The Austrian Jewish community criticised the country’s foreign minister for inviting prominent Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi to Vienna’s prestigious New Year’s concert.
On January 1, Karin Kneissl said it was her “sincere pleasure to welcome the Palestinians’ voice of reason” and her husband, Emile Ashrawi, to the concert, which is annually performed by the Vienna Philharmonic.
This year’s concert was broadcast to 40 million viewers in 90 countries across the globe.
During her stay in the Austrian capital, Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, gave an interview in which she called Israel a “rogue state” that “enslaves” Palestinians. She also criticised the Austrian government for its pro-Israel stance.
“Why does one have to give such a platform to a hater of Israel? Hanan Ashrawi used her invitation to Vienna to once again demonise Israel,” said Oskar Deutsch, who has headed Austria’s Jewish community since 2012.
“Both Israelis and Palestinians suffer from this Palestinian leadership. What Mrs. Ashrawi calls a pro-Israel position is certainly more pro-Palestinian than the terror-promoting policy of Fatah and Hamas,” Deutsch wrote on Facebook.
“In Israel, every person enjoys equal rights. Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists and others have the right to elect parliamentarians, judges, and so on,” he continued. “Standing for European values would mean not to invite Israel haters such as Hanan Ashrawi to the New Year’s concert.”
Ashrawi also harshly criticised a speech by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz held at a Vienna conference on November 21, in which he argued that the lines between antisemitism and anti-Zionism “are getting blurred.”
Such a position equates criticism of Israel with antisemitism, she lamented, and is akin to political “blackmail” and thus unacceptable.
Kneissl, who lived in Israel for two years, is affiliated with the far-right Freedom Party, which Austria’s Jewish community and the State of Israel boycott due to its Nazi-past and its current xenophobic policies.