Doron Rabinovici: Antisemitism in Austria is beyond my worst fears

Israeli-Austrian novelist speaks out in the wake of a row over kosher slaughter


It is a “blunt lie” to claim there is no place in Austria’s Freedom Party for antisemitism, after its leader confirmed his opposition to kosher slaughter, Israeli-Austrian novelist Doron Rabinovici has said.

Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said on Facebook this week that kosher slaughter should be banned unless the animal is first anaesthetised.

The far-right leader said shechita stands in conflict with animal rights. Animals are “worthy of protection,” he wrote, and should not be “tortured”.

His statement came after a regional party politician proposed creating a register for customers who wish to buy kosher and halal meat.

Mr Rabinovici said: “Only when it comes to Jews and Muslims does [animal welfare] become a real issue — and that’s suspicious.”

The Freedom Party leader’s opposition to kosher slaughter contradicts his government’s policy: Gernot Blümel, the minister representing the chancellor’s office, said “for so long as Sebastian Kurz is Chancellor, our fellow Jewish citizens can be sure that their basic rights and freedoms won’t be restricted.”

Mr Rabinovici—the author of The Search for M. and Elsewhere — believes the Chancellor is sincere in his opposition to antisemitism, having truly taken on the lessons of Austria’s history, and acknowledges that certain forms of antisemitism were not addressed in the past.

But, Mr Rabinovici added, Mr Kurz does not see that “playing this card of anti-Muslim sentiment strengthens prejudice” in the country.

“Why are these reassurances restricted to Jews,” he asked.

The controversy surrounding shechita came amid several other recent antisemitic incidents in Austria.

This week a 23-year-old kippah-wearing man was attacked in Vienna walking home from synagogue while, in another Facebook post, Mr Strache condemned what he termed “the Social Democratic Party’s Silberstein-esque smear campaign” — a reference to the party’s former political consultant, Tal Silberstein.

The actions of the far-right in the current government had gone “far beyond my worst expectations and fears” in terms of their attacks on institutions and the independent media, Mr Rabinovici said.

But he said the picture is more mixed for the Jewish community.

“Jews in Austria have the feeling that their situation is much more precarious because the Jewish community finds itself on the outside of the national consensus [because of their boycott of the Freedom Party].

“The Freedom Party says that antisemitism has no place in their party. We’re happy that they say this, even though it’s a blunt lie, because it’s better than if they were to say, ‘antisemitism is a core element within our party’, which would be much truer.”

“If you speak out against kosher slaughter as Vice-Chancellor, then you are not protecting us against antisemitic feelings — you are inciting them. If you bring up George Soros—fantasising that he is responsible for the refugee crisis — it is as if you copied the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

“I’m astonished.”

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