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

Secretive Fraternities Are Feeding Anti-Semitism in Austria – The Atlantic

Good long but disturbing read:
Like many Austrian fraternities, Germania zu Wiener Neustadt sometimes uses a songbook at its get-togethers. It looks ordinary enough, with its red cover, gold crest, and curling script. The cover is studded with metal nails called “Biernagel” that keep the book slightly elevated so it doesn’t get wet when lying in beer.Unlike most other songbooks, however, it contains lyrics about killing Jews. “Step on the gas,” one line reads. “We’ll manage the seventh million.”

When the Vienna-based newspaper Falter (for which I am a frequent contributor) wrote about the book in January, it promptly derailed the political career of one of the fraternity’s most notable members: Udo Landbauer, who was running as a candidate for Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) in state elections on January 28. One day before the vote, the Austrian president suggested he step down. On February 1, Landbauer resigned from all political positions. He had been a city councillor in Wiener Neustadt and the head of the FPÖ’s district office in that city.

Landbauer, 31, who was also the deputy chairman of the fraternity for a couple of years, claimed he hadn’t known about such lines: “Not being a gifted singer, I didn’t go through all the pages,” he said in a television interview. The songbook outraged the nation anyway. The prime minister of Lower Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP), said she wouldn’t work with Landbauer. Bad international press followed, causing embarrassment the FPÖ could ill afford. In the six weeks since it had become the junior partner in a coalition government with the ÖVP at the federal level, it had struggled to appear respectable. The party had gotten negative press just two weeks earlier, when its minister of the interior proposed “concentrating refugees into camps.” The Jewish community of Vienna, where the majority of the country’s 12,000 to 15,000 Jews live, has been boycotting the FPÖ; it refused to participate in the government’s official Holocaust memorial ceremony last month.Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria’s vice chancellor and head of the FPÖ, announced that he would install a committee of historians to examine the party’s ties to anti-Semitic groups. The party revealed last week that former FPÖ parliamentarian Wilhelm Brauneder will head the commission. Brauneder, who during his tenure as the dean of Vienna University’s law faculty in the late 1980s permitted an event organized by a German right-wing extremist, gets to choose the members of the commission, which is set to issue its first report this October. Whether or not the historians will also study the fraternities’ history depends on whether the fraternities, which are private organizations, voluntarily grant them access to their archives.

Then, this week, the FPÖ suffered another blow. Falter published a new story, this one reporting that the Viennese fraternity Bruna Sudetia also used a songbook containing the same anti-Semitic song. Its head, Herwig Götschober, works on social media for the cabinet of Norbert Hofer, the FPÖ’s minister of infrastructure, and is a district councillor for the FPÖ in Vienna. Götschober reacted by saying that he rejects these lyrics, and added that he had never seen this songbook before. The fraternity is now under investigation, as the circulation of Nazi content is prohibited by Austrian constitutional law; Götschober went on leave from his post.On its homepage, Götschober’s fraternity has a section about its history: World War II is only mentioned when the bombing of its Vienna headquarters in 1944 is described. This silence about the Nazi era has been typical of Austria for much of the 20th century, when the nation saw itself as the first victim of Hitler’s expansionist politics. In 1986, the Nazi past of former UN general secretary and presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim resulted in international pressure. Consequently, then-chancellor Franz Vranitzky acknowledged Austria’s complicity in the war and Nazi crimes in 1993. It took until 2012 for the government to recognize May 8, the anniversary of the capitulation of the Wehrmacht in 1945, as the Day of Liberation. German-nationalistic fraternities still commemorate the dead soldiers on that date. Arguably, scandals like those involving anti-Semitic songbooks keep bubbling up because Austria has yet to grapple with its WWII past as thoroughly as has, say, Germany.

The far right in Austria has a long and vocal history of anti-Semitism, but recently it has been trying to shed that image, instead prioritizing anti-Muslim rhetoric. As part of this shift, members of the far right at times claim they want to protect Jews against Muslims. But their relationship with the fraternity system proves they haven’t shed their anti-Semitism either.The chances are extremely slim that a reassessment of the sort Strache announced would eliminate anti-Semitism in the FPÖ. In order for the party to rid itself of anti-Semitism, it needs to cut its ties to the fraternities—a structural problem that is nearly impossible to tackle.

