Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’

Seems like an easy navigation tool for anti-Muslim extremists as would be an equivalent map of synagogues and Jewish associations for anti-Semites:

The Austrian government came under fire Thursday for a new “Islam map” showing the location of mosques and associations around the country, with religious groups saying it would stigmatize Austria’s Muslim population.Earlier, Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an Internet website called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques, associations and officials and their possible links abroad.But the interactive map — compiled in collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Documentation Center of Political Islam — alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling center-right OeVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it.
It “demonstrates the government’s manifest intent to stigmatize all Muslims as a potential danger,” said the IGGOe Muslim representative council in a statement.
The Green party’s spokeswoman for integration Faika El-Nagashi complained that “no Green minister or MP was involved or even told about it. The project mixes Muslims with Islamists and is the contrary to what integration policy should look like.”
Raab insisted that the map was not meant to “place Muslims in general under suspicion.”
The aim was “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” she said.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has regularly criticized what he calls “political Islam.”
“Imagine if a similar map was drawn up for Judaism or Christianity,” said Tarafa BagHajjati, the head of another Muslim organization, complaining that it equated terrorism with religion.
He pointed out that around eight percent of Austria’s overall population of 8.9 million were practicing Muslims and most of them had no links with such organizations.
“It’s worrying and I’m disappointed with the government for adopting far-right ideas,” he said.
Since an extremist attack left four people dead in Vienna last November — the first to be carried out in Austria — a rise has been reported in the number of incidents in verbal and physical attacks against Muslims in the country.
IGGOe complained that “racism against Muslims is growing.”

Source: Austria sparks uproar with ‘Islam map’

Anti-Semitic ex-mayor becomes magnet for Vienna statue protests

Of note, yet another controversial (deservedly so) statue:

A statue of an anti-Semitic former mayor of Vienna who inspired Hitler has become the focus of competing left- and right-wing protests, with anti-racist activists mounting a “shame vigil” around the monument.

The likeness of Karl Lueger, on a prime spot on Vienna’s imposing Ringstrasse boulevard, has been defaced several times in recent months with graffiti reading “Schande” (“Shame”).

Galvanised by protests around historical monuments elsewhere in the world and the Black Lives Matter movement, an artists’ collective took matters a step further and fixed two sets of concrete, gold-painted letters spelling “Schande” to the statue’s plinth on Sunday night.

The collective then set up a “shame vigil” at the site to prevent the city from removing the words.

Jewish and Muslim youth organisations, feminists and left-wing groups are also taking turns manning the vigil.

However, a group of men described by Austrian media as far-right activists removed the gold letters with a hammer and chisel on Monday.

The police then cordoned off the statue.

As a group of secondary school students passes by the statue in warm autumnal sunshine, their teacher explaining the controversy around the monument, Simon Nagy, one of the artists who started the vigil, tells AFP that Lueger “belongs on the manure heap of history” and that the statue should be in a museum.

But the city authorities are planning to clean the graffiti by Friday, an announcement that has galvanised the 25-year-old and his group.

Nagy says the artists want the graffiti to remain and are demanding that the city comes up with a plan to redesign the monument, but he is disappointed at the lack of action.

– ‘Aggressive’ anti-Semitism –

Karl Lueger was mayor from 1897 until his death in 1910 and oversaw a period of transformation in which Vienna’s population boomed to more than two million and much of its modern infrastructure was built.

He built up a cult of personality that lived on after his death, with the statue unveiled in 1926.

But his notoriety stems from his ascent to power.

In his rhetoric he railed against what he called Jewish influence over the press and sources of capital and called for the “liberation of the Christian people from Jewish dominance”.

This “particularly aggressive anti-Semitism” was central to his election as mayor, according to historian Florian Wenninger.

“He built his political career on the hatred of a minority,” according to Wenninger, even if he opportunistically tried to move away from this once in office.

Hitler used Lueger as an early role model and cited him approvingly in “Mein Kampf”.

After much controversy, a portion of the Ringstrasse — a circular boulevard in the city — previously named after Lueger was renamed in 2012.

