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Judentum und Israel
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Der FPÖ-Feldzug:
Geschichten aus den Wiener Gerichtssälen

Karl Pfeifer, Searchlight November 2000

An undoubted ingredient in the successes of right-wing extremist Jörg Haider and his Freedom Party (FPÖ) is their ability to minimise Nazi crimes.

Haider, whose party's entry into government prompted the rest of the European Union to downgrade relations with Austria, is formally only a "simple party member". In reality, he dictates FPÖ policy as well as "Haiderising" Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and his conservative Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP).

The far-right Viennese weekly Zur Zeit, is ample proof of this. Last year, an article in Zur Zeit denied the Holocaust, a crime under Austrian law, but no action was taken against the paper's chief editor, Andreas Mölzer, who doubles as Haider's cultural adviser, because there was no proof that he had read the article. However, Hans Gamlich, who wrote the piece, has also not yet been brought to court. The latest issue of Zur Zeit includes, not for the first time, an article by Alois Mock, the former ÖVP Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister. Fifteen years ago Mock earned notoriety by making antisemitic remarks during the campaign to elect Kurt Waldheim as president.

Mock probably feels at home in the company of Robert Prantner, a Catholic theologian and former director of studies at the ÖVP's political academy. In the same edition of Zur Zeit, Prantner alleges the existence of a world conspiracy between Austrian Socialists, the state of Israel and the "Rabbis of Israel" against Austria and defends the recent beatification of Pius IX. who not only called the Jews "roaming dogs" bit also viciously condemned any kind of modern thinking.

"With certainty, Pius IX. set his face hard against the equality-mongering and subversive heirs of the 'French Revolution' which stuck so-called 'human rights' into the framework of self-governing Godlessness," raves Prantner.

Prantner, accredited until the end of 1998 as a diplomatic representative of the embassy of the Sovereign Order of Maltese Knights in Austria, has never hesitated to air his prejudices. An article by him in Zur Zeit in December 1997 entitled "Tightrope walk on a one-way street?", provides a textbook example of the Austrian justice system's failure to react to antisemitic incitement, if the person concerned is a VIP.

Noting Vatican efforts to wrestle with the legacy of Christian antisemitism, Prantner turns to what he sees as Jewish reluctance to return the favour. "In view of the even bloodier crimes of Jewish representatives (not 'Jewry' itself) against Catholic Christians", Prantner writes that he is disappointed that notable Jewish figures have not offered "a word, a gesture, a sign of regret of remorse, of apology".

In particular, he exhumes a grisly tale of ritual murder, claiming that "Crimes by Jewish people against Christians, against children, such as the holy martyred child Anderl von Rinn ... are also deplorable stories". Only and when "a congress of world Jewry" asks for forgiveness for "the blood of murdered Christinans shed by Jewish hands".

When the article was criticised for antisemitism, Ewald Stadler, then head of the FPÖ's parliamentary group, leapt into the controversy with a parliamentary question, contending that the charges against Prantner were "a malicious insinuation".

Stadler is also a contributor to the latest edition of Zur Zeit. And surprise, surprise, the same issue carries an advertisement for Umwelt, a right-wing magazine that annually publishes calls to visit the "Judenstein".

Deep-rooted antisemitism is the cement that binds some influential circles of the ÖVP and the FPÖ and probably explains why, despite strict laws against incitement and the espousal of Nazi ideas, politicians and journalists of certain parts of the media have never had to stand trial. On the contrary, it is Haider and his allies who have resorted to the courts by unleashing a salvo of libel actions to silence critics. And the lawyer responsible for filing many of them is Austria's Minister of Justice, Dieter Böhmdorfer.

Last year, the conservative daily, Kurier, wrote "Haider's words of praise for former members of Waffen SS are facts like his remark that concentration camps were really punishment camps". Despite the fact that Haider's remarks "trivialising Nazism" are well documented, he still sued. The judge who dealt with the matter in a lower court in February threw out the case, because Kurier's remarks were a permitted "political criticism". Haider appealed to a senate of three judges, presided over by Dr. Ernest Maurer, whom the FPÖ appointed to the board of the ORF, Austria's public radio and television company, and who recently complained that Austria is too concerned about its Nazi past. Maurer's court referred the case back to the lower court.

The defendants now hope to turn the tables on Haider by appealing to the European Court of Human Rights in France, where the author Gerhard Oberschlick, who wrote that "Haider is either an idiot or a Nazi", was acquitted of libel.

Libel suits in Austria can evidently be launched over statements that are merely the expression of opinion. The best response to bids to gag critics is to contest such cases energetically, as occurred last month when FPÖ politicians withdrew a libel action against the renowned Austrian artist and impresario André Heller.

Heller, a staunch and vocal critic of the extreme right, had written an open letter in which he trenchantly characterised the FPÖ's leaders: "You cannot demand the slightest understanding from Haider, Böhmdorfer, Westenthaler, Riess-Paaser and whatever else these mentally depraved political upstarts and beer tent entertainers want to call themselves, of their embarrassments, vileness and frequent absurdity".

Enraged, Haider, Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer, Böhmdorfer and the FPÖ's parliamentary group leader Westenthaler, sued Heller, employing Böhmdorfer's law firm. Many Austrian and German scientists, intellectuals and artist immediately rallied to Heller's side and invited Haider and his ilk to sue them.

Starting to feel distinctly queasy at the prospect of high profile court proceedings, Böhmdorfer's office asked Heller on 30 August to make a retraction in return for dropping the libel charges against him. Heller refused point-blank.

Desperate to backtrack, the FPÖ's press office issued a press release on 22 September at 17.00 too late to meet newspaper deadlines, informing an astonished media that this Austrian "Gang of Four" had decided to withdraw their action against Heller, arguing that he is "a man of no importance". At the same time, they declared ominously that "other cases remain unaffected" by this decision. At present, about three dozen similar lawsuits against journalists, scientists and politicians are pending. It will be interesting to see if the FPÖ now adds Udo Jürgens, the well known Austrian singer and entertainer, to its of litigation targets. Jürgens, 66, has sold more than 70 million records and hails form Carinthia, where Haider is governor. Recently, he told Playboy magazine that "apparently" Haider is "not open to reason and apparently he is a nazi".

haGalil onLine 10-11-2000


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