Austria, Israel and the Jews: We are on the Right Path

OTS (02/19/2006)

President Khol as Host to the
European Jewish Congress (EJC) General Assembly

Vienna Tonight, the President of the National Council, Andreas Khol called the relationship between the Jewish community in Austria and the State of Israel as well as the Austrian government a positive one without problems. The Austrian Parliament is a friend of Israel, summarized Khol. During the course of a festive dinner in which Khol invited the European Jewish Congress on the occasion of their 1st General Assembly in Vienna at the Epstein Palace, Kohl also spoke about the current situation. He hopes that the Middle East Road Map will be continued following the victorious elections of Hamas; this is important for us all, emphasized Khol. The President of the National Council then spoke of the conflict surrounding the Mohammed caricatures and termed it a threat to human rights and the respect for the rule of law, and to the right of voicing differences of opinion without violence. All of these values should be protected. Khol appeared happy over the attitude revealed by the Jewish youth towards Austria: They feel secure and take themselves to be a natural part of society. Those are signs that we are on the right path, said President Khol.

Jews feel good and they feel at home in Austria, said President of the European Jewish Congress, Pierre Besnainou, and the relations between Austria and Israel are also good. Two events had shaped the 20th century, continued Besnainou further: the Holocaust and the independence of the State of Israel. Now, however, the Holocaust was being denied by the Iranian President, and Israel was threatened to be destroyed. This demands concrete steps, warned Besnainou: It is unthinkable that someone who calls for genocide should be received by one of the twenty-five countries of the European Union (EU): He can also not imagine that European countries can conduct talks with a terrorist organization like Hamas as long as it invokes the destruction of the State of Israel, violates existing agreements and spreads further terror.

Summarizing his view of things, Ariel Muzicant, President of the Israelite Religious Community, concluded that things have changed. Not all, but many Jews in Austria are no longer sitting on packed suitcases. It is also a good sign for the majority when minorities feel secure, said Muzicant. He showed satisfaction over the solution to the questions of restitution.

Charlotte Knobloch, Vice President of the European Jewish Congress and of the Jewish Wold Congress, began speaking of her experience in Germany after the war. In 1945 her wish was to stay not one day longer in Germany. Fifteen years later, however, following the success of a project of some 57 million euros which was completed with the financial support of the State of Bavaria and the City of Munich and not on the periphery of the city but in the heart of the city - she unpacked her suitcase because the Jewish Community had come home to Munich.

President Khol greeted, among others, Israel’s Ambassador to Austria, Dan Ashbel, Secretary General of the European Jewish Congress, Serge Cwajgenbaum, Secretary General of the Jewish World Congress, Stephen E. Herbits, Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg and Chairman of the Green Party, Alexander Van der Bellen.