Having served on a commission set up by the city authorities to look into potentially problematic street names, Wenninger is well aware of the sensitivities around historical monuments.

“Something which in and of itself doesn’t have any real-life relevance for people becomes a part of their identity when it’s attacked,” he explains.

“Then there is a reflex where people say: ‘Stop! This is crazy!'”

Wenninger says Austria’s tradition of consensual politics, even at a local level, has meant debates over controversial issues have often been avoided.

Long cast in the role of a victim of Nazi Germany, it is only in recent decades that Austria has begun to seriously examine its role in the Holocaust.

The discussion of Lueger’s place in history is part of this process of revision and comes ahead of city council elections on Sunday.

But the signs are that most of today’s politicians are seeking to steer clear of the controversy.

The Social Democrats, who are on course to remain in power at Vienna’s City Hall, said the monument had “already been appropriately contextualised”, referring to a small explanatory tablet erected near the rear of the statue in 2016.

As for the centre-right People’s Party, in power at a national level, they say they reject Lueger’s anti-Semitism but at the same time recall that he was “one of Vienna’s most influential mayors and an important moderniser of the city”.

Source: Anti-Semitic ex-mayor becomes magnet for Vienna statue protests

Austria offers citizenship to the descendants of Jews who fled the Nazis

Of note, the impact of Brexit on citizenship applications:

Tens of thousands of British citizens are among the many descendants of Jewish refugees who can apply for Austrian citizenship from Tuesday under a new law that campaigners say finally delivers a measure of historic justice for their ancestors’ expulsions under Nazi rule.

About 120,000 Jewish refugees fled persecution after the Nazis took power in Austria in March 1938. The second most common destination after the US was the UK, with up to 20,000 refugees registered in 1945.

Most refugees naturalised in their adoptive countries out of necessity, but the postwar Austrian state had a bar on dual citizenship, so considered them to be foreigners.

Obstacles to former refugees reclaiming Austrian citizenship were lifted in 1993, after the country began its first real debate about its culpability for Nazi-era crimes. Around 10% of survivors took it up. But a law extending the possibility of dual citizenship to descendants eluded its advocates in the Austrian parliament, suggesting a lack of interest in restoring the once 200,000-strong Jewish community, even in principle. One rightwing MP reportedly objected: “Enough has been done for the victims already.”

Source: Austria offers citizenship to the descendants of Jews who fled the Nazis

Construction of Austrian Holocaust victims’ memorial begins

Long overdue:

Construction of Austria’s first public monument naming all the country’s Holocaust victims began on Monday, a further step by Adolf Hitler’s native land towards confronting an issue it has long struggled with.

For decades after World War Two, Austria denied responsibility for crimes committed by the Nazis, arguing that it was their first victim despite the enthusiasm with which many citizens had welcomed annexation by Hitler’s Germany in 1938.

The country now recognises that Austrians were perpetrators as well as victims of Nazi crimes but it has not confronted that chapter of its history as openly or directly as Germany.

“Berlin has one. Paris has one. Vienna had none. But the day has finally come today,” Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community (IKG), the body officially representing Austria’s Jews, said at a ceremony marking the start of construction work.

The new monument, located in a park next to Austria’s central bank, will comprise a ring of upright stone slabs around an island of trees, and will name all 64,259 Austrian victims of the Holocaust. It is due to be inaugurated in a year’s time.

“Remembering means commemorating the victims of the Shoah. This remembering and our history increase our responsibility, the responsibility daily and together to do everything to ensure that something like this never happens again,” said Deutsch.

Ironically, the project was first backed in 2018 by a previous coalition government of current Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), which was founded in the 1950s by former Nazis and whose first leader had been an SS officer.

Although the FPO says it has abandoned its anti-Semitic past and now denounces the Holocaust, it has been plagued by racism and anti-Semitism scandals, and the IKG still refuses to deal with party officials. The FPO crashed out of government last year and Kurz now governs in coalition with the Greens.

There are Holocaust memorials in Vienna but the only one naming the Jews who lived in Austria and were murdered is in the city’s main synagogue.

