The Austrian Left Hits Bottom, Digs
by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
Times are not easy for Austria’s left-wing parties — the Green Party and the Social Democrats (SPÖ). The former are entangled in a public and heated discussion about Islamophobia and Islamism, with one Turkish member of parliament accusing another Turkish member of the lower house of parliament of these horrible views. The latter is losing Jewish voters as a result of its support for the Gaza “peace” flotilla.
The Austrian Green party, never at a loss for “bashing the evil right” whenever the topic of Islam is raised, are, in the wake of the upcoming local Vienna city council elections, clearly getting nervous. This especially since every election result in the past two years has shown only losses rather than hoped-for gains. The latest polls indicate at best stagnation in voter support, and the recent party split in one of Vienna’s Green-dominated districts has exacerbated the problem.
The Green party’s two Turkish-born members of parliament, Alev Korun and Efgani Dönmez, are currently facing off in a fierce debate whereby each accuses the other of Islamophobia. Some background to the story: Two well-known leftist political scientists have recently produced a compilation of more or less scholarly articles on the topic of Islamophobia in Austria. Apart from bashing an Austrian blog run by Mission Europa, one article also accuses Green MP Efgani Dönmez of “employing an Islamophobic discourse”.
In an interview with “Die Presse”, Dönmez rebuts the accusations:
Die Presse: Mr. Dönmez, are you Islamophobic? Dönmez: I am not. I myself am an enlightened Muslim with Alevite roots. DP: Well, in a recently published book you are accused of being an Islamophobe. Dönmez: Yes, I am being defamed, but because I criticized the religion, but because I criticized Muslim organizations and their representatives. Conservative-religious politics coming out of so-called Muslim associations connected with their countries of origin is made under the guise of religion and with the help of political parties. Religion is (ab)used in order to make political chump change. I am being lumped together with all racist and Islamophobic people just because I dare to make this an issue. DP: Which organizations and people are referring to specifically? Dönmez: Omar Al-Rawi is a member of the Vienna city council and at the same time spokesman for integration matters of the Islamic Faith Community (IGGiÖ). In my opinion, he personifies the incompatibility of politics and religion. SPÖ is making a cheap decision in that it weighs a few hundred Jewish votes against hundreds of thousands of Muslim votes. It is obviously not known to SPÖ strategists that Al-Rawi is not the mouthpiece for all Muslims in Austria that he is seen as being. It is a fact that the IGGiÖ represents only one percent of the more than 400,000 Muslims in Austria.
Dönmez goes on criticizing his colleague, Alev Korun, of not informing him about the podium discussion held in parliament, where Dönmez was discussed but not invited to tell his side of the story. “Instead of coming to a colleague’s defense against defamation, my own Green parliamentary fraction and my colleague Alev Korun offer political Islam a podium for it to spread its views.” He has no problem being slammed by his colleagues, but he did expect to have been invited to the discussion, which he found out about through an e-mail sent to all members of parliament. Dönmez is puzzled about the Green party’s giving clerical conservatives a platform when none of the members of IGGiÖ would vote for the Green party anyway.
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“I do not know why my colleagues support these tendencies (offering the clerical conservatives a platform). Perhaps it is a never-ending tolerance of all and everything. I can see different approaches among the Greens on the topics of migration and integration. […] We must talk about what we want in integration politics and what we do not want, namely groups that have no interest whatsoever in Austria and Austrian society. There should be the possibility of sanctions against this group, going as far as revocation of the residence permit. There is no discernible line of discussion among the Greens yet. This is obviously a concern of those [party colleagues] in Vienna.”
Alev Korun’s reply came swiftly in the following day’s Die Presse. She rejected Dönmez’ accusations of offering political Islamism a podium. “I am astonished at his accusation,” she said. The Greens are the only political party dealing with Islamism and Islamophobia. The claim of political Islamism is ridiculous, as this would mean that the CEO of the anti-racism organization ZARA, the renowned political scientist John Bunzl, and the university professor Rüdiger Lohlker “are the spearheads of political Islamism in Austria.”
