Supporters of Hungary's anti-Semitic Jobbik party rally in Budapest.
Supporters of Hungary's anti-Semitic Jobbik party rally in Budapest on Saturday.

Jewish leaders warn that a rising tide of anti-Semitism is gaining ground in Hungary as hundreds of supporters of the country's far-right Jobbik party protested against the staging of the World Jewish Congress in Budapest on Saturday.

Jobbik, a nationalist party known for its frequent anti-Semitic messages, said the decision to hold the event in the Hungarian capital brought shame on Hungarians.

Its leaders accuse Israelis of plotting to buy up large parts of Hungary, and have repeatedly cited comments by former Israeli president Shimon Peres in which he praised Jews for buying property in Hungary.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who will speak at the congress's opening session on Sunday, had tried to ban the rally, but a court overturned the move, ruling police had overstepped their authority in trying to block it.

Congress spokesman Michael Thaidigsmann said: "We find it a worrying sign that these people express their anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli ideology in such a public way."

Several hundred supporters took part in the rally, with many clad in the black uniform of the party's paramilitary wing, the New Hungarian Guard, which has been accused of vigilante action against gypsies.

Jobbik chairman Gabor Vona told protesters: "The Israeli conquerors, these investors, should look for another country in the world for themselves, because Hungary is not for sale."

His fellow party member, Marton Gyongyosi, said: "Our country has become subjugated to Zionism. It has become a target of colonization while we, the indigenous people, can play only the role of extras."

Gyongyosi sparked outrage last year after calling on the government to keep lists of Jewish government officials, who he deemed a "national security risk".

The congress normally holds its assembly in Jerusalem, but has chosen Hungary as this year's venue to highlight growing anti-Semitism in Europe.

The congress will focus on the "alarming rise of neo-Nazi political parties and anti-Semitic incidents in several European countries, including Hungary", its website says.

Jobbik became the third largest party in 2010, winning 43 out of 386 seats. It also holds two seats in the European Parliament.

WJC President Ronald Lauder said Jobbik's ideology was "close to that of the Nazis."

He added: "The number of anti-Semitic or anti-Roma statements increased dramatically in recent years, and some of them have come from senior members of the prime minister's party or his government.

"It is for this reason that the World Jewish Congress will hold its plenary assembly meeting in Budapest in May.

"We want to send a strong signal that Hungary - home to the third-largest Jewish community in the European Union - is on a dangerous track."

More than half a million Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Hungary's current population of about 10 million people includes 80,000 to 100,000 Jews.