Austria Reveals Roadmap to Combat Anti-Semitism After Assault on Graz Jewish Community

August 30, 2020

The Algemeiner reported on Friday that the government of Austria has announced a new plan for combating rising anti-Semitism in the nation. The announcement comes after a Syrian asylum seeker was arrested for assaulting the Jewish community leader of Graz and vandalizing the community’s synagogue. New measures will include creating a department in the Chancellor’s office focused on anti-Semitism.

The new roadmap was announced after a meeting in the southern city of Graz between Chancellery Minister for the EU and the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler and the head of the local Jewish community, Elie Rosen.

Rosen was physically assaulted with a baseball bat by an Islamist Syrian asylum seeker last weekend. A few days before his assault, Rosen cautioned against rising “left-wing and anti-Israel anti-Semitism” in Graz. His comments came following an anti-Israel vandalism incident at the Graz Synagogue, attributed to the same individual who assaulted Rosen.

In a statement to reporters after their meeting, Edtstadler said that the attack on Rosen had “spurred her into action.” Edtstadler elaborated, “That is why there will be a corresponding staff unit [to combat anti-Semitism] in the Federal Chancellery from 2021, which I will be entrusted with.”  With this move, Austria joins a list of other countries including the US, UK, France, Germany, the EU as a whole, and others, who have created dedicated positions within government focused on combating anti-Semitism.

According to Edtstadler, a new reporting platform will also be created for “anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist incidents.” Interested in improved statistical reporting of anti-Semitic incidents, Edtstadler said that “many incidents are not reported out of shame, perhaps because one has already come to terms with the fact that something like this happens when it shouldn’t.” The under-reporting of anti-Semitic incidents remains an unresolved issue in many countries.

As a “gesture of reconciliation,” Edtstadler confirmed that the descendants of Austrian Jews expelled by the Nazis would be offered Austrian citizenship without having to give up their existing passports. Austria announced this new measure earlier in the summer. Previously, only Jews who themselves fled Austria due to the Nazis were eligible to regain citizenship. These new citizenship applications will be accepted “from September 1,” she added.

Rosen welcomed the government’s measures, while also expressing that the recent anti-Semitic incidents in Graz caused “immeasurable damage to the reputation of the city of Graz in the Jewish world.” He reiterated his commitment to Jewish life in Austria, stating that “Graz and Austria have Jewish life. We must not allow ourselves to be pushed into the role of victim.” 

“It is about the positive,” Rosen said. “To continue work and to fully support an active Jewish community in Austria.”

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