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Hungary protests against politician's anti-Semitic remarks

Protesters have rallied against a far-right politician after he proposed the compilation of a list of Jewish residents for security purposes. The remarks followed a political debate over the Israeli-Gaza conflict.

Outside Hungary's parliament building in Budapest on Tuesday, some protesters chanted "Nazis go home," referring to far-right politicians from the party Jobbik who supported a policy to register the country's Jewish population. Many wore yellow stars, a direct reference to the identifiers members of the Jewish communities across Germany and Nazi-occupied territories were required to wear in the late 1930s.

Earlier in the week, the vice-chairman of Jobbik's Foreign Affairs Committee argued for a survey of the country's Jewish population in response to the violent conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

"I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary," said vice-chairman Marton Gyongyosi.

Hungary's Jobbik party, which first entered parliament in 2010, currently holds 47 of 386 seats. It is the country's third most powerful party, and is a known proponent of anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric.

Jobbik leaders held a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy last week to protest the conflict in the Middle East and Israel's general treatment of Palestinians.

Hungarian politicians condemn remarks

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's press office issued a statement on Tuesday in response to Gyongyosi's comments.

"The government strictly rejects extremist, racist, anti-Semitic voices of any kind and does everything to suppress such voices," the statement said.

Speaker Laszlo Kover, who belongs to the prime minister's center-right party, Fidesz, called for stricter rules that would punish politicians for similar remarks. He was joined by other politicians expressing their outrage.

In an apology on Tuesday, Gyongyosi contended that his remarks had been misunderstood. The proposed survey was meant to identify only Hungarians with Israeli passports, he said.

An estimated 550,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust. The eastern European nation currently has a Jewish population of approximately 100,000.

kms/ccp (Reuters, AP, AFP, dapd, dpa)