Kurier (Margaretha Kopeinig), July 18, 2017
IKG – President Deutsch interviewed by KURIER regarding rising anti-Semitism, Jewish kindergartens and the national election campaign.
Many European Jews are worried about their future in the light of terrorism and rising anti-Semitism. Do Jews today have to sit on packed suitcases again? This is one of the controversial questions that is dealt with in a new book entitled „Europe’s Future and Jewry.“ The editor of this work, which has just been published, is Oskar Deutsch, President of the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG). He granted KURIER the first interview regarding the book.
KURIER: Mr. President, How Bad is the Situation for Europe’s Jews?
Just as bad as it is for other Europeans, with the exception that we experience anti-Semitism very closely. Europe’s politicians do not act decisively enough against terrorism, extremism, and anti-Semitism. Do we have to sit on packed suitcases again? Ten years ago that was not an issue, but now it is.
Have Anti-Semitism and the Hatred of Jews Increased in Austria?
The recorded cases of anti-Semitism are at a record high. Hatred has been increasing online. The situation is bad in France, Sweden, and Hungary, where the government agitates against George Soros, the founder of Central European University in Budapest. The flyers even lay on the floor. You can trample Soros. I thought stomping on Jews was a thing of the past. I do not see the European People’s Party, to which Orban belongs, doing anything against it.
Is Anti-Semitism and Hatred of Jews Amplified by Muslim Refugees?
It is a fact that anti-Semitic propaganda is being distributed within the Muslim community, particularly through Turkish associations. We must not look away from traditional anti-Semitism. I remind you of the agitation by law students of the Aktionsgemeinschaft, the student government party close to the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) in chat groups. This shows that anti-Semitism is socially acceptable. In the case of Muslims and refugees from Arab countries, anti-Semitism is often disguised as critique of Israel. One thing in principal: Anti-Semitism is the problem of the anti-Semites, we are the victims. Jewish facilities are guarded by the police, 25% of our budget goes towards security. We could use that money for social affairs.
Does the government not do enough for the integration of Muslim refugees?
Language acquisition is important, as is instruction in our values, ethics and humanity in the sense of enlightenment. Every refugee should visit Mauthausen in order to see where anti-Semitism leads to.
Is integration going to play a role in the election campaign?
Austria has to ensure that immigration does not turn into an alibi; the government will have to spend a lot more money in order to be successful. With any new immigration wave, integration gets more difficult.
How do you see the dialogue between the majority population and Jews?
As president I have opened up the Jewish Community and promoted an Austrian-Jewish culture. A school project called „Likrat“ (Hebrew for convergence) has been very successful. After consulting with the City School Board, the Jewish students visit non-Jewish students. They soon recognize that they all have the same hobbies and interests – with one exception: the different religion. Now we are staring a pilot project at the Faculty of Law at the University of Vienna. Jewish students have discussions with non-Jewish students.
Federal Minister for Integration Sebastian Kurz has criticized strictly Islamic kindergartens. The question regarding education in Jewish kindergartens is being raised over and over again. What do you say?
Every comparison with our kindergartens is a chuzpe. Two thirds of our children attend Jewish educational institutions. This is unique in Europe. In our kindergartens and schools cosmopolitanism is lived. German is spoken and Hebrew is offered. Our institutions are examined by two institutions, the state education authority and the Jewish Community.
Are you going to take sides in the election campaign?
No. My general concern is that parties that are not extremist and do not polarized are strengthened. Every party is electable, except for the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party). This is why SPÖ (Social Democrats) and ÖVP (People’s Party) should not flirt with the FPÖ.
Book tip: Deutsch, O (Ed.) Die Zukunft Europas und das Judentum. Impulse zu einem gesellschaftlichen Diskurs. Wien 2017, Böhlau Verlag, 256p., 24,99 Euro.