Jewish leader blasts Austria’s UN record on Israel

Vote to green light UNHRC’s inquiry into settlement building on West Bank causes outrage.

UNHRC headquarters 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
UNHRC headquarters 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – Austria’s vote to support a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) investigation into Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem sparked criticism last week from the new head of the central European country’s small Jewish community, Israel’s government and a leading UN expert on human rights.
Austria and Belgium were the only two EU countries to join majority Muslim countries and their allies at the UN body in Geneva to call for the investigation on March, 22 in Geneva.
Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Italy and Romania abstained from the vote.
Oskar Deutsch, who was elected in late February, is the first Austrian-born president after the Holocaust, of the roughly 8,000-member Jewish community. He told the daily Die Presse on Thursday that Austria allows itself to be misused from the “agitation” of states who “themselves violate human rights on a daily basis.”
The 36-to-1 vote resulted in Austria aligning itself with such countries as China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, which, according to human rights groups, engage in anti-democratic behavior and trample over civil liberties. The US was the only democracy to vote against the resolution.
As a result of the vote, Israel pulled the plug last week on its cooperation with the UNHRC.
Israel summoned the Ambassadors of Belgium and Austria to file formal complaints to their governments about their countries’ votes.
Anne Bayefsky, a leading international legal authority on the United Nations and human rights, issued a micro-blog on Twitter after the vote blasting both EU countries. She wrote, “Austrian & Belgian anti-Semites prevail as states break ranks with EU over UNHR Council settlements resolution.”
According to the Die Presse article, Deutsch, the head of the Austrian Jewish community, sees a slanted anti-Israel voting record by Austria and called for more “balance” toward the Jewish state. He added that there is a “continuity” at work, since Austria voted to include the PLO as a state representative at the UNESCO vote in Paris.
Deutsch noted the Palestinians “do not yet have a state” and “given Austria’s past, it would be better if Austria remained neutral in connection with the votes.”
Traditionally, Austria proclaims a neutral foreign policy, but has targeted the Jewish state over the last few months in international forums.
Writing a commentary article in Tuesday’s Die Presse, the journalist Christian Ultsch observed that Austria’s diplomats largely limit their diplomacy to the Balkans. He added – with biting sarcasm – that Austria suddenly becomes “gutsy” on the world stage when Israel is involved. He writes that the UNHRC has an “anti-Israel” quality and it unfairly singles out the Jewish state for criticism.
He continued that “Israel expects, correctly, solidarity from a people that carries the co-responsibility for the Holocaust.”
In contrast to Germany, Austria’s government has never viewed Israel’s security to be in the country’s national interests.
Bayefsky, the director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, wrote last week in her Fox News opinion column that “The Council has commissioned 30 reports condemning Israel alone. That’s compared to five specific reports on Syria’s executioners, three on Iran’s genocidal regime, and none on Council members like Saudi Arabia – which tyrannizes its entire female population, or China – which denies more than a billion people elementary freedoms.”
She noted that UN-generated reports attacking Israel “aren’t made for dusty library shelves. They are terrorist manifestos and manuals in what can best be described as anti-Semitism 101.”