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Austrian president Heinz Fischer is worried about Israel

Guest post by Karl Pfeifer

Austria did not ask its surviving Jewish population to return after its liberation in 1945. Only very few Jews came back and had to confront a vicious antisemitism for several decades. Today about 7,000 Jews live in Austria.

As far as antisemitism is concerned, there was not much difference between the conservative ÖVP and the socialists. The Social Democratic prime minister Bruno Kreisky protected former SS members and launched harsh and personal attacks against Simon Wiesenthal. Heinz Fischer, now the president of Austria, did his best to participate in those attacks.

The Kreisky-Wiesenthal affair was a domestic Austrian scandal. Three years after Kreisky’s retirement, it was revealed that Kurt Waldheim, former secretary-general of the United Nations, had concealed his past as a Wehrmacht officer who was present at the scene of crimes committed in Yugoslavia and Greece. The scandal started with revelations of his past in the liberal Vienna weekly “profil” and it confronted Austria with most of Western opinion. Despite the scandal, Waldheim was elected president of Austria in 1986.

Heinz Fischer, the current president, is one of those sleazy Sunday speakers who will always say what his listeners expect to hear. Now that there are more than 180,000 dead in Syria and Christians and minorities are forced by IS to convert to Islam or lose their lives, Fischer said what the public expected him to say. He attacked Israel.

Politicians, academics, students, and decision-makers came together in the Tyrolean village of Alpbach to discuss new ideas and solutions to European and global problems. At Albpach, Fischer launched a scathing attack on Israel. He complained that the numbers of victims in the latest Israel-Hamas conflict show “a considerable, if not extreme disproportion.”

He regurgitated the commonplace that not every criticism of Israel or the number of victims can be “raised to the level of antisemitism.”

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the German Jewish painter Max Liebermann said: “I cannot eat as much as I would like to vomit.” After reading what Heinz Fischer said, I have the same feeling.