Austrian Jewish leader slams Kara for Vienna visit

Ariel Muzicant sends Netanyahu letter expressing feeling of "betrayal" at deputy minister accepting invite by party "founded by Nazis."

The president of Austria’s tiny Jewish community wrote a letter Wednesday to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressing a feeling of “betrayal” and “outrage” at deputy minister Ayoub Kara’s current visit to Vienna at the invitation of the right-wing Freedom Party, formerly the political home of Jorge Haider.
Ariel Muzicant said that the Likud’s Kara, the deputy minister for Galilee and Negev development, “officially honored and praised” individuals of the party as well as their political program.
He said the party had been founded by surviving Austrian Nazis; had representatives over the decades who had praised the Nazis, made anti- Semitic remarks and engaged in Holocaust denial; and organized meetings of anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi European parties in Austria.
“For decades the small Jewish Community of Austria has successfully fought against any kind of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, and the FPO [Freedom Party] was and is one of our worst adversaries,” Muzicant wrote, saying Kara’s visit and actions were “stabbing us in the back.”
The Austrian Jewish community, he wrote, feels “betrayed and are outraged” by the visit.
“I consider this a shame for the State of Israel and a betrayal of the murdered 65,000 Austrian Jews and the 6 million martyrs of the Shoa,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office directed questions about the matter to the Foreign Ministry, which said that Kara’s visit had not taken place in consultation with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry or the government.
“This is his own private initiative,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, acknowledging that the trip had raised eyebrows and criticism in Austria.
Kara deflected the criticism, saying at a press conference in Vienna that the Freedom Party was the only one of Austria’s five political parties that had supported Israel during the Gaza flotilla crisis in late May, had condemned calls from inside the Austrian Social Democratic Party for a boycott of Israel, and had written in its platform that the party was based on Judeo-Christian traditions.
“Everyone who stands against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, supports Israel and its right to defend its citizens, and recognizes the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is my partner and a partner for Israel,” he said.
Kara said he had looked into the party’s platform and the background of the head of the party, Heinz Christian Strache, and found “no connection with Nazism.”
In an apparent reference to Muzicant’s letter, Kara said that those attacking his trip were doing so out of ulterior motives that had nothing to do with the interests of Israel or Jews in the Diaspora, but were “coming against the background of business dealing with the acting chancellor,” who comes from the rival Social Democratic Party.
Kara’s spokesman, Mendi Safadi, said Haider had been “kicked out of the party.” In 2005, Haider and other leading figures in the party defected and set up a new party.
Strache was in Israel earlier this month along with representatives of other European rightwing parties. Kara met with that delegation, which also included representatives from right-wing parties in Belgium, Germany and Sweden.