Austria has many high school and university student associations. What makes these fraternities (“Burschenschaften”) unique is that they’re infused with German nationalism. They originated in German university towns in the first half of the 19th century and stood for a united German nation. During the Nazi era, the fraternities were merged with the Nazi students’ associations. They reemerged after the war. Today, not all members of these fraternities are far-right extremists, anti-Semites, or neo-Nazis; some are right-wing conservatives who adhere to old traditions, like a mask-free fencing ritual that often leaves members with scarred faces.

Members swear to secrecy about what happens during their gatherings—which is why the songbooks shocked many. It also means that people don’t know how much other Nazi material is being circulated. In his most recent book, the journalist Hans-Henning Scharsach lists several fraternities that still include former Nazis, such as Rome’s Gestapo chief Herbert Kappler, among their honorary members. Another group organized a carnival party in 2008, photos of which appear to show guests dressed up as Ku Klux Klan members and Orthodox Jews.

In total, there are no more than 5,000 members of such fraternities nationwide, yet these members are important because they’re overrepresented in the ranks of the FPÖ. Strache himself is a member of the fraternity Vandalia. (He is also known to have had frequent contact with neo-Nazi groups in his youth, which he described as a “youthful folly” but never said was a mistake.) Among the party’s MPs alone, roughly one-third are members of various fraternities. The fraternities are an important source of highly educated and loyal personnel.

Which makes Strache’s announcement somewhat hard to believe: “Fraternities have nothing to do with the FPÖ,” he said the day after the Germania zu Wiener Neustadt songbook was made public.“That was a real slap in the face for the fraternities,” said Nina Horaczek, a journalist with Falter who broke both stories, adding that Strache’s attempt to distance himself from them isn’t a good long-term strategy for him. After all, his brothers backed him when he became the head of the party in 2005. “If fraternities need to leave the party, Strache would be the first to go.”

Although the fraternities are by no means the only source of anti-Semitism in the FPÖ, they are considered a gateway into the party. Severing these ties isn’t just difficult, it’s undesirable for the party—which means that the FPÖ will continue to at least indirectly foster a safe space for anti-Semitic thought.

“As long as Strache doesn’t say, I was a neo-Nazi in my youth and I apologize for it, any sort of historical examination is worth very little,” said Doron Rabinovici, an author and historian of Austrian Jewry.

Martin Engelberg, a Jewish MP for the conservative ÖVP, is more optimistic. In a TV debate on the Austrian channel Puls4, he said, “This process won’t happen in just one day,” referring to the plans of his coalition partner, the FPÖ. At a recent MP swearing-in ceremony, the FPÖ’s MPs didn’t show up wearing cornflower pins—the symbol Nazi party members used in Austria before 1938—as they had in previous years. Instead, they wore edelweiss flowers, a rather neutral symbol of Austria. Strache had also given a speech at the fraternities’ annual ball a few days earlier, saying that they had to stand against racism and anti-Semitism. “Those are [positive] signs,” Engelberg said.

The FPÖ has also been trying to present itself in recent years not as anti-Semitic, but as decidedly supportive of Jews—a stance that seems politically opportunist. One way they attempt this is by showing support for the Jewish state: Strache and other party officials have been visiting Israel and meeting with far-right membersof the ruling Likud party (official Israeli policy, however, is to boycott the FPÖ). In December, Strache said it would be his wish to move the Austrian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He has also said Israel has the right to build West Bank settlements.Several scholars, a few of whom were featured in a recent Haaretz article, have made the case that some European far-right parties have adopted similar stances:

Cas Mudde, a political science professor at the University of Georgia … highlighted the stance of many radical rightists on the Jews. Jews, says Mudde, are seen to embody a modernity to be defended. Europe’s large Roma minority, on the other hand, are seen as barbarians living on the fringes of modernity, while Muslims are seen as barbarians living inside modernity—the enemy already inside the gates, according to the far right.

As a result, the philo-Semitic turn of many far-right parties, in the words of sociologist Rogers Brubaker, comes directly from these parties’ preoccupations with Islam. Writing earlier this year, Brubaker argues that the far right has come to redefine Jews as fellow Europeans and exemplary victims of the threat from Islam.