Source: Construction of Austrian Holocaust victims’ memorial begins

ICYMI: Far-right targets Austria’s first refugee minister

Of note:

Less than a week after Austria’s new conservative-Green coalition took power, it has already become a target for far-right supporters, who have railed against the country’s first minister with a refugee background.

Justice Minister Alma Zadic, who was born in Bosnia and fled the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s with her family at the age of 10, has faced a wave of social media abuse — and even death threats.

The abuse has often appeared under posts from politicians from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) — a junior coalition partner until May — revealing racist attitudes some say were fostered by the party during its time in office.

“A criminal Muslim woman becoming justice minister. Sharia (Islamic law) is coming soon,” read one such contribution.

In response Zadic, of the Green Party, has received support from across the political spectrum.

Conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who also headed the coalition with the FPOe, vowed on Thursday to “fight online hate — whether from the left, Islamists or the right”.

“Alma Zadic and all others who are affected by this have my full support!” he tweeted.

– ‘Anything but pleasant’ –

Zadic grew up in Vienna’s multicultural Favoriten district.

She told the Kurier newspaper she did not speak a word of German when she arrived: “The teachers didn’t know what to do with me.

“My experiences were anything but pleasant for an ambitious young girl.”

Now, at 35 years old, she has reached the cabinet.

Austria has taken far longer to reach the milestone of minority representation at this level than many other Western countries.

As in neighbouring Germany, Austrian society traditionally saw immigrants as “guest workers”, according to sociologist Kenan Guengoer, who serves on an official expert panel on integration.

Historically, they were viewed as “people who are here temporarily and would go back”, Guengoer says.

Both “guest workers” and refugees made up the forerunners of today’s population of more than 530,000 who have roots in the former Yugoslavia.

But the reception to Zadic hints at other reasons that progress in Austria has taken so long.

– ‘Overachiever’ –

Austria’s Bosnian community is considered to be among the best integrated, according to journalist and former teacher Melisa Erkurt — who was herself born in Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo.

Erkurt describes Zadic as “an overachiever”.

After studying law in Vienna and at Columbia University in New York, Zadic gained experience at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia before going on to work for an international law firm.

She will need all of her skills to navigate a brief where the two coalition partners are expected to clash.

But some in the far-right FPOe, which left government after being engulfed in a corruption scandal, were unimpressed by her CV.

Their main gripe was a civil case in which Zadic was ordered to pay compensation to a student from a right-wing fraternity who had been photographed making a gesture some interpreted as a Hitler salute.

Zadic shared the image on Twitter with the words: “No tolerance for neo-Nazis, fascists and racists.”

The student in question insisted he was simply waving to friends. Zadic is appealing against the decision.

– Cautionary tale –

According to Erkurt, Zadic could serve as a much-needed role model for young ethnic minority Austrians whom she says have not traditionally been encouraged to aim for positions of power.

“I work with many young girls and I can say to a 14-year-old girl called Fatima: ‘You really can achieve anything in Austria, it’s not just a cliche,'” says Erkurt.

But at the same time, she says Zadic’s treatment could be a cautionary tale.

Zadic has been targeted “despite the fact she speaks perfect German, she has a doctorate, she doesn’t wear a headscarf”.

“In other words, you can do everything ‘right’ in Austria but still be met with racism,” Erkurt says.

Indeed, in defending Zadic the Green party felt it necessary to clarify she did not practise any religion.

Kurz also came in for criticism after he mistakenly said she had been convicted of a criminal offence then later tweeted a clarification, adding: “I know and value her and think she is qualified.”

Florian Klenk, editor of the left-leaning Falter magazine, accused him of offering a “half-hearted” defence his minister.

Kurz’s fate is “connected to Zadic’s future”, Klenk wrote, adding: “She has become a symbol for this government.”

Source: Far-right targets Austria’s first refugee minister

Austrian State Plans 10 Commandments for Immigrants, Demands Refugees ‘Show Gratitude’ and Adopt ‘Austrian Values’

While some of the rules are normal (e.g., adhere to laws, learn German), others are less so (e.g., adhere to Austrian values however defined, show gratitude to Austria):

A state government in Austria is planning to introduce a new set of rules for immigrants to follow upon arrival in the country, which have become known as the “Ten Commandments of Immigration.”

