Austrian far-right politician criticised for antisemitic cartoon

A far-right leader is being investigated by Austria’s legal authorities after he posted, on a social networking site, a cartoon image of a Jewish banker profiting from Europe’s financial crises.

Heinz-Christian Strache, a member of Austria’s Freedom Party, was criticised by the head of Vienna’s Jewish community after he uploaded onto his Facebook page a caricature of an overweight banker with a large hooked nose and star of David cufflinks.

Mr Strache denied antisemitism but said he criticised all “greedy bankers”.

He said that critics were seeing stars of David when there were none, were racist if they associated a hooked nose with ethnicity and that he had become a victim of “blind hatred and targeted persecution.”

Thomas Vecsey, from the Austrian prosecution office, said experts would decide whether to charge him with the criminal offence of ethnic hatred later on in the week.

The offensive image, posted last Saturday, shows the banker being fed food by another figure labelled “The Government,” while the third figure of an uncomfortably thin man with a bone on his plate is named “The People”.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna’s Austrian Jewish community, said the cartoon mirrored the images of Jews in Hitler’s “Sturmer” Nazi publications.

Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, said Mr Strache was “promoting the antisemitic canard that Jews control international finance and manipulate governments to enrich themselves at the expense of non-Jews.

“Strache brings shame to Austrian politics and should be repudiated for his anti-Jewish bigotry,”

Mr Strache was accused of antisemitism last year, after saying that protests against holding a right-wing event, were comparable to the Nazi persecution of the Jews. “We are the new Jews,” Mr Strache told other guests at last year’s event.

Petra Bayr, a Socialist MP, said she was “deeply shocked by [Mr Strache’s] antisemitic verbal slips.”

Last updated: 11:46am, August 22 2012