An antisemitic cartoon posted six years ago by Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has been removed from his Facebook page. It could still be seen last month, and Strache defended it in a televised debate with a Jewish student leader in Vienna, but it has since disappeared.
It is not yet clear whether it was intentionally removed by Strache, whose spokesman has not yet responded to a query from Haaretz, or whether Facebook removed the post after complaints were lodged.
The cartoon, posted by Strache in August 2012, shows three figures labeled “the bankers,” “the government” and “the people.” The bankers are represented by an overweight, porcine man with a long nose, gobbling up a piece of chicken, contrasted with “the people,” represented by a sad-looking, thin man. Strache posted the cartoon in protest of the policy of the European Union, whose banks, he says, are impoverishing the ordinary Austrian citizen.
The man representing the banks, who has Stars of David on the buttons of his sleeve, recalls depictions of Jews in Nazi propaganda. The Jewish community in Vienna has denounced the cartoon over the years, saying that it recalls illustrations from the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Sturmer.
Strache has so far refused to apologise for the cartoon, even during his 2017 election campaign, which resulted in his far-right Freedom Party entering the government and Strache’s appointment as vice chancellor. In a televised debate last month between Strache and the president of Austria’s student union, Benjamin Hess, the latter said to Strache: “The picture is still on your Facebook page. This picture is an antisemitic caricature. You never apologised for it. You never removed it from your Facebook page.”
Strache hit back, saying: “Not everything that people attribute to antisemitism, for political reasons because they don’t agree with us, is connected to antisemitism. The issue here is criticism of the structure of banks. There’s no antisemitism in the text or the picture. You can interpret it however you want, but it’s a mistaken interpretation.” Strache later added: “This is not antisemitic. There are no Stars of David on the cuffs as you describe. You need an imagination to claim this.”
The Jewish community in Austria says that even after the election, Strache’s party did not sufficiently distance itself from its Nazi and antisemitic past.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was expected during his visit to Israel on to try to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his attitude to Strache’s Freedom Party, which Israel has boycotted since last year. The Jewish community in Vienna, which has also boycotted the Freedom Party, believes that it is unlikely that Israel will change its position on the matter.