Far Right: Supporter of Austria?s populist Freedom Party clashes with police during demonstration.

Austrian Jewish Leaders Plan to Work With Far-Right Party

JTA — Leaders of Austria’s Jewish community said they are willing to normalize ties with the far-right Freedom Party, which they have previously shunned because of some party members’ Nazi sympathies.

Oscar Deutsch, the president of the Jewish Community in Vienna, and his predecessor, Ariel Muzicant, told the nrg news site they have put together a plan of action for the Freedom Party to implement if it seeks to establish formal contact with the community, the news site reportedFriday.

Last month, Freedom Party’s presidential candidate lost the election’s second and final round by less than a percent of the vote. In its journey from a fringe movement 15 years ago to a mainstream party, the Freedom Party, which opposes immigration from Muslim countries, has sought to downplay its racist and anti-Semitic reputation.

Jorg Haider, the party’s previous leader, praised Nazi employment policies and the Waffen-SS. The current leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, apologized in 2012 for posting on Facebook a caricature depicting an obese, hook-nosed banker wearing star-shaped cufflinks.

Freedom Party lawmakers often have attended and spoken at events commemorating Nazis, including a  gathering in memory of an Austrian-born Nazi fighter pilot, who shot down 258 planes, 255 of them Russian. And Strache himself had been accused of using a little-known Nazi salute in 2009, something he denied. He also visited Israel this year and met with officials there.

Strache said he supports Israel’s fight against radical Islam and has argued he has purged his party of anti-Semitism.

But Muzicant said the party needs to take “substantial steps to clean the anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi elements still active in its ranks,” nrg reported. If Strache “wants to get the Jewish people’s seal of approval, and that of Israel, he needs to prove that he has totally rejected those espousing such views.” The process could take years, Muzicant said. Strache, for his part, told nrg he was in principle willing to meet the requirements and would study the community’s demands.

In April, Karl Pfeifer, a veteran journalist and anti-fascist activist who formerly edited the official publication of Vienna’s Jewish community of 8,000 people, told JTA the community is bound to establish relations with the Freedom Party if it reaches positions of power.

“The Jewish community will have no choice but to cooperate,” Pfeifer said.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Austrian Jewish Leaders Plan to Work With Far-Right Party

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close