Photo Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

{Originally posted to the Gatestone Institute website}

All of the major parties represented in the Austrian Parliament have agreed to support a resolution condemning the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic.

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The measure calls on Austria’s federal government to fight anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and to withhold any form of financial and other state support from anti-Semitic organizations and advocates of BDS principles.

The resolution will be submitted to the lower house of Parliament, the National Council, in January 2020. It is expected to be passed with an overwhelming majority. While anti-BDS laws have been passed in Vienna and Graz, the largest and second-largest cities in Austria, this would be the first time that such a measure is enacted at the federal level.

On December 11, legislators from all five major parties — including the left-leaning Greens and the right-leaning Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) — formally agreed to co-sponsor the resolution, which is being spearheaded by Sebastian Kurz, a former (and most likely the next) chancellor of Austria who also leads the center-right Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP). The resolution states:

“Anti-Semitism has existed since antiquity, although the term itself was not used until the 19th century. The core, however, was always the same: it was — and is — the fomenting of prejudices and hatred in word and deed against Jews. Throughout history they have been victims of violence and exclusion, which reached a devastating climax in the murderous cruelty of National Socialism and the declared goal of the systematic destruction of Jewry by the Nazi regime.

“In total, more than six million Jews, many of them children, fell victim to the Shoah. They were murdered in the extermination camps by poison gas or otherwise. But even this unimaginably cruel genocide and the memory of it has not caused many people to rethink, and so Jews, even in the present, are exposed, once again, to hate and prejudices, which in the worst cases culminate in violence.

“In a survey of 16,500 Jewish Europeans in 12 European countries conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency in May/June 2018, highly alarming findings emerged: nine out of ten respondents said that anti-Semitism had intensified, and one-third were considering emigrating.

“The European Parliament’s Working Group on Anti-Semitism (EP WGAS) has already done valuable work. In June 2017, an anti-Semitism resolution was adopted by a large majority in plenary. The text included calling for all EU Member States to adopt the definition of anti-Semitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and to train their police and judicial authorities on how to prosecute anti-Semitism. Austria was one of the first EU Member States to adopt this IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism by a resolution of the Council of Ministers on April 21, 2017.

“The Austrian Presidency of the EU unanimously adopted a declaration on combating anti-Semitism and developing a common approach to security for Jewish communities and institutions during the Justice and Home Affairs Council on December 6, 2018. The European Council welcomed this statement in its conclusions of December 13 and 14, 2018. This path must continue to be pursued consistently.

“Also, in 2018, the President of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, commissioned a study to understand the level of anti-Semitic sentiments in Austria. The result of this study is that 10% of Austrians are manifestly anti-Semitic and 30% are latently anti-Semitic. The percentages are alarmingly higher among the Turkish and Arabic-speaking people who were born in Austria or have lived with us for more than ten years.

“According to the IHRA anti-Semitism definition adopted by Austria, the State of Israel, which is understood as a Jewish collective, may be the target of anti-Semitic hostility, such as the rejection of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, collective responsibility of Jews for acts of the State of Israel, or comparisons between current Israeli politics and Nazi policies.

“The ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) movement, which has increasingly appeared in Austria in recent years, makes use of this anti-Semitic pattern: This movement calls for a boycott of the Jewish state, of Israeli products and companies, of Israeli artists, scientists and athletes. It demonizes and measures Israel by double standards, makes Austrian Jews jointly responsible for Israeli politics, and by calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees and all their descendants, it questions the right of existence of the Jewish state.

“For Austria, Israel’s right to exist is non-negotiable, and any form of anti-Semitism, including Israel-related anti-Semitism, is unacceptable and must be severely condemned. Of course, factual criticism of individual measures by the government of Israel must be allowed.

“The National Council strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism, including Israel-related anti-Semitism, and calls on the federal government to resolutely and consequently confront these tendencies.

“The federal government is further requested:

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The writer is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.