Austrian bishop resigns from NGO over antisemitism at Palestinian event

In addition to anti-Israel antisemitism, the bishop cited verbal attacks on members of the Jewish community during a lecture as a reason for his break from the NGO.

Anti-Israel demonstrators march behind a banner of the BDS organization in Marseille, June 13. (photo credit: GEORGES ROBERT / AFP)
Anti-Israel demonstrators march behind a banner of the BDS organization in Marseille, June 13.
(photo credit: GEORGES ROBERT / AFP)
Bishop Manfred Scheuer resigned as president of the Catholic peace organization Pax Christi in Austria because of outbreaks of antisemitism within the NGO and at a Pax Christi event with the Palestinian ambassador.
Scheuer, bishop of Linz – Austria’s third largest city – said he parted ways with the NGO on Monday because of its “criticism of Israel’s politics” and his assessment of the “criticism as antisemitic,” the Catholic wire agency Kathpress reported.
“I am convinced that because of the Shoah, a special responsibility and sensitivity is necessary in Germany and Austria toward the State of Israel,” the bishop said, Pax Christi International supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting the Jewish state.
Scheuer cited an additional reason for his break with Pax Christi: verbal attacks on members of the Jewish community in Linz during a late May lecture by Salah Abdel Shafi, who serves as the Palestinian ambassador to Austria and to the UN in Vienna.
During the Pax Christi event, a talk by Abdel Shafi on “The Middle Conflict and the Role of the European Union,” insults were leveled at a writer and at Anna Mitgutch, a representative of the Jewish community in Linz, as well as at two members of the community, Kathpress reported.
Mitgutch told the Linz Kirchenzeitung church paper that the language used was a “new flare-up of antisemitism.”
The nature of the alleged antisemitism at the Pax Christi event with Abdel Shafi is unclear. He is an economist and was born in Gaza City.
Abdel Shafi told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, “At no time can I remember that anyone made any antisemitic comments.” He said he was surprised by the bishop’s resignation.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told the Post on Tuesday, “This resignation therefore marks an important turning point; for the first time, a member of the Catholic hierarchy in Europe has openly criticized the organization [Pax Christi] for this activity. By highlighting the antisemitism, Bishop Scheuer’s resignation might also lead the Vatican to issue long overdue guidelines for Pax Christi and other Catholic NGOs such as Misoerer in Germany, that promote BDS.”
The bishop said he shared the concerns of the Jewish community over the growing antisemitism in Europe. “Every form of antisemitism is disgraceful and should be sharply criticized,” said Scheuer.
Antisemitism should have no place in Austria or anywhere, he said. Churches, society and politicians must decisively fight antisemitism, added the bishop. Scheuer lamented that antisemitism shows that “people have forgotten history and are not aware of the entire catastrophe of the Shoah.”
The bishop cited Pope Francis’s statement: “It is impossible to be a Christian and at the same time an antisemite.”
Pax Christi International has 30 national branches, and Pax Christi Germany lists the Pax Christi Bank as its bank for donations to be used for BDS efforts.
Dr. Elvira U. Groezinger, the head of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post: “It is high time for such a step like the one by the bishop of Linz.
Pax Christi is also one of the most notorious supporters of the BDS in Germany as well.
For instance, only recently in the city of Essen it co-organized a BDS event with an anti-Israel Jew. There was no protest from the mayor there.”
She added, “Jena’s mayor has supported it [Pax Christi] in the past and was heavily criticized for that. All these local politicians but above all the heads of the Catholic Church should now follow the Linz bishop’s example. He has put them to shame by showing what moral and ethical integrity are totally absent in Pax Christi circles.”
Mayor Albrecht Schröter in the eastern German city of Jena joined the Pax Christ boycott of Israel in 2012 and has faced allegation of stoking hatred of Jews and Israel in Germany.
Steinberg said, “Pax Christi is heavily involved and partners with antisemitic groups and activities, including BDS and lobbying the EU to ‘suspend economic relations with Israel.’ They are also co-founders of EAPPI [the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel], whose activists accuse Israel of ‘apartheid’ and promote the Palestinian victimization narrative.
Pax Christi repeats Palestinian accusations of ‘collective punishment’ and ‘unjustified and disproportionate use of force,’ erasing terror and contributing to demonization and antisemitism.”