Skip Navigation LinksHome > Austrian Jewish Leader Warns of Right-wing Extremism
Austrian Jewish Leader Warns of Right-wing Extremism
Die Presse website, Vienna, in German 17 May 09
BBC Monitoring European

Excerpt from report by Austrian newspaper Die Presse website on 17 May

[Interview with Ariel Muzicant, head of the Israelite Cultural Organization of Vienna, by Rainer Nowak; place and date not given: "Muzicant: 'This Inciting of People Reminds Me of Goebbels'"]

[Nowak] In Serfaus, Tyrol, Jewish guests are categorically refused by a hotel. In the former Ebensee concentration camp, young fellows yelled Nazi slogans during a memorial service and attacked participants. Are you worried or relaxed?

[Muzicant] You must differentiate. In the Serfaus hotel the style is the problem, the "No rentals to Jews." The hotel simply should have communicated the fact that there was obviously a problem between the staff and a few Orthodox Jewish guests. But you must be careful with swinging the anti-Semitism club. If everyone is suddenly an anti-Semite, if people warn about fascism at every bit of mischief, then it becomes hard for us to become indignant when something truly happens. For example, when Martin Graf is lifted into the National Assembly leadership for political tactical reasons. A Le Pen has never been elected to a political office. If the OeVP [Austrian People's Party] and parts of the SPOe [Social Democratic Party of Austria] consider coalitions with an openly racist and anti-Semitic party like the FPOe [Freedom Party of Austria] because the FPOe was democratically elected, then everyone should be indignant. The fact that the red provincial government heads of Salzburg and Styria even considered working with the FPOe is scandalous. That is a minimizing of the danger that began with Kreisky, exploded with Kurt Waldheim, continued with Joerg Haider, and is now being maximized by Heinz-Christian Strache. And the two large parties are reacting to it with a relaxed attitude and political sloppiness.

[Nowak] But you too once praised Joerg Haider's BZOe [Alliance for the Future of Austria], this criticism now surprises me.

[Muzicant] Hold on! I mean Joerg Haider's assertions about "orderly employment policy," about the "respectable men of the SS." I mean Haider in Krumpendorf and am Ulrichsberg. I am not talking about Joerg Haider who split the BZOe off from the FPOe and its extreme right-wing core. But even under Joerg Haider there was never in the FPOe such a collection of extreme right-wing functionaries as with Heinz-Christian Strache, Graf, and Moelzer today. They encourage right-wing extremism in their own ranks and systematically want to make it socially respectable, and there is now a doubling of the signs in Austria. The ones ideologically responsible are Messrs. Moelzer, Strache and Co. And this is encouraged by all those who cannot bestir themselves to draw a line that cannot be crossed; namely, making no common cause with the FPOe. The fact that the entire OeVP and parts of the SPOe voted for Mr Graf was one of those breaches in the dam for which we are now paying the price. The former FP [Freedom Party] politicians Peter and Haupt were not elected to the National Assembly leadership either. Graf was. [passage omitted]

[Nowak] Such elections or coalition discussions cause right-wing extremist crimes?

[Muzicant] Not directly, but the mood and the ground are prepared for them. If Graf and Moelzer invite someone who denies the Holocaust, if Strache constantly wants to eliminate the Prohibition Act, then that creates precisely the climate for something like what happened in Ebensee. The one group leads and these young guys follow after them. They think to themselves that this is smart.

[Nowak] The SP mayor of Ebensee has argued that it is precisely the clear and intensive coming to terms with the past in Ebensee that could have triggered this counter-movement with these young people, provoking them against it.

[Muzicant] That slowly brings you to the argument that the Jews themselves are responsible for anti-Semitism. If you talk less about anti-Semitism would it disappear? [passage omitted]

The FPOe exploits the fear of the economic crisis and of foreigners for its extreme right-wing agitation. Instead of a neighbourhood problem being solved, the FPOe describes a demonstration against the Islamic centre in the 20th District as a "march on the town hall." Does that not seem familiar to you? All the alarm bells must indeed be sounding. Where are we then? Because a few young people dance or pray, Western civilization is collapsing?

[Nowak] But we were already farther along? A few years ago you saw the mood in the country much more positively.

[Muzicant] That is the development of the last two or three years. Why is the FPOe being so dramatic? People act nice and minimize the danger, only the Vienna SPOe is opposed. Ebensee would not have happened if people had said in the Graf affair that there is a red line there that will not be crossed, he will not be elected. Instead, "explanations are demanded" and lip service is given.

[Nowak] Do you truly believe the incident in Ebensee would not have happened?

[Muzicant] Yes, I believe it. There is a basic attitude in parts of the public, the hydra is lifting its head again. There is no danger in Austria of left-wing extremism, I see the danger from the right. Did you read the article in Zur Zeit (editor's note: written by Andreas Moelzer)? It says there quite shamelessly that the Jewish "speculators and con artists on the big scale of Alan Greenspan, George Soros or Bernard Madoff" are responsible for the world economic crisis, and Moelzer is elected to the European Parliament by tens of thousands of Austrians. These right-wing extremists are only a minority but they feel themselves stronger and they are dangerous because they incite people, they fuel envy and hatred, they abuse people's fears.

[Nowak] But is too little done in terms of the law?

[Muzicant] The executive branch has it well under control. But there is much that the prosecutor's office is no longer prosecuting.

[Nowak] But what do you think should be done? With his complete rejection of any cooperation with the FPOe, Franz Vranitzky has only made the right stronger.

[Muzicant] That makes it stronger but it does not make the rest of the country weaker. And at some point it will then be over, the way Le Pen's time in France has passed. You have to hold out longer. It is not exclusion, it is a necessary dissociation.

[Nowak] Do you agree with the mayor of Vienna who has compared the FPOe's methods with those of the Nazis?

[Muzicant] Yes, you can say that. And when I listen to Mr Kickl (editor's note: Herbert, general secretary of the FPOe), this agitating of people and the language remind me of Joseph Goebbels.

[Nowak] But the FPOe has been democratically legitimized?

[Muzicant] Sure, Andreas Moelzer also says that. But that argument is wrong. In 1933 Adolf Hitler was also democratically legitimized. People cooperated with him. Hitler later came to power through a coup. Not that I fear that now, but we must now react to the economic crisis and take the ground out from under the right- wing, ideally with a public jobs offensive and stronger solidarity among all segments of the population, more tax fairness and a "New Deal" like President Roosevelt demonstrated in the 1930s. [passage omitted]

(C) 2009 BBC Monitoring European. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved