VIENNA—The Board of the Jewish Community of Vienna (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde or IKG) has unanimously decided to continue to maintain no political contacts with representatives of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).
The party has entered in a government coalition with the conservative Austrian People’s Party led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and holds key ministries including interior, defense and foreign affairs.
Relationships with FPÖ-led ministries would be maintained “only on a case-by-case basis and at civil servant level”, IKG said. A similar decision had already been taken in February 2000, after the first coalition of Conservatives and FPÖ then led by Jorg Haider.
The Jewish Community cited the Freedom Party’s links to a German nationalist student fraternity steeped in anti-Semitic ideology, its calls for a ban on religious animal slaughter and its members’ efforts to abolish anti-Nazi legislation.
According to daily Wiener Zeitung, around 40 percent of the members of the National Council are fraternity members, as well as several FPÖ ministers and numerous employees in the ministerial offices and in the FPÖ parliamentary club.
German national fraternity members were pioneers of political anti-Semitism.
Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish community of Vienna, which represents Austrian Jews, said community officials would not attend the nation’s official Holocaust commemoration ceremony later this month if lawmakers from the Freedom Party are present.
“If there will be ministers there for the Freedom Party, and I’m sure there will be, I will not be able to shake their hands, so the Jewish community will not attend,” he said.
Israel said last month that it would work with the new Austrian government “for the moment,” but would limit contacts with ministries run by the party to civil servants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been in contact with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, had instructed the foreign ministry to draw up guidelines on how Israel would “conduct itself” in its dealings with the new ruling coalition in Vienna.
“For the moment, Israel will maintain working relations with the professional echelon of the government ministries headed by a minister from the Freedom Party,” the foreign ministry said.
The leader of the Freedom Pärty, Heinz-Christian Strache, who became Vice-Chancellor of the new government, far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) has said his party rejects anti-Semitism. Strache has made several private visits to Israel.