According to Deutsche Welle, the list of demands will be issued to new immigrants—including refugees—as soon as they arrive in Lower Austria, the country’s largest and second most populous state.

According to German newspaper Welt, the project is being headed by Gottfried Waldhäusl, a member of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and the state minister responsible for asylum policy. The FPÖ, which governs as a junior coalition partner with the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), is well-known for its anti-migration stance.

The new rules will require migrants to learn German, adhere to all Austrian laws and adopt “Austrian values” in raising their children. It will also commit new arrivals to resolve conflicts nonviolently, respect religious freedom, prevent unnecessary suffering to animals—an implicit challenge to traditional halal or kosher slaughter—and show gratitude to Austria.

The commandments will be combined with integration classes, offered in 15 different languages, for foreigners applying for asylum. All those wishing to stay in Austria will be required to sign an agreement to follow the rules.

Waldhäusl told Welt the commandments would be issued to refugees alongside official asylum application documents. The minister did not specify when the new policy would come into force, but said it would do so “soon.”

Waldhäusl is known for his hard stance on immigration, which is in line with his party’s policies. He is the only FPÖ representative in the Lower Austria state government, which is controlled by the ÖVP and led by Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

Last year, Waldhäusl was criticized after establishing a fenced-off refugee center in the town of Drasenhofen close to the Czech border. The facility was designed to hold young “notorious troublemakers,” who were guarded by security staff and only allowed to leave their accommodation if accompanied by said guards.

Waldhäusl was also accused of prejudice last year when he proposed forcing Jews to apply for permits to purchase kosher meat. Though he argued that plan made sense “from an animal welfare point of view,” opponents said such a system would require a list of Jewish people to be drawn up, as under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government in the 1930s and 1940s.

The FPÖ has regularly been accused of promoting and facilitating anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic ideology, though its leaders have consistently attempted to distance the party from racism and predujice exhibited by some of its members.

The party was founded in the 1950s by former Nazi SS soldiers, and rose to prominence in the 2017 parliamentary election, becoming the third biggest party. It has since become a standard-bearer for resurgent right-wing politics in Europe, with hard-line anti-immigration views and demands for tighter border controls.

Is there an Austrian link to New Zealand mosque attacks?

More on the possible Austrian link:

The Austrian authorities are investigating possible connections after it emerged that the main suspect in the Christchurch mosque attacks made a donation of €1,500 (£1,293) to the far-right Identitarian Movement in Austria (IBÖ).

The suspect visited Austria from 27 November to 4 December last year, according to Austria’s Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, who said that potential links to Austrian extremists were being looked into.

Police have searched the house of the charismatic, social media-savvy IBÖ leader, Martin Sellner, who has done much to raise the profile of the Identitarians throughout Europe.

The group is hostile to multiculturalism, and claims to defend Europe against migrants, especially Muslims.

Mr Sellner has firmly denied any involvement with the 15 March attacks, which killed 50 people, but admits he received the donation and wrote an email of thanks.

In a video posted online, he said: “I am not a member of a terrorist organisation. I have nothing to do with this man, other than that I passively received a donation from him.”

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said the group will be dissolved if it is deemed to be a terrorist organisation.

“There must be no tolerance for dangerous ideologies in our country – no matter if it’s radical Islam or right-wing fanaticism,” he said.

The main suspect in the Christchurch mosque attacks, Australian Brenton Tarrant, also seems to have had a preoccupation with Austrian history – something the interior minister said was being investigated.

Austrian landmark

The suspect’s clothes and weapons were covered with writing and symbols.

One of the words daubed in white on a gun magazine was “Vienna”.

There was also a string of names of historical figures, including that of Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, the military commander of Vienna during the Ottoman siege of 1683.

Starhemberg and his company of 20,000 men defended the city against the 120,000-strong Ottoman army, which was eventually defeated by the combined forces of Poles, Habsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire.

The Battle of Vienna in 1683 is often cited by historians as the point where the Ottoman advance on Western Europe was stopped; the turning of the tide in the Muslim/Christian struggle for the control of Europe.