Another far-right European party that has tried this strategy is France’s National Front. Founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who made statements offensive to both Jews and Muslims, the party was taken over in 2011 by his daughter Marine Le Pen. She expelled her father from the party and gave it a facelift, publicly embracing Jews while continuing to speak negatively about Muslims. In 2014, she told French Jews, “Not only is the National Front not your enemy, but it is without a doubt the best shield to protect you. It stands at your side for the defense of our freedoms of thought and of religion against the only real enemy, Islamist fundamentalism.”

As the historian Ethan B. Katz has written, “The extreme right in France has repeatedly invoked Muslims and Jews in the same breath, at once highlighting both groups as different from the rest of the population and seeking to rally them against one another.”

These kinds of tactics may have influenced the FPÖ. “It’s possible that Marine Le Pen played a role in the FPÖ’s move away from anti-Semitism,” said Danny Leder, an Austrian journalist who has been based in France for decades and has covered the right-wing parties of the two countries extensively. “On a European level, the FPÖ was always the National Front’s junior partner.”Leder emphasized that “the threat [against Jews] is real.” In recent years, France has experienced several deadly Islamist terrorist attacks directed at Jews. The Austrian watchdog NGO Forum gegen Antisemitismus reports a steady increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the past few years, and in its 2015 report the increase in Islamist anti-Semitism was significant.

Both the National Front and the FPÖ have used these incidents to foment further hatred. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest anti-Muslim sentiment has become more widespread. Le Pen, in 2010, compared Muslim prayers in the streets to the Nazi occupation. And in Austria, “Daham statt Islam” (“Home instead of Islam”) was Strache’s campaign slogan in 2006. Last November, Landbauer called Johanna Mikl-Leitner, his rival in the state elections, “Moslem-Mama Mikl,” and claimed that she was “pushing Islamization in kindergartens” because a syllabus for kindergartens required that children be introduced to holidays from various religions.

Oskar Deutsch, the president of Vienna’s Jewish community, does see Islamist anti-Semitism as a significant threat, but he doesn’t believe the far-right is a true ally in combatting it. “Muslims, Roma and Sinti, and Jews—as minorities, we’re all sitting on the same branch,” he said. “If you’re sawing off one of our seats, we’re all falling.” But some Jewish leaders, like Engelberg in Austria, or the French Jews who voted for Le Pen, have seemed willing to give far-right parties a chance, perhaps encouraged by public displays of philo-Semitism.

Meanwhile, anti-Muslim sentiment helps to keep the far-right base happy. This base, however, has not abandoned its anti-Semitic strain, and party leaders still at times project anti-Semitic signals. Strache’s 2010 visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, where he wore his fraternity hat when head-covering was required, perhaps illustrates this best.

Still, the FPÖ keeps framing scandals such as the songbooks as isolated cases, in its attempt to convince people that Jews are no longer the enemy of the party. Fraternities are clearly enmeshed with the FPÖ, which means that—despite all public claims to the contrary—the party will likely keep its ties to anti-Semitism intact.

Source: Secretive Fraternities Are Feeding Anti-Semitism in Austria

i24NEWS – Austria pledges to grant citizenship to Holocaust victim descendants

Will be interesting to see whether there is much take up by descendants:

The newly minted Austrian government will grant citizenship to the descendants of Holocaust victims, Haaretz reported Tuesday.The decision comes in the wake of a diplomatic spat between Israel and Vienna as Austria’s new coalition between the conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party was sworn in on Monday, rekindling an alliance from the early 2000s which prompted unease around Europe.

The Freedom Party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, has a past stained by frequent anti-Semitic incidents and instances of Nazi propaganda, which is why a harsh Israeli response was widely expected

According to a statement released by the Israeli government, “Israel will continue to work with civil servants of the Ministries headed by members of the Freedom Party”, but will also “continue to struggle against Anti-semitism” and “for the commemoration of the Holocaust.”

Some Israeli media have interpreted the statement as a “boycott” of the Freedom Party Ministers at the political level, since it says that “working relations” will continue with “civil servants”.

Others have emphasized that working relations will go on, reading the statement as a weak reaction. The reaction is certainly milder than in 2000, when the Freedom Party first joined a coalition government and Israeli authorities withdrew the Ambassador from Vienna.

Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has traveled to Israel a number of times, and developed ties with representatives of the Israeli right. In one of his last trips, however, late Israeli President Shimon Peres had refused to meet him.

via i24NEWS – Austria pledges to grant citizenship to Holocaust victim descendants

Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Good long read:

When it comes to the Holocaust, Austria has made a lot of progress assuming responsibility.

In recent years, Austrian officials have consistently acknowledged their country’s support of Adolf Hitler, an Austria native, and his war of annihilation against Jews. In the early 2000s, the government dropped the claim that the country was mostly a victim of German Nazism, citing “the special responsibility imposed on Austria by its recent history.” Instead, teaching about the Holocaust has become mandatory, with visits to former death camps and teacher training in Israel.

The government has paid nearly $1 billion since 2005 in compensation to Holocaust victims, and since 2012, Holocaust memorial projects have popped up at an unprecedented rate. They include the opening of a learning center at the Mauthausen former death camp, a monument for Vienna’s deported Jews and an international exposition, commissioned by the national railway firm, on its own role in murdering some 65,000 Austrian Jews.

Yet in spite of this increased sensitivity, nationalism still has a firm grip on Austrian society: The far-right Freedom Party, which was founded in 1956 by a former Nazi SS officer, is on the rise. In last month’s national elections, the party garnered 26 percent of the vote with a platform that included denouncing “forced multiculturalism, globalization and mass immigration.

As a natural ally of the center-right People’s Party, which won the most votes, the Freedom Party is poised to enter Austria’s government for the second time — it was part of the governing coalition in 2000.

Amid the ascendancy of far-right populism across Europe, its revival in Austria is seen as particularly alarming, as it suggests a failure by society to learn from its recent history. After all, if a country that does nearly everything “right” when it comes to Holocaust education can fail to inoculate itself to the kind of hatred that makes genocide possible, what hope is there for other countries in the region, such as Hungary and Poland, which face rising nationalism amid complicated reckonings with their own Holocaust legacies?

Experts on Austria say the rise of its xenophobic far right is connected to fears over Muslim immigration, as well as a perceived need to protect the nation’s sovereignty from an increasingly interventionist European Union. But it’s also connected to the Austrian government, which deflected its guilt for decades and failed to purge Nazi supporters from positions of influence.

Unlike neighboring Germany, Austria did not have an organized, judicial denazification effort in the aftermath of World War II — in fact, no one has been convicted of Nazi war crimes in Austria in more than 35 years.

“In Germany, and quite a few of the countries that were under Nazi occupation, many people involved in Nazism were convicted or at least not permitted to be civil servants, teachers, police officers, etc.,” said Tina Walzer, a Vienna historian. “But this has never happened in Austria and we are witnessing the results of this crucial difference.”

This has entrenched populist ideas in a way that has seemed resistant to increased Holocaust awareness.

“When you look at the population as a whole, you don’t feel there has really been a change,” said Milli Segal, founder of the newly opened For the Child museum in Vienna honoring the young Holocaust refugees who fled to Britain through an arrangement known as the Kindertransport.

“Well, there’s change, but in very, very small steps,” she added after a pause. “It makes you feel voiceless.”

Many in Austria share Segal’s feeling of powerlessness over the Freedom Party’s recent successes. Its strong showing last month follows an even greater electoral feat in last year’s presidential elections in which the party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, won 49.7 percent in the first round of voting. Hofer lost in the second round to the left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, 53 percent to 46 percent.

The close election indicates that far-right populism is a “ticking political bomb,” warned Barbara Wesel, a senior Europe correspondent for Germany’s Deutsche Welle broadcaster.

The Freedom Party, for its part, rejects claims that it plays on Nazi and other racist sympathies. Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has vowed to kick out members caught engaging in racist rhetoric, and has indeed done so to a former lawmaker who supported online the assertion that “Zionist money-Jews worldwide are the problem.”

The Jewish Community in Vienna considers the Freedom Party a racist entity, according to Oskar Deutsch, the community leader, who has called on Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz to prevent the Freedom Party from reaching power.

“It’s a facade,” Deutsch told JTA of Strache’s statements against anti-Semitism and racism. “Despite this talk, they position themselves as the go-to address for people with Nazi sympathies.”

A case in point: On Nov. 9, when the outgoing chancellor, Christian Kern, spoke in parliament to commemorate the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht — a series of pogroms that the Nazis carried out in Germany and Austria — the Freedom Party’s lawmakers were the only ones who demonstratively did not applaud.

