Austria Jewish Leaders Back Independent Against Far Right Wing Presidential Candidate

Austria’s Jewish community recommended on Tuesday that voters back an independent candidate at an election that could produce the first far right-wing president in the European Union - the first time it has ever declared an endorsement.

Former Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen is running neck-and-neck with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) candidate Norbert Hofer in a repeat-election seen as the country’s most important in decades.

For the first time in more than 50 years, Austria’s highest office will be held neither by a social democrat nor a Christian democrat candidate. The election first held in May was won by Van der Bellen but a rerun was called because of irregularities in the count of the postal ballots.

“Van der Bellen is not the lesser of two evils, he is the better candidate and has been a friend of the Jewish community and Israel for many decades,” Oskar Deutsch, President of the Jewish Communities of Austria (IKG), which represents around 15,000 jews, said on Facebook.

Without naming him, Deutsch spoke out against Norbert Hofer, who is running an “Austria first” campaign and has said that Islam is not a part of Austria.

Withdrawing into the Austrian shell can never be the answer to international crises, Deutsch said. Austria’s president had to respect every religion including Islam and to combat any “anti-attitude” tendencies.

The FPO, whose first leader was a decorated member of the Nazi SS and whose former leader Joerg Haider in the 1990s cited the “proper labor policies” of Adolf Hitler, says it is friendly toward Israel.

In early November, the party hosted an event with Rafael Eitan, the Israeli former intelligence officer who hunted down war criminal Adolf Eichmann, to demonstrate its pro-Jewish policy.

Party chief Heinz Christian Strache said he was furious about the sight of swastikas daubed on the Jewish cemetery and called anti-Semitism a crime. Both Strache and Hofer have visited Israel.

“Symbolic visits to Israel are not suitable for covering dubious sets of values,” the IKG’s Deutsch said.

Author

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

Austria Jewish Leaders Back Independent Against Far Right Wing Presidential Candidate

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close