'Radical Islamist antisemite' arrested in connection with attacks on Graz Jewish community

A 31-year-old Syrian refugee has been detained


A 31 year old Syrian refugee has been arrested in connection with three attacks on the Jewish community in Graz in southern Austria.

The first attack took place around 11pm on August 18 when Graz’s synagogue was graffitied with the words “Palestine is free” and “Our language and our land are red lines”.

At approximately 11.30pm on August 21, a stone was thrown through a window on the north side of the synagogue.

The next day, Graz Jewish community president Elie Rosen was threatened with a wooden club when he caught the accused about to smash in the synagogue’s windows.

Mr Rosen told the JC he approached the synagogue in his car at about 6pm on August 22 and saw a man in a baseball cap with pieces of concrete.

Mr Rosen approached the man, who threatened him, hitting the community president’s car. Mr Rosen told him to stop. No other words were exchanged.

The suspect was seen and photographed by two bystanders before fleeing on his bicycle.

Austria’s interior ministry confirmed the arrest on Monday of a 31 year old man. Unemployed, he is a Syrian citizen who arrived in Austria as a refugee in 2013.

He is also suspected of having vandalised the headquarters of a Graz LGBTQ association and a Catholic church last week.

Austria’s interior minister, Karl Nehammer, ascribed an “Islamist motive” to the attacks, calling the suspect a “radical Islamist antisemite” and “homophobe”.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said last week he was “shocked by the attack on the president of the Jewish Community of Graz. Antisemitism has no place in Austria”, pledging to ensure the security of Austria’s Jewish community.

Oskar Deutsch, president of Vienna’s Jewish community (IKG), called on the government to better secure Jewish premises. The IKG spends £2.7 million annually on its own security.

Mr Rosen told the JC he hoped to see security measures around the synagogue strengthened in the coming days.

Currently, the synagogue is monitored by police during services. Mr Rosen would also like police surveillance when the community’s offices are open during the week.

Mr Rosen also suggested additional funding for the community’s educational programming concerning antisemitism and support for its campaigning against BDS, criticising the Communist Party’s (KPÖ) support for the movement.

Graz passed an anti-BDS resolution in November 2019 with votes from all parties save the KPÖ, the second-largest party on the city council.

The attacks, Mr Rosen said, demonstrated Graz’s acute problem with anti-Israel antisemitism.

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