Anti Fascism,  The Left

Anti-Semitism and the Austrian Left

Read Karl Pfeifer:

At the beginning of April 2002 MEP Hannes Swoboda asked Europe’s Jewish communities to dissociate themselves from Israeli politics, lest they promote antisemitism. Swoboda is something of a regular when it comes to anti-Israeli events.

In a typical example of secondary antisemitism, Johann Hatzl, chairman of Vienna’s local council, was interviewed on Radio Wien in May 2002 when he freely offered his opinion that Ariel Sharon was a “state-terrorist who, with the might of a state, authorizes extra-judicial assassinations of persons in foreign countries and persecutes minorities in ways which the Jews would not like if it were done to them.”

Karl Blecha, a former SPÖ Minister of the Interior and now president of the Socialist Pensioners’ Association (Pensionistenverband), said, according to the weekly Format: “The Zionists, who wanted to found in the whole of Palestine an exclusive Jewish state, have been exposed by their reaction for what they are – racists; and their state has become an example of one that practices unlawful racial discrimination.” He also added that “faithlessness has been a Zionist tradition.”

Former Austrian Foreign Minister Erwin Lanc (SPÖ) also participated in “conference of rabbis” under the aegis of the Jewish anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect, held on 1 July 2004, which was attended by a veritable who’s who of prominent right wing extremists.

On 20 July 1982, Fritz Edlinger the chairman of the SPÖ’s young generation sent a letter to the Vienna Jewish community, in which he asked the following question: “Can you live with taking financial support from a country whose chancellor you defame again and again as an enemy of the state of Israel?”

He continued: “Instead of constantly directing cheap and superficial appeals to Austria’s guilty conscience and demanding compensation from Austria’s population, you should rather look more critically at the political develop­ment of the state of Israel that you defend uncritically… Until you are not ready to do that, I deny absolutely your moral right to pass judgment on and make public declarations about the activities of Austrian organizations.”

Remarkably, these words did not come from an ageing Nazi, but from a young man who prided himself on his “leftist” and “anti-fascist” image. Here was a prime case of secondary antisemitism, accusing Austrian Jews of exploiting the Holocaust for political and financial gain and expressly excluding them from the national collective.

Edlinger became a keen promoter of political and trade links between Austria and the Arab world, serving as General Secretary of the Society for Austro-Arab relations (GÖAB) and as the SPÖ’s representative at the Middle East Committee of the Socialist International from 1997 – 2002.

He was particularly close with Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In 2005, he was at the center of a scandal when a journalist revealed that Edlinger’s GÖAB had received $100,000 from an Iraqi front company as well as donations from Austrian companies soliciting business in Iraq.