“These subtle signs are how they signal and excite their supporters,” Segal said. “If the Freedom Party will be part of the government, it will become difficult to commemorate the Holocaust in the same dignified way that we have now in Austria.”

The dissonance between Austria’s Holocaust commemoration efforts and the far-right’s popularity can be unsettling.

On Oct. 19, for example, a Vienna city official inaugurated a Holocaust memorial installation outside the Herminengasse subway station, near an alley in which the Nazis imprisoned hundreds of Jews during the war. From there they were taken to be deported as non-Jewish locals watched from their balconies. The inauguration ceremonies were held during election season; nearby hung a giant poster of a smiling Strache bearing the slogan “Fairness.”

Does the party’s recent success suggest that such commemoration projects are ultimately failing to make a difference politically?

“You might say so,” Deutsch said. “But the Jewish community will not remain silent.”

To Efraim Zuroff, a hunter of Nazis and historian for the Simon Wiesenthal Center who is based in Israel, the success of the far right in Austria reflects how Holocaust commemoration projects in urban areas hardly reach people who live in smaller towns — the Freedom Party base.

“Holocaust education, which only recently really began developing in Austria, happens there in pockets — in the big cities, in the artists’ scene,” he said. “It has big visibility but isn’t penetrating the way it has in Germany, where the effort was much more robust.”

Zuroff said this has a lot to do with Austria’s failure to prosecute Nazis.

“Holocaust education efforts in Austria are having limited impact because they are done in two voices,” he said. “There was a belated admission of guilt by politicians. But the judiciary, whose work sends a much stronger message in society, was a total failure.”

To some activists against racism, the Freedom Party’s rise is motivation to invest even greater efforts in Holocaust commemoration.

The far-right’s success in Austria “only strengthens our resolve,” said Brigitte Prinzgau, an artist who designed the newly inaugurated Aspang Railway Station Memorial, near where 47,035 Austrian Jews were dispatched from Vienna to death camps. “Now educators and artists will make even more monuments confronting fascism and xenophobic populism.”

via Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

These are the countries you can ‘buy’ citizenship to – Business Insider

Another good overview of the various schemes, and the relative advantages for those shopping for citizenship:

Most countries offer citizenship (passports) the hard way. But 7 sell them outright, and 3 have “powerful” passports. “Citizenship Planning” is a thing.

For people who need a second citizenship and passport to dodge the long arm of their government, there is something called “citizenship planning,” similar to “financial planning.” But when it comes to just outright buying a citizenship and passport without having to languish for years as mere non-citizen resident, the Huddled Masses need not apply. And not any passport will do. In fact, there are only three for sale that are really good.

Which are the best passports to get?

There are quality standards for everything, especially if it’s costly. The most powerful passports are those that allow visa-free travel to the most countries.

There are other considerations, for example those that drive US citizens nuts when they live overseas, due to the US government’s onerous reporting requirements on them and on banks that do business with them, and due to US taxation of their worldwide income no matter where they live. Few other governments treat their citizens that way.

In terms of visa-free travel, here are the 25 countries with the most powerful passports, according to a new ranking by Henley & Partners, which is into “citizenship planning.” But among them is only – Austria – one whose citizenship can be bought (more on that in a moment):

  1. Germany: visa-free travel to 176 countries.
  2. Sweden: 175 countries
  3. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, and the US: 174 countries.
  4. Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, UK: 173 countries
  5. Republic of Ireland, Japan, New Zealand: 172 countries
  6. Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland: 171 countries
  7. Australia, South Korea: 170 countries
  8. Iceland: 169 countries.

And how do you get one of those passports?

In most countries, the hard way: Legally immigrate and obtain residency, and then fulfill the residency requirements to get citizenship and that second passport, which takes years. Most countries, including the US, have special programs for “investors” to obtain residency, such as a green card, essentially on the spot, but even then it takes years to obtain citizenship and a passport. If it’s possible at all, such as in Germany.

Then there’s the direct way: Buy a citizenship and the passport that comes along with it. These citizenship-by-investment programs are not for folks on a tight budget. According to Henley & Partners, only seven countries offer this convenient route, only three have powerful passports, and only one is in the top of the heap above.