As such, it is a date celebrated by the far right, including, it seems, the Christchurch suspect, who is a self-confessed anti-Muslim white supremacist.

‘The Great Replacement’

The Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DOEW), which researches extreme-right activity, says there are “many rhetorical and ideological overlaps” between groups like the Identitarians and the suspected Christchurch attacker.

“The title of the attacker’s manifesto, The Great Replacement (which sees immigrants as a threat to “white” Western culture) was a slogan popularised by the Identitarians,” DOEW said on its website.

“Regardless of the outcome of the investigation,” DOEW says, the Identitarians seem to be sticking to their narrative “for the time being”. It points to an IBÖ statement from last week, which speaks of the “Great Replacement” and calls for “De-Islamification”.

The whole affair is uncomfortable not just for the Identitarians, but for Austria’s government as well.

Mr Kurz’s own conservative Austrian People’s Party is in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), making Austria the only country in Western Europe with a far-right presence in government.

FPÖ leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said on Wednesday that his party had “nothing to do with the Identitarians”.

However, Austrian media published photos of FPÖ politicians with members of the group, and Bernhard Weidinger from DOEW told the BBC that there were many links between FPÖ politicians and members of the IBÖ, who often attended each other’s events.

In 2016, before he became interior minister, Herbert Kickl gave a speech to a far-right conference in Linz, called Defenders of Europe. The FPÖ politician addressed his audience, which included Identitarians, as “like-minded people”, according to Austrian media reports.

The FPÖ has also long celebrated the Battle of Vienna victory of 1683. In 2010 it even published a comic, set during the siege, featuring Mr Strache as a knight saving Vienna’s cathedral from an Ottoman minaret.

And when Mr Strache and Mr Kurz presented their government programme back in 2017, shortly before the coalition was sworn in, they broke with tradition, and held the event on Vienna’s Kahlenberg mountain, where the Battle of Vienna took place.

Asked if there was any historical significance to the choice of venue, Mr Kurz said no.

But in a video blog, Mr Sellner hailed it as “a good omen”.

Source: Is there an Austrian link to New Zealand mosque attacks?

British no more: Why some UK citizens face Brexit dilemma (Austria does not allow dual citizenship)

Yet another consequence of Brexit:

The number of UK citizens acquiring the nationality of another EU country has shot up since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

For many Britons living in Germany, France or Italy, dual nationality solves questions about freedom of movement to work in the EU, pensions and healthcare.

But a handful of EU countries, including Austria, do not generally allow dual citizenship.

That makes things complicated for people like British opera singer Stephen Chaundy, who has lived in Vienna with his family for many years, but often works in theatres and opera houses in Germany.

“Freedom of movement matters to me,” he says.

“I know from colleagues and friends how difficult third-country [non-EU] nationals can have it, in terms of complications of sorting out visas and work permits… and I have already had the situation where a theatre in one European country has said they’re unwilling to hear me,” he adds.

Because of this, Stephen may not be British much longer.

Surrendering Britishness

“Depending on what happens, I am seriously considering having to give up being British and asking to become Austrian,” he says.

Britons who live and work in Austria will be able to continue to do so after Brexit. But there are no guarantees for people like Stephen who rely on freedom of movement.

Jan Hillerman, the secretary of support group UK Citizens in Austria, says feelings about giving up British nationality in order to obtain an Austrian passport are very mixed.

“Some people have done that. Other people are very hesitant,” she says.

“Some people think that this might be an easy way out of the whole Brexit dilemma – but in fact it isn’t: it’ll be costly and take a lot of time.”

Jan says there have been attempts to lobby the Austrian government on the issue of dual nationality for British people after Brexit.

“But I gather that that came to naught and the Austrians have made pretty clear that that’s not on the table,” she says.

Austria does allow dual citizenship in a few exceptional cases, such as those who survived the Holocaust.

In the event of a disorderly Brexit, the Austrian government has said it will allow dual citizenship for around 25,000 Austrians living in Britain – but not for the 11,000 Britons living in Austria.

Why Austria has a problem with dual nationality

In general, the idea of dual nationality is frowned upon here – not least because of tensions with the Turkish minority in Austria.

