´Austrian defense minister should resign´ (JERUSALEM POST) By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 05/24/12)
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BERLIN – Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director
for international relations, has called for the resignation of
Austria’s Defense Minister Norbert Darabos.
The minister has been playing down the Iranian nuclear threat against
Arab Gulf countries and Israel and singling out Israel for biased
treatment, he said.
Darabos “should resign” because “he has discredited Austrian
impartiality in terms of Iran, especially as Austria is host to the
International Atomic Energy Agency and this is extremely dangerous,”
Samuels told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
Samuels “finds it very strange” that Darabos continues to be defense
minister, because the “Austrian government has disassociated itself
from the minister, and logically he should have no standing on
“It is extremely worrisome to see Austria take any role in Iran
negotiations through this mouthpiece,” he added.
At the EU human rights agency in Vienna, Samuels said Darabos’s
attacks on Israel meet the EU’s definition of modern anti-Semitism,
and they are even more disturbing “when you take into context his
statement playing down the Iranian threat.”
In an interview with the the Vienna-based Die Presse over the
weekend, Darabos called Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman “unbearable,” downplayed the Iranian threat, and accused
Israel of using it – and the Palestinian issue – to sidetrack
attention from domestic problems.
“Mr. Liberman is unbearable for me as a member of the Israeli
government,” Darabos said in the interview. In connection with Iran,
he said that Israel’s “threats” were “unnecessary” because “Iran is
not ready to build the bomb.”
When asked if Darabos plans to resign, Stefan Hirsch, a spokesman for
the Austrian Defense Ministry, wrote the Post by email on Wednesday
that the “call to resign is ridiculous. A resignation is not being
discussed in Austria. The minister has, in contrast, received
Chancellor Werner Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger
have, however, distanced themselves from Darabos’s statements, saying
his comments do not reflect the position of the Austrian government.
Austria’s largest daily, Kronen Zeitung, slammed Darabos in a
commentary by the popular columnist Michael Jeannée. He compared
Darabos to the former Waffen SS member and writer Günter Grass and
his anti-Israel tirades. Darabos has “damaged Austria’s official
policies,” Jeannée wrote.
Darabos remained defiant on Wednesday. He told the Post that Liberman
is an “ultra-right politician” and in an interview with an Austrian
paper earlier in the week, he said he stands “100 percent” behind his
criticism of the Jewish state.
Yacov Stiassny, from the Israel-based Central Committee for Jews in
Austria, wrote the Post by email on Wednesday that in connection with
Darabos that thought anti- Semitism is no longer respectable in
Europe since the end of the Third Reich (and legally prohibited in
Austria), “criticism of Israel is popular. Therefore, the new anti-
Semites dress themselves up as critics of Israel and guardians of the
He added, “I do not want to contend that Darabos is anti- Semitic,
but he is certainly no friend of Israel.”
Abraham H. Foxman, national director, Anti-Defamation League, wrote
to the Post on Tuesday, “The Austrian government did the difficult
but right thing of publicly criticizing one of its ministers. We had
been in contact with the Austrian government and received a similar
Deidre Berger, the head of the American Jewish Committee office in
Berlin, told the Post on Wednesday, “Castigating the work of an
Israeli cabinet minister as insufferable is an attack on core values
of dignity and civility. Denouncing the foreign minister of an allied
country in this manner is irresponsible, manifesting double standards
and raising troubling questions of perceptions of Israel in Europe.
Those who dabble in anti-Semitic imagery by delegitimizing the
officials of a democratic government should not be surprised at the
She continued, “Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is a staunch
supporter of German- Israeli relations. He has made a praiseworthy
contribution to strengthening this important relationship. One can
only hope that his efforts to create a deeper level of German-
European- Israeli understanding would be recognized and not condemned
by European counterparts.”
Oskar Deutsch, the head of Austria’s Jewish community, told the Post
on Tuesday that Darabos’s statements were “unnecessary” and that he
was pleased that Austria’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the remarks as
not reflecting the positions of its government.
According to Die Press, Israel’s Ambassador Aviv Shir-On said, “What
we wanted to say, the Austrian Foreign Ministry has already said.” (©
1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/24/12)
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