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August 24, 2020 12:18 pm

‘He Is Filled With Hatred of Israel, Jews, Gays, Lesbians and Prostitutes’: Austrian Police Arrest Suspected Islamist for Assault on Jewish Leader

avatar by Ben Cohen

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Neehammer speaks at a news conference alongside Graz Jewish community president Elie Rosen (R) and Oskar Deutsch, president of the community in Vienna. Photo: Reuters / Leonhard Foeger.

Austria’s interior minister confirmed on Monday that police in the southern city of Graz had arrested a man suspected of assaulting the president of the local Jewish community over the weekend.

Speaking at a news conference in the capital, Vienna, Karl Nehammer said the suspect — who was arrested on Sunday night — had “confessed in full.”

In an earlier series of tweets on Sunday night, Neehammer identified the alleged perpetrator as a “31-year-old Syrian citizen who has been living in Austria since 2013.”

Added Neehammer: “We are assuming an Islamist motive.”

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The unnamed man is alleged to have attacked the Graz Jewish community’s president, Elie Rosen, with a wooden club outside the synagogue in the city on Saturday. Rosen took shelter in his car and was unhurt. The attacker, who fled, was later identified by police through security camera footage.

The man is also being held for six additional crimes in Graz — including the defacing of the Graz synagogue last week with the slogan “Free Palestine,” an outrage that caused Rosen to issue a public statement decrying the rise in “left-wing and anti-Israel antisemitism” in the city.

According to Austrian media outlets, the same man was also responsible for damaging property at a Catholic church, a club serving the LGBT+ community and a bar in Graz’s red-light district.

In a separate statement, the police officer in charge of the case told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper that while the man had admitted to the crimes, he had shown no remorse during questioning.

“[He] is characterized by a complete lack of repentance,” Chief Inspector Fritz Grundnig said. “He is filled with hatred of Israel, Jews, gays, lesbians and prostitutes.”

Interior Minister Neehammer’s comments on the case on Monday followed a private meeting with both Rosen and Oskar Deutsch, the head of the Jewish community in Vienna.

Speaking to reporters alongside Neehammer, Rosen cautioned against making “political capital” out of both the vandalism of the Graz synagogue and the attack he had suffered.

Antisemitism in all its forms was “unsavory,” Rosen said. “To make political capital out of this is abuse.”

Deutsch added that the assault on Rosen demonstrated “that Muslim antisemitism is a serious threat” in Austria.

“But it it not limited to that,” Deutsch said. “There is a left, a right, an Israel-related antisemitism.”

Neehammer pledged that the Austrian government would underline that there was “no place for antisemitic violence” by boosting the presence of uniformed and plainclothes police officers around Jewish institutions.

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