Austrian right-wing government anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitic cartoon previously found on Heinz-Christian Strache's Facebook page.Facebook

From daily Haaretz in Israel today:

Anti-Semitic Cartoon Removed From Far-right Austrian Vice Chancellor’s Facebook Page

Heinz-Christian Strache, whose party has controversial Nazi roots, defended the image, which portrays ‘the bankers’ as a man with Star of David buttons, for years and as recently as last month

Ofer Aderet

June 10, 2018 5:38 PM

A anti-Semitic cartoon posted six years ago by Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has been removed from his Facebook page. It could still be seen last month, and Strache defended it in a televised debate with a Jewish student leader in Vienna, but it has since disappeared.

It is not yet clear whether it was intentionally removed by Strache, whose spokesman has not yet responded to a query from Haaretz, or whether Facebook removed the post after complaints were lodged.

A reason for Strache to remove the 2012 cartoon himself, while still being in denial about its anti-Semitism, might be that the cartoon depicts the Austrian government (‘die Regierung’, in the middle of the cartoon, then consisting of Strache’s opponents) negatively. While Strache is now himself the government, and no longer attacking ‘the government’.

As for the cartoon attacking bankers: contrary to the cartoon, most Jews are not bankers, and most bankers are not Jewish. It is rather ‘rich’ of Strache to attack (supposedly Jewish) bankers; as (non-Jewish) bankers in reality, not in anti-Semitic imagination, have been involved in a scandal bankrolling Strache’s FPÖ party.

Strache reminds me of 1920s-1930s anti-Semitic conservative German media tycoon Hugenberg, who helped Hitler to become dictator. Hugenberg used to rail against the ‘Jewish press’, while owning himself most of the German press. Similarly, anti-Semitic media tycoon Rupert Murdoch recently railed against ‘the Jewish owned press’ while himself owning most media.

The cartoon, posted by Strache in August 2012, shows three figures labeled “the bankers”, “the government” and “the people.” The bankers are represented by an overweight, porcine man with a long nose, gobbling up a piece of chicken, contrasted with “the people,” represented by a sad-looking, thin man. Strache posted the cartoon in protest of the policy of the European Union, whose banks, he says, are impoverishing the ordinary Austrian citizen.

The man representing the banks, who has Stars of David on the buttons of his sleeve, recalls depictions of Jews in Nazi propaganda. The Jewish community in Vienna has denounced the cartoon over the years, saying that it recalls illustrations from the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Sturmer.

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Strache has so far refused to apologize for the cartoon, even during his 2017 election campaign, which resulted in his far-right Freedom Party entering the government and Strache’s appointment as vice-chancellor. In a televised debate last month between Strache and the president of Vienna’s student union, Benjamin Hess, the latter said to Strache: “The picture is still on your Facebook page. This picture is an anti-Semitic caricature. You never apologized for it. You never removed it from your Facebook page.”

Strache hit back, saying: “Not everything that people attribute to anti-Semitism, for political reasons because they don’t agree with us, is connected to anti-Semitism. The issue here is criticism of the structure of banks. There’s no anti-Semitism in the text or the picture. You can interpret it however you want, but it’s a mistaken interpretation.” Strache later added: “This is not anti-Semitic. There are no Stars of David on the cuffs as you describe. You need an imagination to claim this.”

The Jewish community in Austria says that even after the election, Strache’s party did not sufficiently distance itself from its Nazi and anti-Semitic past.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was expected during his visit to Israel on to try to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his attitude to Strache’s Freedom Party, which Israel has boycotted since last year. The Jewish community in Vienna, which has also boycotted the Freedom Party, believes that it is unlikely that Israel will change its position on the matter.

Seventeen members of the Austrian Identitarian Movement (IBÖ) were acquitted by the Graz District Court on all main charges in their case last Thursday. According to the court, the accused were not guilty of sedition, or the formation of or participation in a criminal association. Only two of the accused were convicted of minor charges. The ruling is yet to come into force. The court’s decision speaks volumes about the sharp rightward shift in Austria and throughout Europe. Seven months after the coalition government made up of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) took office in Vienna, racists and neo-Nazis can present themselves to a court as “concerned citizens” and walk free despite employing methods akin to the Nazi SA: here.

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