Austrian Chancellor: 'Israel's security can not be negotiated'
Haim Zach (GPO)
Following a private meeting between Israel’s Prime Minister and Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Monday, Kurz delivered a speech at the American Jewish Committee's conference at Jerusalem's International Convention Center, vowing to support Israel whenever it's threatened.
Kurz talked about Austria's connection to the Holocaust and expressed remorse that too many Austrians took part in the crimes against Jews during WWII.
"As a representative of Austria, I must admit that there were many people in Austria who did nothing to fight the Nazi regime. Some of them were real Nazi criminals. Austria used to see itself as a victim of the Nazis. This is certainly true, for all those who fought the resistance, and we can not thank them enough for that. But those assembled in large numbers, in Vienna, in March 1938, were not victims. They watched and participated in the horror," Kurz said.
"Therefore, Austrian legislation on this subject is very clear: any neo-Nazi activity, including Holocaust denial, is strictly prohibited. But we must not rely only on legislation, but also on education. Education is the key to helping prevent new editions from repeating the failures of the past," the Chancellor vowed.
Kurz concluded his speech by stressing Austria's commitment to Israel's security.
"We will support Israel whenever it feels threatened. It is our duty - it is in our national interest. Israel's security can not be negotiated. We understand the threats against Israel and therefore condemn any kind of violence inside Israel, on its borders and beyond... Austria will remind all its partners in the Middle East that Israel is here to stay."
Following the meeting between Netanyahu and Kurz earlier on Monday, the Israeli Prime Minister praised the Chancellor as an an example that should be followed by “other European leaders,” while applauding the his courage in his speech on the 80th anniversary of the Anschluss.
“You addressed historical responsibility. You clearly opposed anti-Semitism and you spoke about Jewish life in Austria. You said, and I want to quote this, "Austria was not only a victim but also a perpetrator." These are courageous and bold words and I think they chart the course that you're leading in Austria and our relationship, one that I support very, very much,” Netanyahu said on Monday.
Kurz visited Jerusalem's Western Wall holy site and Yad Vashem Holocaust museum on Sunday where he announced a one-million Euro donation dedicated to help preserve Holocaust era works and documents,
Netanyahu said Kurz has backed up his words with actions, and that Israel is deeply grateful for his leadership.
“You've shown zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism; you established a place of remembrance in Vienna listing the names of all 60,000 Austrian Jews who perished in the Holocaust; you're funding youth visits to Mauthausen and education and memorial projects.”
The Israeli Prime Minister also addressed the Jewish State’s security concerns, which he said the European Union often does not take into consideration.
“We welcome the Austrian presidency of the EU beginning on July 1st. I believe that you said yesterday that Europe should take Israel's security concerns into account. I think this is very important. Sometimes we feel that that is not always the case. You also said that during Austria's presidency, you will raise these concerns, as well as anti-Semitism. I must say, this is a breath of fresh air and this is leadership,” he said.
Following the two leaders meeting, Kurz reciprocated Netanyahu’s words, saying the relations between Austria and Israel are extremely good.
“We Austrians know that in light of our own history, we have a special responsibility towards Israel and the Jewish people. I can assure you that Austria will fight all forms of anti-Semitism in Europe with determination. Be it the still existing one or also new imported anti-Semitism,” Kurz said.
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