Jews quit Austrian Social Dem party

Anti-Israeli resolution coupled with anti-Semitism causes exodus.

July 21, 2010 04:25
3 minute read.
Austrians commemorate Nazi victims at parliament.

holocaust memorial austria 311. (photo credit: AP)


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BERLIN - A prominent Jewish member of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, Ernst M. Stern, announced earlier this month that he was resigning from the party in protest of its support for “completely biased solidarity resolutions with the corrupt functionaries of the PLO as well as with Islamic fanatics from Hamas...”

Dr. Kurt Stürzenbecher, a member of the Vienna city council from the Social Democratic party (SPÖ), told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that “we very much regret that Mr. Stern” resigned from the party and are seeking to “engage in a dialogue” with him.

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Stürzenbecher voted for a SPÖ-initiated city council resolution blasting Israel for its seizure on May 31 of the Mavi Marmara protest ship, which tried to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The anti-Israeli resolution coupled with rising anti- Semitism in Austria triggered Stern and other Jews to pull the plug on their party memberships.

Samuel Laster, the editor-in- chief of the Vienna-based online Jewish news site Die Jüdische, first published Stern’s resignation letter on his Web site. Stern has been a leading member of the Social Democrats since the 1970s.

After the letter appeared on Die Jüdische, the daily Die Presse newspaper headlined a story, “SPÖ loses Jewish members.”

Stürzenbecher told the Post that Stern “overreacted” to the criticism of Israel, which is “balanced and in the mainstream of Europe’s reaction” to the raid on the Mavi Marmara.

“Our Jewish friends were not enthusiastic about the resolution,” Stürzenbecher added. He declined to comment on how many Austrian Jews have left the party.

“Each resignation is too much,” he said.

Stern wrote in his resignation letter: “We find it to be a scandal when ‘comrade” [Omar] al-Rawi and other Social Democratic [city] council members introduce such a resolution, which promotes solidarity with the sworn enemies of Israel – the FPÖ [Freedom Party of Austria] and neo-Nazis, and not one voice of reason is raised against the resolution, at least from our own ranks.”

Jewish community calls Rawi's resignation for inciting hate

Austria’s 7,500-member Jewish community has called for Rawi’s resignation for allegedly inciting hate against Jews at a pro-Hamas demonstration in Vienna. A series of pro-Hamas demonstrations in early June saw signs reading, “Hitler, wake up” and other posters equating Israel with Nazi Germany.

At one of the rallies, Social Democratic Councilman Omar al-Rawi called for the “continuation of the struggle” of the nine anti- Israel activists killed on the Mavi Marmara.

When asked about Rawi’s statements, Stürzenbecher told the Post “he should not resign” and that one can interpret his call for “continuation of the struggle” against Israel as either “negative” or “ordinary rhetoric.”

Pressed further about Rawi appearing at a pro-Hamas rally and calling for violent struggle against Israelis, Stürzenbecher said Rawi could have been more “measured” with his language.

Stürzenbecher said there is no anti-Semitism among the Social Democratic party leadership but could not rule out “latent anti-Semitism “among some of the 300,000 members of the Austrian Social Democrats.”

Samuel Laster, a veteran observer of Austrian-Israeli relations, told the Post that the “SPÖ has a problem with Israel and the resolution is a disgrace.”

He added that the Social Democrats have not done anything against the anti- Israeli activity within the party, and the Vienna city council should not interfere in foreign policy. Laster sees a city council that is shifted in the direction of political Islamists.

Stern ended his resignation letter by writing that within the Social Democrats, “what do a few thousand Jews count for against hundreds of thousands of Muslims.”

Stürzenbecher told the Post that “is unfair from Mr. Stern. The Jewish community is very important.”

According to Die Presse, Ariel Muzicant, the head of the Austrian Jewish community, who is himself a member of the SPÖ, said many Jewish Social Democrats have rejected the party because of anger about the quick condemnation of Israel and... the anti-Semitic demonstrations against Israel.”

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