Never mind that ZARA is in the lucrative business of suing anything and everything Austrian for racism, and that Rüdiger Lohlker reminds us that “the popular linkage of Islam and terrorism causes only a defensive reaction and blocks any constructive crisis management.” As for the “spearheads” accusation: They are certainly guilty of aiding and abetting what they call “political Islamism”, and others would simply call Islam in Austria.
It bears mentioning that Mr. Tarafa Baghajati, chairman of the Initiative of Muslim Austrians, felt the necessity to shed some light in this matter by writing a letter to the editor of “Die Presse” (unavailable online). Among other things, Baghajati says that no one ever intended to accuse Dönmez of Islamophobia and that in the book two of Dönmez’ statements — “minarets are political symbols” and “imams are ragheads” — are simply scientifically analyzed. “Both assertions are without a doubt hostile against Islam coming straight from FPÖ.”
The ruling Social Democrats are also facing unpleasantness from an important voter group. According to a commentary by Christian Ortner on the Austrian daily Die Presse, Vienna mayor Michael Häupl “acts like a light version of Karl Lueger in order to get the vote of Vienna’s 200,000 Jewish voters.” Karl Lueger was a former Socialist mayor of Vienna, known not only for raising the living standard if Viennese at the beginning of the 20th century, but also for his anti-Semitism. Wikipedia cites the following:
[O]bservers contend that Lueger’s public racism was in large part a pose to obtain votes. Historian William L. Shirer wrote that “…his opponents, including the Jews, readily conceded that he was at heart a decent, chivalrous, generous and tolerant man. So there is not a lot of evidence to support his large effect on the views of Adolf Hitler.” According to Amos Elon, “Lueger’s anti-Semitism was of a homespun, flexible variety — one might almost say gemütlich. Asked to explain the fact that many of his friends were Jews, Lueger famously replied: ‘I decide who is a Jew.’” Viennese Jewish writer Stefan Zweig, who grew up in Vienna during Lueger’s term of office, recalled that “His city administration was perfectly just and even typically democratic.”
Continues a sarcastic Ortner,
“When Israel enters the ships of so-called ‘peace flotilla’ with connections to the terrorists, the Vienna municipal council — an institution known for its harsh foreign policy — decides to implement a super two-fisted resolution against the Jewish state. […] When, however, the violent anti-Semitism in the city of Antwerp rises so sharply that the local ‘Staandard’ is forced to write: ‘The Jews are leaving Antwerp’, the city council of Vienna does not even peep.
One really has to understand this: While the votes of a few thousand Jews are irrelevant in the upcoming elections, there are the votes of nearly 200,000 Muslims, a group not averse to anti-Semitism. Why should the Vienna city council care a fig about the Jews in Antwerp if it already sacrificially cares about the Palestinians in Gaza?
The provincial politicians of all political parties in the Vienna city hall are not alone in their disgusting and ridiculous vainglory, quite the contrary is the case in Europe. They discharge a “Never again Fascism” and “Beware the beginnings!” when at the memorials of dead Jews, but do not blink when Jews in Europe are hassled by a — in many cases — mob consisting of migrants. This is a very common stance among Europeans. […] It Is not a good sign when Jews from continental Europe choose exile in London because they no longer feel safe here. And when the Vienna city council at the same time acts as a protector power of the Gaza that shoots rockets into Israel only so that it can pocket a few votes of migrants, it is hard to quash the feeling of nausea.”
Prominent Jewish Socialist voters and supporters have voiced their anger over official Vienna’s support of the Gaza flotilla.
“Ernst M. Stern’s farewell letter to the SPÖ could not be clearer: ‘I and many of our like-minded friends, and most members of our Jewish community, find the initiative of the Vienna city council scandalous. The resolution prejudging Israel was passed on the initiative of the SPÖ city council members without any factual evidence and without waiting for this evidence to come out. This body has always remained silent when genocide occurs in other parts of the world. We also deem Omar Al-Rawi’s behavior a scandal: He adds fuel to the fire when he holds an incendiary speech before a hysterical and fanatic crowd of Muslims and their Austrian sympathizers.’
