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Knesset speaker to press Austria to back Iran sanctions

Yuli Edelstein says Vienna has responsibility to fight neo-Nazism because it never officially acknowledged role in Holocaust

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

Israel expects Austria’s help in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, as well as combat local neo-Nazi activity, in light of Vienna’s historic role in the Holocaust and refusal to take official responsibility for it, Israel’s Knesset speaker said Monday ahead of a diplomatic visit.

“In an era of a world terror threat, I am leaving on a state visit to a country that very unfortunately is where the greatest terrorist in the history of mankind emerged,” Yuli Edelstein said in a statement, referring to Adolf Hitler. “Seventy years after the attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, my conversations with the Austrian leadership will revolve around the topics of terror and hatred.”

Edelstein will arrive in Vienna Monday to meet with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and Parliament Speaker Doris Bures. His trip will culminate in a keynote speech at a ceremony for two Austrians being recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” for their roles in saving Jews during the Holocaust.

“I intend to highlight the necessity and moral obligation of Austria to be a full partner in enforcing the sanctions on Iran, and even increasing them, in order to stop it from developing nuclear weapons for destroying the Jewish people,” he said.

The Austrian president met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The two discussed a possible energy collaboration, and called for closer ties between the two countries, according to Iran’s Press TV.

“As for the issue of Holocaust remembrance and its lessons, in light of the fact that Austria has not officially taken full responsibility for its role in the Holocaust, I intend to make it clear in my meetings that Israel expects all the more that Austria will continue to fight the trend of neo-Nazism within its borders and continue to teach the memory of the Holocaust even more.”

Edelstein’s comments seem to ignore a statement by Fischer, who in March said the residents of his country bore full responsibility for the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, adding that Austria’s mission today was to combat anti-Semitism in all of its forms.

“We have to acknowledge that the way this country dealt with the time of National Socialism even after the end of the war was over a long period largely dominated by an uneasy silence, a guilty conscience and attempted repression,” Fischer said during a Holocaust memorial ceremony attended by then Israeli president Shimon Peres.

“It is only in the last 25 years that Austria – as a result of a difficult process of awareness-raising – has eventually undergone a fundamental and important change in its historic awareness, from forgetting to remembering… By laying wreaths here at this memorial today in a ceremony with the President of Israel, we jointly commemorate the men and women who were killed during the Holocaust and honor the survivors of this tragedy of mankind.”

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