BRUSSELS—Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made a vibrant plea in favour of strengthening EU-Israel relations and Jewish life in Europe.
Speaking before the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Brussels on Thursday, in presence of Eu officials, ambassadors and Jewish leaders, Kurz repeated his previous statement that “Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are two sides of the same coin.”
He also announced that Austria will vote against the ‘’Accountability Resolution’’ which will come up for a vote before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, describing the resolution as ‘’politically biased against Israel.’’
‘’Israel is often criticized but we must not forget the circumstances : it is under constant threat,’’ he stressed, noting that unlike Austria, ”Israel has not as neighbors countries like Gerrmany or Switzerland but Syria and Iran.’’ ‘’Israel is under constant pressure to defend its people,’’ he added.
“We must always remember that Israel is fighting to be a free country, a liberal democracy, while being under constant threat,” he said. “There is more we share in the struggle than could ever divide us.”
‘’Austria tries to do its best to support the State of Israel in the EU,’’ he said.
The Austrian leader mentioned that his country ‘’strengthened the legislation of our ‘’symbol act’’ prohibiting the symbols of extremist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah in Austria ”to avoid the proliferation of their violent ideas.’’
‘’But our historical responsibility does not end at our borders. We also have a special responsibility towards the State of Israel and the security needs of the Jewish people.’’
Speaking on the struggle against antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere, Kurz told the audience, “Europe is definitely a continent of safety, of liberty, and rule of law. To live up to this heritage we must ensure that every member of our society is and also feels safe and free. No one must every feel afraid to walk in the streets of any European country, no matter who they are, where they are from, or what their faith is.”
“We owe this assurance to all people in Europe, and especially to the Jewish community,” he added.
Noting that “traditional” antisemitism remained a problem, Kurz pointed out, “Especially among migrant communities from the Middle East, antisemitic sentiments are increasing. Social media and propaganda from abroad appear to play a significant role also in our societies.”
“In Austria,” he said, “we are taking concrete steps to prevent especially our youth from all backgrounds to be influenced by these dangerous ideas.”
Among these measures are “a documentation center on radical and political Islam,” he said. “This new entity will track and identify roots and hot spots of these dangerous ideas in order to fight them effectively.”
David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee , thanked Chancellor Kurz ‘’for his powerful remarks and for delivering this truly historic address.’’