vienna jwe 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A prominent Austrian Jewish leader on Tuesday condemned the European Parliament's new far-right faction as racist and anti-Semitic, saying it would likely have been banned in Austria.
Earlier this month, some of Europe's most high-profile far-right politicians united in a new political grouping that brings together some big names from the far right of European politics, including France's Jean-Marie Le Pen and Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Italy's wartime Fascist leader. Andreas Moelzer, a member of Austria's rightist Freedom Party, is also a member.
"Such a grouping would most likely be forbidden in Austria," Ariel Muzicant, president of Vienna's Jewish Community, told reporters in the Austrian capital. He said Moelzer was the group's "architect."
In a news release posted on his Web site earlier this month, Moelzer said the creation of the group closed a gap in the political landscape of the European Parliament.
As an official grouping, Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty - known as ITS for short - is eligible for increased speaking time, more attractive time slots and several hundred thousand dollars (euros) in EU funding.
According to Muzicant, the faction consists of people who published the names and addresses of Jews on the Internet and that openly called for the expulsion and murder of Gypsies and Jews.
Muzicant said he was hopeful that the group would soon disband by losing mandates. It currently consists of 20 members from seven countries. To set up a new political group there must be a minimum of 19 members from 5 different EU countries.
"There is good hope it will crumble," Muzicant said, noting there were already signs of infighting within the faction.
Muzicant, who said the group consisted of racists and anti-Semites, added the Jewish Community was checking to see whether the Freedom Party broke Austrian laws by becoming a part of the faction.
Muzicant also criticized Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache's positive reaction to the group's creation.
Strache described the faction as a "great acquisition" in an interview with the Austria Press Agency earlier this month, according to a statement posted on the Freedom Party's Web site.
Strache has come under fire in recent weeks for a series of photos dating back to his youth that some local media outlets have said links him to right wing extremists. At a news conference Monday, Strache distanced himself from such speculation, saying he was "never a neo Nazi and never will be a neo Nazi."
Muzicant said Tuesday it was politically opportune for Freedom Party politicians such as Strache to condemn Nazi crimes and distance themselves from National Socialism, adding this was merely a "fig leaf."