Austrian Presidential Hopeful Accused of Exaggerating Story of Temple Mount Shooting
During an election debate on Thursday night, Austrian presidential hopeful Norbert Hofer was accused of embellishing a story about a terror incident he claimed to have witnessed in Israel, the UK’s Guardian reported.
The moderator of the televised debate between right-wing Hofer, of the Freedom Party (FPÖ), and rival Alexander Van der Bellen, an independent candidate, backed by the Greens, challenged the nationalist candidate’s assertion that he personally witnessed the shooting of an armed woman on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The presenter also showed video footage in which an Israel Police spokesperson denies that the incident ever took place.
Throughout his election campaign, Hofer has repeatedly told the tale about the shooting, which he said took place during his official visit to Israel in July 2014. He recently told an Austrian newspaper that he had been standing a little over 30 feet away from the armed woman, whom he said was carrying grenades and a machine gun.
Hofer took issue with the video and questioned the objectivity of the publicly funded TV channel that was broadcasting the debate, according to The Guardian.
The Jerusalem Post reported in July 2014 about an incident that took place at the Temple Mount at the same time of Hofer’s visit, and noted that a 35-year-old woman was shot in the leg, but made no mention of machine guns or hand grenades, according to The Guardian. Another article in the Jerusalem Post, published the day after the incident, said the woman had been a member of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Lev Tahor.
The Freedom Party has been trying in recent years to distance itself from past accusations of antisemitism and in 2015 it expelled a member of its parliamentary group for antisemitic comments. The party is also trying to brand itself as a defender of Austrian Jewry against radical Islamists, and is working hard to improve relations with Israel, The Guardian reported. In April, Party Leader Heinz-Christian Strache visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and Hofer has previously said that a visit to Israel would be one of his first priorities if he becomes president.