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Anti-Semitic Political Cartoon Creates Controversy in Austria

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Right-wing Austrian political leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who is apparently not a fan of Jews, but has fabulous taste in scarves. (Photo credit: Christian Jansky)WJC: Austrian Politician ‘Must be Sidelined’

The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, has reacted with outrage at the posting of an anti-Semitic cartoon on the Facebook page of Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) formerly headed by the late Jörg Haider. He called on Austrian mainstream parties to ostracize Strache and to denounce him publicly. “To remain silent is not a credible option,” Lauder pointed out.

Strache’s posting shows a corpulent banker with a hooked nose and Star of David cufflinks being fed delicacies by a figure dubbed ‘The Government’. A third figure at the table, labeled ‘The People’, thin and poorly dressed, has a bone on his plate and looks on in dismay. Lauder said the cartoon depicted Jews in the same way Nazi publications had done under Hitler, as greedy bankers controlling the government at the expense of the wider population.

He declared: “Clearly, and not for the first time, the FPÖ leader is trying to whip up anti-Semitic sentiment. His repeated denials are not credible because his words and actions speak for themselves. It is shameful to see that he seems to be able to get away with it.”

The WJC president added: “Equally disturbing is the fact that the leaders of the Austrian government have so far not deemed it necessary to speak out against Strache. We have yet to hear a condemnation from the leaders of SPÖ and ÖVP, Chancellor Werner Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger. Twenty-five years ago, when I served as U.S. ambassador in Vienna, the Waldheim scandal broke. Although Austria has since faced up to its role during the Holocaust this scandal shows that anti-Jewish resentment is still widespread, and unscrupulous politicians are allowed to exploit it for electioneering purposes. That is mind-boggling, and it could have negative repercussions for Austrian Jews in the longer term.

“If Austria doesn’t want to lose its credibility on the international stage, the leaders of the mainstream parties must sideline Strache and his FPÖ. Dangerous men like him, who base their entire political campaign on blaming immigrants, foreigners and Jews for Austria’s woes, must not be given any say in government,” Lauder said.

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