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August 21, 2020 10:28 am

Austrian Jewish Leader Warns of Rising ‘Anti-Israel Antisemitism’ After Synagogue Defaced With Pro-Palestinian Slogans

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The synagogue in the Austrian city of Graz. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A leader of the Jewish community in Austria warned on Friday of a rise in “left-wing and anti-Israel antisemitism” following the vandalism of a synagogue in the southern city of Graz.

Earlier this week, the wall of the synagogue was daubed with the slogan “Free Palestine.” Another scrawl on the synagogue’s meeting hall declared, “Our country and our language are red borders.”

Police are currently investigating the incident. The bricks used to construct the outer wall of the synagogue — salvaged from the original building that was burned down during the Nazi “Kristallnacht” pogrom of November 1938 — were said to have been badly damaged by the vandalism.

According to Elie Rosen — the president of the Jewish community in Graz — both slogans were evidence of an aggressive antisemitism from the left.

“It’s not right-wing extremist, it wasn’t völkisch (racist), you can see that clearly,” Rosen commented in an interview with the Wiener Zeitung. “In Graz we are increasingly dealing with left-wing and anti-Israel antisemitism.”

Rosen added that the outrage at the synagogue was not an isolated incident, but evidence of a “clear trend.”

Said Rosen: “We have had serious cases this year, an attack on a young person and now this act of vandalism. That is worrying.”

Asked about the atmosphere for Jews in Austria, Rosen answered that it had “not become more pleasant.”

He also expressed pessimism on whether it was possible to wean antisemitic people from conspiracy theories about Jews, as evidenced in recent demonstration against coronavirus measures across Europe.

“I don’t think that you can convince people in adulthood who are antisemitic with reasonable arguments,” Rosen said. “You need a scapegoat, and there are traditional scapegoats. You then fall back on them.”

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted on Wednesday that he was “shocked” by the incident.

“In Austria, there is zero tolerance for antisemitism, which must be fought resolutely,” he said. “I hope the perpetrators are quickly identified and brought to justice for their crime.”

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