The far-right Freedom Party – now the junior partner in Austria’s coalition government – has been behind an investigation into whether some Turks in Austria have illegally maintained both Turkish and Austrian nationalities.

Political analyst Thomas Hofer says this colours the whole issue of dual nationality.

“There was a heated debate… saying that there are a lot of Turkish people (who are) Austrian citizens living here and voting in Turkey, especially for President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” he says.

Since then, dual citizenship has become “a touchy issue”.

“The government in the last couple of weeks and months did everything to be very harsh and very strict… the government said that it wanted to avoid this kind of double citizenship.”

A spokesman for the Austrian government, Peter Launsky, acknowledged that Austria had “a more restrictive approach to dual citizenship”.

But he said British citizens were welcome in Austria.

“It is very important to keep stressing that Austria does and will continue to receive British citizens with open arms, irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit process,” he said.

“Any of the British citizens in Austria are extremely well qualified and make a very active and positive contribution to the Austrian labour market.

“And we are very appreciative of that fact… everything will be done to ensure as much continuity as possible, irrespective of the question of citizenship.”

On stage Stephen Chaundy moves smoothly back and forth between the Viennese and English-speaking repertoire.

His latest role was as a Habsburg aristocrat, Count Tassilo – the lead in the classic Viennese operetta Graefin Mariza, at the Theatre Magdeburg in Germany. He is about to go to the Cologne Opera to play Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.

But in life it is not so simple.

“Although I’ve spent over a third of my life in Austria, I am a Londoner, an Englishman, a Brit – but I’m also European and a big, big part of me is, of course, deeply attached to Austria,” he said.

“If Austria would permit dual nationality I would have taken it in a heartbeat. They are both parts of who I am. They’re both parts of my adult life.

“They’re both parts of my identity and it feels terribly unjust and unfair to have to be asked to choose.”

Source: British no more: Why some UK citizens face Brexit dilemma

Austria’s Jews wary of far-right charm offensive

Rightfully so:

David Lasar’s family is sadly not unusual among Austria’s Jewish community in having lost several members in the Holocaust. But in one respect Lasar stands out — his membership of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).

At its foundation, the FPOe was led by two former members of the Waffen SS, so 66-year-old Lasar’s choice of political home might well be considered surprising.

Lasar says he initially joined in the late 1990s as the FPOe was “the only party close to the people, to employees and workers who had been forgotten by the left, while the centre-right was the party of capitalism and big business”.

Now as an FPOe MP he says he has an added reason for throwing his lot in with the party.

“We are fighting tirelessly against anti-Semitism, especially anti-Semitism imported through immigration.

“We are the only party to be fighting against this, together with our partners in government,” he says, referring to the centre-right People’s Party (OeVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Since entering the coalition government at the end of 2017, the FPOe has made great play of its efforts to foster a rapprochement with the Jewish community, and to establish relations between the party and Israel.

But the Jewish community has largely kept its distance in the face of repeated scandals suggesting that anti-Semitic attitudes are still present in the party’s milieu.

As for Israel, its government has maintained an official boycott of all FPOe ministers, including Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who while not an FPOe member herself, was nominated for the post by the party.

– ‘Political calculation’ –

Benjamin Hess, co-president of the Austrian Union of Jewish Students insists: “We see no change at all within the FPOe.”

Hess himself confronted Strache in a TV programme last year for having shared an anti-Semitic image on his Facebook page in 2012.

“It’s easy to say: ‘I’m against anti-Semitism, it’s much harder to distance yourself from it in reality,” Hess says.

He and others who are still sceptical of the FPOe point in particular to the party’s deep ties to the “Burschenschaften”, student fraternities known for their strident pan-German nationalism and whose alumni include many high-ranking FPOe politicians.

Strache, who himself flirted with neo-Nazism in his youth, has tried to clean up the party’s image, insisting that it rejects anti-Semitism and expelling some of its more embarrassing members.

He has also made trips to Israel, being welcomed on his last visit in 2016 by junior members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. He also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Lasar says he has also been to Israel on behalf of the party to foster better relations with the Israeli right, and boasts that he has made “excellent contacts”.

