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December 5, 2016 1:32 pm

European Jews ‘Breathe Sigh of Relief’ After Defeat of Far-Right Candidate in Austrian Presidential Election Rerun

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Nobert Hoffer, the FPO candidate who lost in Sunday's Austrian presidential election. Photo: Franz Johann Morgenbesser via Wikimedia Commons.

Norbert Hofer, the FPO candidate who lost in Sunday’s Austrian presidential election. Photo: Franz Johann Morgenbesser via Wikimedia Commons.

European Jewish groups are welcoming the defeat of far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in Sunday’s presidential election rerun.

According to projections, Hofer — of Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO) — lost by a 53%-47% margin to Alexander Van der Bellen — a Green Party politician who ran as an independent. In May, the 72-year-old Van der Bellen beat the 45-year-old Hofer by less than one percentage point, but the result was challenged in court and annulled, setting the stage for Sunday’s do-over.

“Austria has just passed a difficult test,” the Conference of European Rabbis said in a statement. “Let’s hope that the results in Austria will strengthen political forces in Europe which are committed to combat racism, antisemitism and xenophobia.”

Dr. Moshe Kantor — president of the European Jewish Congress — said in a statement, “We join democrats and all right-minded people in Austria and across Europe in breathing a sigh of relief that the first openly racist and xenophobic head of state was not elected on our continent. This would not just have been a disaster for Austria but also for Europe, as it might have given a strong tailwind for other similar extremists across the continent, like the National Front leader Marine Le Pen who is competing in the upcoming French presidential elections.”

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Kantor continued: “We hope that this creates momentum for mainstream and decent politicians to start to fight back against those who are using recent economic and social upheavals to push their intolerant agenda.”

Hofer campaigned against open borders and the “Islamization” of Europe. His party has denied links to the neo-Nazi movement.

According to the European Jewish Congress, approximately 15,000 Jews currently live in Austria — mostly in Vienna, the country’s capital.

The role of president in Austria is largely ceremonial. Elections for the position are held every six years.

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  • stannadel

    The Austrian Presidency has some powerful unused powers that make it potentially much more than ceremonial–and Hofer threatened to make use of them, and more, saying: “you’ll be amazed at what will be done”

  • Lancelot Blackeburne

    Do the Austrian rabbis really think that “Alexander Van der Bellen — a Green Party politician” is going to be “committed to combat racism, antisemitism and xenophobia” in a way that helps Jews?

    The Green Party may be against “racism” and “xenophobia” but the Greens have typically interpreted those positions in favor of more mass immigration by third world Muslims, which is not going to make Austria’s Jews better off. Quite the contrary actually.

    As for “antisemitism” the Greens do not have a particularly good record on that. Modern Greens seem far more comfortable with Muslim migrants than with Jews and Europe’s Muslim migrants don’t exactly have warm feelings for Jews. I have read many articles in many media outlets, including Algemeiner, which say antisemitism is increasing rapidly in Europe, driven largely by Muslim immigration.

    The article says “Hofer campaigned against open borders and the “Islamization” of Europe.” Given what has been, and is, happening in Europe I would think that both those positions might benefit European Jews. I think the Conference of European Rabbis might be singing a different tune within a few years.

  • Herb Grossman

    Moshe Kantor’s thinking is a little muddled if he believes that those opposing the Islamification of Europe are necessarily antisemitic or otherwise xenophobic or racist. They are opposing a philosophy and people who are mostly antisemitic and racist, and some of these opponents of Islamification, like Geert Wilders of the Netherlands and (probably) Marine le Pen are friendly towards Jews and Israel. Kantor’s tongue is quicker than his brain — not a good trait for someone representing an endangered European Jewry.

  • Howard Jaeckel

    The president of the European Jewish Congress is quoted as “breathing a sigh of relief that the first openly racist and xenophobic head of state was not elected on our continent.”

    As the son of refugees from Nazi Vienna, I’m not exactly soft on “racist and xenophobic” candidates for election in Austria. But if it can be baldly stated that Norbert Hofer is a racist xenophobe, it must be based on facts I’ve missed in my reading of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

    One can very rationally be opposed to massive and unrestricted Muslim immigration to Europe while still recognizing that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceable and decent people. The fact is that terrorist atrocities have been committed all over the world by radical Islamists. There are also cultural differences that have been manifested in the large scale molestation of women by migrants last New Year’s Eve in Cologne, and several shocking rapes in Austria. Further, Muslim immigrants have attacked Jews in France and elsewhere, and harassed homosexuals in a number of European countries.

    Refusing to close one’s eyes to these facts, and believing that one’s government should recognize them and act to protect its citizens from empirically-based dangers, does not make one a racist. And labelling as racist decent citizens who have these concerns — instead of listening to them and, if necessary, debating with them — probably accounts in no small part for the populist wave sweeping Europe.

  • pacman

    Apparently European Jews are as confused as American Jews. Nowhere is there any indication the Freedom party is anti-jewish. If anything they have shown themselves to be dedicated to the libertarian principles and the survival of Western Civilization.

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