'Austrian minister has problem with living Jews'

The head of Austria’s Jewish community says defense minister “has problems with living Jews”; Wiesenthal Center calls for his removal.

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
May 25, 2012 01:31
2 minute read.
Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos [file]

Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos 370 (R). (photo credit: Leonhard Foeger / Reuters)

 
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BERLIN - Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos reinforced his attacks on Israel and a leading Jewish NGO, prompting the head of Austria’s Jewish community, Oskar Deutsch, to declare on Thursday to the daily Die Presse that the minister “has problems with living Jews.”

Dr. Shimon Samuels, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center´s international division, told the Jerusalem Post that Austria’s government should "denounce and fire" Darabos because he marginalized the Iranian nuclear weapons threat, launched biased criticisms of Israel, and disgraced Austria`s foreign policy reputation.

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In a telephone interview with the Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Samuels said “Necrophilia is not an excuse against anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, the European Left uses dead Jews from seven decades ago as a fig leaf to not see anti-Semitism.”

In an email to the Post on Wednesday, Stefan Hirsch, a spokesman for Darabos, outlined a list of Holocaust commemoration events that Darabos attended or supported honoring murdered Jews and anti-fascist fighters. Hirsch said that Darabos sharply "rejects the accusation of anti-Semitism" and termed the charge of Jew-hatred to be "absurd" because of his work as a resistance fighter against right-wing extremism.

Samuels asserted that the “the Austrian government is complicit” unless they sack and criticize Darabos, whose "obstinacy and insensitivity makes it even more inappropriate for him to be defense minister.”

The angry reactions reflect the growing concern among Jewish organizations in the United States and Austria that Darabos endangered international security by playing down the Iranian nuclear threat, helped make Iranian anti-Semitism respectable, and showed bias with his fixation on criticizing Israel and its foreign minister.

After the Wiesenthal Center’s call on Wednesday for his resignation, Darabos flatly rejected Samuel’s demand, but reiterated his anti-Israel views. He has over the last week strongly defended his controversial interview with Die Presse. In the interview, Darabos called Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman “unbearable,” and accused Israel of using Iran’s work on a nuclear bomb – and the Palestinian issue – to deflect attention from domestic problems.

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“Mr. Liberman is unbearable for me as a member of the Israeli government,” Darabos said in the interview. In connection with Iran, Darabos said that Israel’s “threats” were "unnecessary" because “Iran is not ready to build the bomb.”

Oskar Deutsch, the head of the roughly 7,500-member Jewish community, told Die Presse that either Darabos is ignorant or cynical or both. Deutsch called on Darabos to apologize for his insulting statements directed at Israel and Liberman. He added that Darabos showed no respect toward Liberman.

Critics see Darabos, who is a member of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, as part of a larger problem in which left-wing politicians use their anti-Nazi credentials as a kind of immunity against charges of modern anti-Semitism—the hatred of Israel and Israeli Jews. Vienna social democratic city council member Omar al-Rawi spoke in 2010 at a pro-Hamas rally in the capital inciting violence against Jews.

Samuels asked, “why doesn’t Darabos save his breath for the poor Syrians or for the Yemenites? Why is he only focusing on the Jewish state? What does this say about him?”

Darabos refused to answer a Post query on Thursday if he has criticized other countries in a similar manner as the Jewish state.

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