An online statement issued by the Hungarian government said that a campaign aimed at the Jewish billionaire George Soros will be coming to an end on Saturday, raising speculation that the move was connected with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming visit to the country.
Posters were on display in Hungary's streets showing the Hungarian-born Jewish emigre laughing, with the caption: "Let's not let Soros have the last laugh". Some have been daubed with graffiti such as "Stinking Jew".
The caption is a reference to government claims that Soros, who has donated billions to rights groups around the region, wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.
The posters are the fourth media blitz this year by the rightwing government of populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban to trumpet its fight against migration, Brussels and Soros.
Launched at the start of July, the huge images were splashed across billboards as well as tram and bus stops across the country.
After some of the posters were defaced with offensive graffiti, Hungary's largest Jewish organisation Mazsihisz called on Orban to remove them.
Soros, 86, called the imagery "anti-Semitic" in a rare statement Tuesday.
Government officials insisted the campaign was not about Soros's background but informing Hungarians about the security risks posed by his alleged support for mass immigration.
In a reply to Mazsihisz, Orban accused the "billionaire speculator" of wanting to "settle a million migrants" in the European Union, something Soros called "disinformation".
Orban also urged Hungarian Jews to help him "fight against illegal migration" which he said "imports anti-Semitism" into Europe.
Earlier Tuesday a Hungarian news site cited an unidentified source in Orban's Fidesz party as saying that the government wanted to avoid potential embarrassment before Netanyahu arrives.
The country's position on the Soros posters has created confusion ahead of his visit, the first by an Israeli premier since communism ended in 1989.
After Israel's ambassador initially condemned the campaign, the Israeli foreign ministry—reportedly at Netanyahu's request—issued a separate "clarification" that criticism of Soros was legitimate.
While Israel "deplores" anti-Semitism, Soros "continuously undermines Israel's democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself", a statement said.
Despite the fact that the Hungarian government said it would be ending the campaign saturday, it also denied it was doing so prematurely as a result of Netanyahu's visit in three days, a report said in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
According to the report, a government spokesman said that the campaign would end as scheduled, regardless of Netanyahu’s visit.