Passports from EU countries are the best. If you’re from Russia or China or Iraq and become a citizen of one of the 28 EU countries, you’ll get a country-specific EU passport that allows you to live and do business anywhere in the EU. There are all sorts of offshore benefits. And travel around the world is a breeze.

But citizenship in most EU countries is not for sale. You can buy only residency, similar to programs in the US. But there are three exceptions:

Austria

Citizenship is almost impossible to get for normal foreigners already legally in Austria. But the super-rich and famous have a way. The government, through paragraph 10, section 6 of the Citizenship Act, can confer citizenship “because of the services already provided by the foreigner and the extraordinary achievements still to be expected of him in the special interest of the Republic.” This usually involves a big direct investments of unspecified magnitude plus some other “extraordinary” contribution, such as being famous or creating jobs. Few succeed. In some years, none succeed.

They’re playing hard to get. But the rewards are huge for the few that succeed, including an impeccable EU passport with visa-free travel to 173 countries.

Cyprus

In 2012, as the EU-part of the divided island was veering toward bankruptcy, it offered citizenship through a “fast-track” scheme to dodge the normal residency requirements. But the price tag was €10 million in direct investment. Too expensive for the average oligarch.

In 2013, Cyprus became desperate. Its offshore financial industry, the main breadwinner of the economy, had collapsed in a cesspool of corruption. The banks had taken much of the foreign money – particularly Russian money – down with them. Cyprus needed some moolah. It slashed the price of citizenship to €3 million of direct investment. Russians who’d lost at least €3 million in the collapse would also be eligible for citizenship.

Since then, the price was further slashed, to as low as €2 million. And it’s fast: about three months for citizenship and an EU passport, with visa-free travel to 159 countries. And that €3-million investment can be sold after three years. An adequate house would likely do.

Malta

The tiny EU member state with 417,000 residents spread over three islands is convenient for foreigners, with English being one of the two official languages. In 2013, during the still rough waters of the euro debt crisis, Parliament passed legislation that put Maltese citizenship up for sale at €650,000. A spouse costs another €25,000; unmarried children between 18 and 25 and dependent parents cost €50,000 each. There are no residency or investment requirements. The money goes into government funds.

This citizenship is a product to be marketed. If it sells 100 per year at €650,000 a pop, it would generate annual revenues of €65 million – or 1.75% of total 2016 revenues (€3.7 billion). Given the limits on budget deficits under EU Treaties, everything counts.

This Maltese product includes an EU passport with visa-free travel to 166 countries. Folks can stop by, jump through some bureaucratic hoops, pay, get their citizenship and passport, and settle in Germany or wherever. At the time, Simon Busuttil, leader of the opposition Nationalist Party, warned that Malta could end up being compared to shady tax havens in the Caribbean. And that’s our last stop.

Source: These are the countries you can ‘buy’ citizenship to – Business Insider

Austria’s far-right party wants to ‘ban’ Islam – The Washington Post

More warning signs in Europe:

The head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party called on Saturday for a total ban on “fascistic Islam.”

Heinz Christian Strache told an audience in Salzburg that he wanted to see a ban of Muslim symbols, something like the Austrian law that bans Nazi symbols. And he warned that Islam posed an existential threat to Europe. “Let us put an end to this policy of Islamization,” he said. “Otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end.”

The Freedom Party is staunchly anti-immigrant. Stache said Saturday that “we need zero and minus immigration.” The country has received 130,000 claims for asylum since the summer of 2015. Most are former residents of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

This attitude has made it hard for young Muslims to feel accepted. One recent study of Muslim youth in Vienna found that many do not feel recognized as Austrians, which has increased the risk of radicalization. According to the survey, “85 percent of young people who are in contact with a youth worker have an immigration background,” and “27 percent of those teenagers who are Muslim show strong sympathy for jihadism, and violent and anti-Western thinking.”

The Freedom Party’s anti-Muslim message has been well-received by a nearly a majority of Austria’s electorate. Its presidential candidate Norbert Hofer was defeated in a runoff vote last month, but gained 47 percent support.

In the Netherlands, the Freedom Party is running on a platform of closing mosques and Islamic schools, banning the Koran and Muslim migrants. It also wants to prohibit women from wearing headscarves. The next election is March 2017, and the party is expected to pick up seats to become the most represented party in the Dutch parliament.