One Hundred Euro Fine for Holding Up Flag of Israel

Der Standard, January 9, 2018

German original:

On December 8, 2017, a rally against the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by the USA took place. Because counter – protesters held up a flag of Israel, they received a summons.

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced his plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel about a month ago, protest rallies happened all across Europe.

In Vienna, too, several demonstrators gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy in the Alsergund neighborhood on December 8 under the slogan „Jerusalem – Capital of Palestine.“  On the occasion, several anti-Semitic occurrences were observed - Der Standard reported.

Consequences for Counter – Protesters

Incidents surrounding the demonstration now have judicial consequences – spectators now have to face a summons issued by Viennese police headquarters. They are charged with disturbing the public order „in a particularly reckless fashion.“

Background: the spectators did hold up an Israeli flag in „a particularly provocative fashion,“ which triggered discontent among „Palestinian protesters.“ The threat of punishments amounts to a 100 Euro fine or two days imprisonment.

Accusation of Provocation

One of the persons concerned (name is known to the editorial department) reported that during the course of the demonstration several flags of different nation states were held up, including flags of Turkey, Syria, and Palestine. After several demonstrators chanted slogans like „down with Israel,“ he and a friend unrolled a flag of Israel a few meters away from the demonstration.

„According to my personal understanding of democracy it has to be possible to hold up the flag of a sovereign state in Austria,“ explained the student of religious education in a conversation with Der Standard. „I do not understand how this amounts to a provocation.“ He was advised to seek legal counsel: „this is what I plan to do,“ said the 25 year-old.

The Jewish Student Association (JÖH) demands consequences at police headquarters. „It is unacceptable that the simple act of showing an Israeli flag on the streets of Vienna is being criminalized as a punishable offense by the police.“

In the context of the particular summons, Viennese police headquarters can only refer to the possibility of lodging an appeal, spokeswoman Daniela Tunst told Der Standard.

In addition, Tunst pointed out that in the course of the demonstration a summons for carrying a weapon was also issued. „Furthermore, xenophobic slogans by unknown perpetrators were registered on the grounds of sedition and implicit threats,” Tunst said.

Viennese Greens: Summons „disturbing“

The security spokeswoman of the Viennese Greens, Birgit Hebein, called the issued summons „obviously illegal.“ Also during a non-registered demonstration, the right to assembly has to be protected. „Provocative and unpleasant expressions of disapproval are permitted.“

The impression that the summons criminalizes solidarity with Israel is particularly disturbing, according to Hebein. „Especially in Austria one should expect a more diligent handling of the signals the authority sends out concerning this matter,“ Hebain said.  (Vanessa Gaigg, January 9, 2018).