Austrian Jewish leader praises downfall of far-right politician

The head of Austria’s Jewish community said that the downfall of far-right party leader and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache validated his community’s policy of avoiding the faction.

Strache resigned after a hidden camera sting showed him promising public contracts in return for campaign help from a fake Russian backer. The scandal caused a political earthquake in Vienna, bringing down the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose OVP had allied with Strache’s far-right Freedom Party.

The Jewish community had been critical of the partnership and maintained a no-contact policy with the Freedom Party, known by its German acronym FPOe, due to the party’s alleged failure to distance itself from its neo-Nazi past. Official Israel had also avoided contact with party members.

The Community head, Oskar Deutsch, said the resignation and government’s fall “shows that both the Jewish community and the government of Israel evaluated the FPOe correctly.”

“Despite a few who conducted FPOe apologetics, now it’s clear who was on the right side of history: [the nation of] Israel,” he said.

In a Facebook post, Deutsch urged Austrians to vote for factions other than the Freedom Party in upcoming European Parliament elections.

“The resignations and the end of the of the Freedom Party’s government participation are a validation of the Jewish community, but also a powerful validation of independent and critical journalism,” he wrote.

Austria’s Jewish community always warned Chancellor Sebastian Kurz against forming a coalition with the party, Deutsch wrote in the post.

“Unfortunately, our fears were regularly confirmed,” he lamented, citing “more than 70 antisemitic, right-wing extremist and neo-Nazi incidents” since FPOe joined the government came to power.

“It wasn’t always easy, but as Jewish community we always have to do the right thing. Both the Torah and Jewish history teach us that,” said Deutsch, who has headed Austria’s Jewish community since 2012.

Strache tendered his resignation after Germany’s Der Spiegel and Sueddeutsche Zeitung published hidden-camera recordings of a sting operation they say took place in a luxury villa on the island of Ibiza a few months before 2017’s parliamentary elections in Austria.

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