Israel and a European human rights official criticized Hungary on Monday for presenting an award to a journalist they accuse of anti-Semitism.
A dozen former recipients of the Tancsics prize for journalistic excellence handed their awards back in protest against it being given this year to Ferenc Szaniszlo, a journalist at Echo, a privately-owned news organization.
Israel’s ambassador accused Szaniszlo of “spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against Israel.” The journalist denies the charge.
“This man and his ideas must be rejected and should not have been awarded [a prize]. I call upon the government of Hungary to take all necessary actions in order to withdraw the award, given to the wrong person for very wrong reasons,” Ambassador Ilan Mor said in a statement.
In 2010, Szaniszlo said, “The western world needs to reckon with … emptying Israel … It can be expected that the Jewish population from Israel … will need to be gradually relocated to Europe and the United States.”
Szaniszlo said he would not return the award.
“This is not anti-Semitism at all. Whenever someone dares to criticize the policies of Israel, then that person is listed as an anti-Semite immediately,” he told Reuters.
Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe, said he was concerned by Hungary’s decision to give awards to Szaniszlo and two other people, all of whom, he said, “have made no secret of their anti-Semitic and racist views.”
“Giving the annual Tancsics prize to a journalist notorious for his positions against Jewish and Roma people, as well as medals to a singer of an extreme right, nationalist music band and to an archaeologist known for his theories clearly tainted by anti-Semitism is an insult to our past and flies in the face of European and democratic values,” Muiznieks said in a statement.
The government minister who has final say on the awards said it had been a “bad decision” to grant the award to Szaniszlo and that he had not been aware that the journalist “had made comments recently that violated human dignity.”
“Had I been aware of these views, I would not have accepted the proposal (for the award). As regulations do not allow to withdraw awards, I can only express my regret over a bad decision,” Minister for Human Resources Zoltan Balog said in a statement.