Ariel Muzicant, leader of the Vienna Jewish community, reports that a number of Jewish SPÖ members have officially renounced their membership. Stern adds that he does not want to make the official number public as this is a private matter.”
It is hard to believe that either the Green party or the SPÖ are eagerly awaiting October 10, 2010, the day the Viennese say good-bye to Multiculturalism and its associated evils.
An open letter to the Islamic religious community in Vienna from Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, as published in OTS. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
Open Letter to the Islamic Religious Community
Dear President Schakfeh, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In reference to several explanations by representatives of the Islamic religious community, the Israelite Religious Community (IKG) ascertains:
The culture of dialogue between the religious communities in Austria is indeed threatened. Not by pointing out anti-Semitic incidents, but rather by permitting and downplaying them.
A special legal and moral responsibility accrues to organizers of demonstrations, which, however, is not appreciated by their leaders. Just in recent days, the IKG has received many calls and visits from Muslims — especially those who were exposed to political persecution in their homelands — who have expressed their indignation during pertinent demonstrations in Vienna at the rabble-rousing against Jews and Israel, and at the regrettable indulgence and belittling of these incidents by official Muslim political organs.
The IKG continues to take conversations with Muslims very seriously. Without wishing to judge the internal workings of the Islamic religious community, the IKG would like to point out that its own representative authorities are legitimized democratically with an election participation of between 50 and 60%. It has been pointed out to us on numerous occasions that this is not true of the IGGO.
In the definition of anti-Semitism by the EUMC of the EU, propagandizing against and denigration of the state of Israel includes:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel
Exactly this way is how it happened at the demonstrations. In his speech, Omar Al-Rawi played on a simultaneous demonstration of solidarity with Israel. However, a comparison of the videotapes shows where incitement was being practiced and where peace was being called for.
Further, Hamas banners were carried at the demonstrations. Hamas is well-known as the Palestinian organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and is committed to international terrorism. Money for the front organizations of Hamas has been collected for years in Vienna.
The IKG has been advised many times by Muslims of the personal identities of functionaries of the Islamic community as members of the Muslim brotherhood.
The IKG therefore goes on the assumption that the anti-Semitic content of Article 7 of the Hamas charter is well-known: “The hour of judgment will not come until Muslims fight and kill, so that the Jews hide behind trees and shrubs and every tree and stone will say: ‘Oh, Muslim. oh servant of Allah, a Jew is behind me, come and kill him.’“
Hamas calls the Holocaust a lie (for example, Abdel al-Rantisi: “The Holocaust — the Greatest of Lies Funded by the Zionists”, 2003).
In the past, the IKG has indicated the danger of Islamic preachers of hate and was attacked for it, then confirmed in its judgment by later developments.
All of the things mentioned cannot be swept aside as “criticism of Israel,” which is quite legitimate so long as it does not occur in other political discourses with a double purpose.
Calling participants in a cooperative demonstration of anti-Semitic Islamists, rightist radical Grey Wolves, and leftist radicals “antifascists” is ridiculous.
If an interfaith dialogue is to have any meaning, it cannot occur simultaneously with the indulgence of anti-Semitic (better said — anti-Jewish) propaganda. In this sense, the Muslim side has an obligation to re-work the anti-Semitic passages in the Koran — something that has been thoroughly done on the Christian side in regard to the New Testament.
The strain on the climate of the dialogue is not from the differing opinions about the Near East but the permissiveness vis-à-vis anti-Semitism (or if you wish, anti-Judaism).
Dr. Ariel Muzicant
Mag. Raimund Fastenbauer
General Secretary, IKG
Israelitische Kultusgemeinde, Tel. (01) 531 04-105