Right of Reply: No, Austria is not largely Haider

Austria's leading politicians attended Haider funeral as protocol demands for the governor of a province.

haider candles 224 ap (photo credit: )
haider candles 224 ap
(photo credit: )
Benjamin Weinthal's article of 12 November entitled "Is Austria largely Haider" touched upon many sensitive issues between Austria and Israel. While always open for founded criticism, I feel that I have to clarify some of the distorted comments and conclusions expressed in the article and I would like to address three issues of main concern to us: First, bilateral relations between Austria and Israel are excellent - probably as good as they have ever been. In the last 12 months, the federal chancellor, the foreign minister, the minister of defense and the minister for science and research as well as many other high-ranking personalities from politics, business, culture and science have visited Israel. Next month the Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer will be in Israel on an official state visit, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel and underlining the strength and manifold nature of our relations. Second, since Chancellor Vranitzky's speech before the Austrian Parliament in Vienna in 1991 and Jerusalem's Hebrew University in 1993 (President Klestil spoke in the Knesset in 1994), the Austrian government has clearly demonstrated its determination and capability to face the country's darkest years. Remembrance of and reflection on the Shoah are very much present in Austrian official and individual minds. Since the establishment of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism, over 60.000 applications were processed and 450 million euro paid to victims of the National Socialist regime in Austria. Fund for the Future supports projects and scientific work in memory of the victims, as do many other governmental and non-governmental institutions. Austria's consequent position against denial and forgetting, as reflected in one of the most stringent laws (Prohibition Act) against Nazi and Neo Nazi activities, has been honored by its current role as president of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. We will certainly continue on this path, aware that the horrors will and can never be undone, but that it's the work for "Never again" that is essential. Third, when it comes to Jorg Haider one has to remember that he was not only a long-time politician but also the governor of one of Austria's nine provinces. He held the elected post of governor for over nine years and therefore Austria's leading politicians attended his funeral according to protocol. THERE CAN be no doubt about the government's position towards Israel and Iran: Austria considers her relations with Israel to be of utmost importance and does everything in her power to further develop and deepen her warm and friendly ties with Israel. Austria has strongly condemned every public statement by Iranian officials which could be considered to be questioning Israel's right to exist or to be anti-Semitic, in particular those by the Iranian president questioning the Holocaust and the right of Israel to exist. We will continue to condemn any such statements in the future and in the strongest possible terms. Austria is aware of Israel's concerns regarding Iran and we take them very seriously. Austria has always fully implemented United Nations sanctions against Iran and continues to do so. If new sanctions are passed in a UN Security Council Resolution, Austria will of course act accordingly. Austria actively participates in the relevant discussions concerning possible additional measures against Iran which are taking place among the member states of the European Union and there is no question that Austria feels bound by all EU-decisions in this regard. Let me conclude by saying that no, Austria is not largely Haider. Yes, Haider was Austrian. But it is only legitimate to criticize a country if there is reason and substance, and Austria is fully aware of her past and current challenges. It is unfair to apply incorrect stereotypes toward Austria as a whole . The writer is Ambassador of Austria to Israel