Austrian chancellor slams Vienna's anti-Israel resolution

Jewish community to sue over post-flotilla incitement.

June 15, 2010 01:17
4 minute read.
Austrian Jewish community head Ariel Muzicant.

ariel muzicant 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

BERLIN – The head of Austria’s Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday that Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann had described a Vienna city council resolution that unilaterally condemned Israel’s seizure of the Gaza flotilla as “unbalanced.”

According to Muzicant, the social democratic chancellor told him “that he would not have done the resolution.”

Members of all mainstream democratic parties from the Vienna city council, ranging from the social democrats to the Greens to the conservatives, formed an alliance on May 31 with the radical right-wing Austrian Freedom Party, which has connections to Austrian Nazis, and blasted Israel’s actions aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Muzicant, who was born in Haifa and is a member of the Austrian Social Democratic (SPÖ) party, told the Post that anti-Israeli Social Democrats had attempted to pressure Faymann to cancel his slated June 23-24 visit to Israel, but he had refused. Muzicant complained in a letter to the SPÖ about its decision to hastily condemn Israel.

“There will be a debate within the SPÖ; people seem to realize they have been misled and misused... it was not just a humanitarian flotilla. Islamists were on board and decided to commit criminal acts against Israel. [This was] not shown in the first days,” said Muzicant.

Asked whether the SPÖ would reverse its support for the anti-Israel resolution, Muzicant said, “We will judge them by deeds and not what they are saying.”

The SPÖ is slated to issue a new resolution on Wednesday.

Speaking from Vienna, Israeli Ambassador Aviv Shir-On told the Post that he met on Monday with the speaker of the Vienna city council and told him that the resolution was “one-sided... if the the Arab countries in the UN said the earth is flat, they would take it as part of their resolution.”

Shir-On said the city council members had not spoken to the Israeli Embassy before issuing their resolution, and questioned whether it was the proper role of a city council to “deal with foreign affairs.” He noted that the Vienna city council had chosen to single out Israel while remaining silent about Iran and the genocide in Darfur.

In connection with the Israeli-Hamas conflict, Shir-On said there was “no other example” of a country at war supplying its enemy with “electricity and food.” He said Austrian local politicians made no effort to understand “the reasons for the blockade. Every country has the right, the duty, to protect its citizens.”

He cited the Hamas rocket attacks on his hometown of Ashkelon, where missiles had hit the school he attended.

According to Muzicant, “the number of anti-Semitic manifestations have risen” since the Gaza flotilla seizure. He added that that the community had registered 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents, including Jews being “spat on and cursed.”

The Austrian Jewish community has advised its members not to travel to Turkey because it is “too dangerous.” While stressing that not all Austrian Turks were stoking anti-Jewish violence, he said there were “extremists elements in the Turkish community... [they] switched to anti-Semitic activities.”

The 7,500-member Jewish community has assembled a dossier on the outbreak of Jew- and Israel-hatred. Muzicant said the community would submit the material to the public prosecutor because there had been violations “against an Austrian law forbidding anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic acts.”

He said the community planned to take legal action against local city councilman Omar al-Rawi from the Social Democratic Party for “inciting hatred.”

Rawi, who serves as commissioner for integration, has raised funds for Hamas and spoke at an anti-Israel rally on June 4 attended by between 10,000 and 12,000 people. He told the pro-Hamas rally that the nine dead peace activists “did not die in vain” and declared that their fight must continue.

Austrian observers said Iranian and Hizbullah flags were waved at the demonstration.

According to Muzicant, banners equating the Nazi swastika and the Star of David were present at the rallies. A sign stating “Hitler wake up” was displayed at an anti-Israeli demonstration organized by left-wing group the Anti-Imperialist Committee and Austrian Muslims.

Karl Pfeifer, an expert in modern Austrian anti-Semitism, told the Post that Rawi’s “activity is anti-Semitic because he singles out the Jewish state” in a discriminatory fashion and “has no problems with posters equating Israel with Nazis” as well as banners and chants describing Israel as a murderer of children. Pfeifer said the the anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli posters and chants met the criteria of the European Union’s definition of anti-Semitism as outlined by the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Writing a guest commentary in the Austrian daily Die Presse, Thomas Schmidinger noted that Rawi’s “true heartfelt concern” was to mobilize against Israel, and he had appeared at Arab and Turkish demonstrations, where solidarity with Hamas was called for.

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