanistic attitude, because of his incitement against refugees. We were once refugees, we are in a sense a nation of refugees, and it is our duty to protect them. He is a danger to humanity.”

“Unfortunately the prime minister of Israel also has very little respect for human life. The new laws passed recently are leading us toward fascism,” Cohen added, as she held a sign reading “Never Again.”

“We are protesting against this shameful visit,” said Attorney Eitay Mack, one of the organizers of the action. “Orbán is carrying out an anti-Semitic and racist campaign in Hungary against George Soros. The heads of the Jewish community in Hungary have called it dangerous.”

Mack also spoke about policies that Yad Vashem can enact regarding visits by racist leaders. “Every dictator, every murderer who wants to buy weapons from Israel must come and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem. We saw the head of the junta in Myanmar come here for a visit, only to carry out a genocidal campaign months later. We saw the prime minister of Kenya, who is suspected of crimes against humanity. Yad Vashem has turned into an institution that whitewashes the crimes of these regimes — as long as they do business with Israel.”

Yael Weiss-Reind, whose family was murdered in Hungary during the Holocaust, said that Yad Vashem was granting legitimacy to these regimes when it “accepts leaders who carry out policies and ideologies that are very similar to what we saw decades ago.”

“My family is from Hungary,” she says, “my grandfather was murdered in Auschwitz, and the prime minister of Hungary, who is being welcomed here with respect, has previously expressed his admiration for the leader who helped carry out the annihilation of 564,000 Jews. I am disgusted by the fact that the State of Israel is hosting him.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.