“The political calculation is obvious,” says Bernhard Weidinger from the DOeW institute, which researches the Austrian far-right.

When the current government came to power the European Jewish Congress (EJC) warned that “the Freedom Party can not use the Jewish community as a fig leaf and must show tolerance and acceptance towards all communities and minorities,” in an allusion to the FPOe’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.

– ‘No rapprochement’ –

The “imported anti-Semitism” that Lasar speaks of has become a favourite theme of Strache’s too, particularly as since 2015 the country has received some 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, many of them from Muslim countries.

In February, Strache launched his new think-tank with a podium discussion on “Islamic anti-Semitism”.

Ten days later, a prominent FPOe politician sent a letter to the Israeli ambassador in Vienna, saying that “supposed far-right extremist incidents” linked to FPOe members in recent months were down to “nothing more than agitation by the FPOe’s political opponents”.

Last year the party’s lead candidate in a regional election, Udo Landbauer, was forced to stand aside after it was revealed that the student fraternity that he belonged to had previously published virulently anti-Semitic songbooks.

He has since returned to politics for the party.

Weidinger points to the fact that the party has taken out adverts in publications that have included anti-Semitic content.

And all this against a backdrop of what Austria’s Forum Against Anti-Semitism says was a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents between 2014 and 2017.

Lasar says that “many Jews” admit to him: “I vote for the FPOe because you are the only ones who are there for us on issues around security and who speak out against radical Islamism.”

But Hess says this is still a minority view within the community.

“You find lots of different opinions among the community in Austria, but one thing unites everyone: no rapprochement with the FPOe.”

Source: Austria’s Jews wary of far-right charm offensive

Dual nationality Turks being stripped of citizenship by far-Right in Austria’s ‘Windrush’ scandal

More dispiriting news from Europe and Austria:

Thousands of people could be stripped of their Austrian citizenship in what is being called the country’s version of the Windrush scandal.

In a campaign orchestrated by the far-Right Freedom Party (FPÖ), hundreds of Austrians of Turkish heritage are currently under investigation by the authorities on suspicion of illegally holding dual citizenship – and authorities say they may widen their investigations to thousands more.

Eighty-five have so far been stripped of their citizenship, but human rights campaigners say the case against them rests on suspect evidence.

Much as the UK invited the Caribbean immigrants of the Windrush Generation, in the sixties and seventies Austria encouraged Turkish people to move to the country, and many eventually became citizens.

But the Freedom Party, which is junior partner in the Austrian coalition government and controls the interior ministry, claims to have obtained a copy of the Turkish electoral register which it says proves thousands of secretly retained their Turkish citizenship as well.

Except for rare cases dual citizenship is illegal in Austria, and the authorities are pursuing the cases in court. But lawyers say the evidence is unreliable.

The Freedom Party has refused to say where it got its list of Turkish voters — and it has already been proved that some of the names on the list are not Turkish citizens.

Cigdem Schiller, who was born in Austria to immigrant parents, was able to prove that she had legally renounced her Turkish citizenship.

“We were shocked when we got a letter about this. My wife burst into tears,” Ms Schiller’s husband, Ingo, said. “We went round to sort it out right away. But the official told us the Turkish electoral list was proof she had a Turkish passport.”

After repeated visits to the Turkish consulate, Ms Schiller was able to provide proof she had renounced Turkish citizenship. And she is not the only one: according to Austrian press reports 72 people named on the Freedom Party’s list have proved they are not Turkish citizens.

That hasn’t stopped the courts accepting the list as evidence. In one case earlier this year a court upheld the decision to strip one man of citizenship on the basis such a list could only have been drawn up by the Turkish authorities.

That has raised fears some people may end up being made stateless. Lawyers say their clients are being forced to prove they are not Turkish citizens, rather than having a case proved against them.

Some have found themselves left in a Catch-22 situation. Peter Weidisch, a laywer for a man named on the list, told Germany’s Welt newspaper the Turkish consulate had refused to help his client obtain the proof he needed — because he wasn’t a Turkish citizen.

Source: Dual nationality Turks being stripped of citizenship by far-Right in Austria’s ‘Windrush’ scandal