Austrian police fine students for waving Israel flag at anti-BDS protest

A police supervisor told the students the Israeli flag is a “provocation” and issued the activists a 150 euro fine.

Vienna students fight antisemitism (photo credit: TIMO MULLER)
Vienna students fight antisemitism
(photo credit: TIMO MULLER)
Police in Vienna, Austria fined four students €150 for waving an Israel flag at a protest against advocates of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) targeting the Jewish state.
A spokesperson for an organization that monitors antisemitism (Informations- und Beobachtingsstelle antisemitismus), who was at the protest in March, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Friday, that a police supervisor told the students the Israeli flag is a “provocation” and issued the activists a €150 fine.
“Once again there was a demonstration in Austria in which antisemitic slogans such as ‘child murderer Israel’ were present, said the spokesperson for monitoring group combating antisemitism.
The spokesperson added: “Unfortunately this is not the first and probably will not be the last incident of this kind,” noting “that a speaker was wearing a PFLP scarf at the rally in solidarity with an organization classified by the EU, among others, as a terrorist organization whose members carried out several terrorist attacks on Jews.”
The United States and European Union designated the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) a terrorist entity.
According to the spokesperson who documented the anti-Israel protest in March when the fine was issued,” the students held the Israel flag high and yelled ‘Long Live Israel.”
The spokesperson said one student was accused of stating  “F*** Palestine” but denies the allegation. The pro-Israel students were demonstrating against the group BDS-Austria and its supporters during the so-called “Israeli Apartheid Week” — a week viewed by pro-Israel advocates as a hate fest.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, told the Post: “Apparently it is still a provocation for Jews to defend their people’s honor by waving flag of Israel. SWC urges the Chancellor and other Austrian leaders to publicly wave the Blue and White [Israeli flag] on Israel Independence Day in solidarity with Israel and Jewish community. And the police? Check their obvious anti-Jewish bias.”
Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, a spokesperson for the Austrian federal government, wrote the Post by email: “With regard to recent reports on penalties for persons at a demonstration in Vienna, the following must be made clear. The swinging of the Israeli flag in Austria as a sign of support for Israel is – generally speaking – in no way a violation of Austrian law.”
Launsky-Tieffenthal added, “On the contrary, it means the expression of a fundamental right that is enshrined in the Austrian constitution – freedom of expression. However, it is the task of the police, in particular during a demonstration, to ensure that public order and security are protected. The incident is being investigated in its entirety, all circumstances are carefully examined.”
The Austrian news outlet Heute wrote on Friday: “Nazis demanded ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’ Today, the BDS movement formulates it similarly: BDS calls for the boycott of the Jewish state.”
In January, 2018 the Post reported on an almost identical case. The Vienna police pursued criminal charges against four pro-Israel activists for waving an Israeli flag in protest of antisemitic slogans at a demonstration against Jerusalem having been recognized by the US as the capital of the Jewish state.
The police sought a €100 fine or two days in jail for the activists, who showed support for Israel at the December 8 anti-Israel rally near the US Embassy in Austria’s capital.
The criminal notice, dated January 3, 2018 stated that the activists “showed an Israeli flag at a rally in an extremely provocative way and manner that was visible for participants at the rally and thereby produced considerable offense and provocation among the Palestinian protesters.”
In March, 2018, the fine was lifted against the four pro-Israel activists. Austria’s interior ministry defended the fine at the time.