Skip to comments.Strange Bedfellows: Austrian Rabbi Enlists Far Right in Fight With Jewish Establishment
Posted on 06/19/2005 10:27:55 AM PDT by TheOtherOne
Strange Bedfellows: Austrian Rabbi Enlists Far Right in Fight With Jewish Establishment
Published: Jun 19, 2005 VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Even for one of Europe's quirkier capitals, it was a bizarre spectacle - a far-right politician who has questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers noshing on salmon pate at a bar mitzvah and tapping his foot to wildly pulsating Hasidic music.
"The rabbi is a good friend of mine," John Gudenus said of his host. "Why, we've even had him over to the house!"
They make strange bedfellows from opposite fringes - ultra-rightists and ultra-Orthodox Jews, joined in an alliance for diverging ends.
Brooklyn-born Moishe Arye Friedman says he's chief rabbi for hundreds of anti-Zionist orthodox Jews in Vienna. He wants formal state recognition of his religious community, and thinks the rightists can help. Gudenus and his cohorts say they have no hidden agenda in supporting Friedman's cause - but they may have something to gain from it.
"For people like this, being seen with an orthodox Jew is an attempt to gain some legitimacy," says Wolfgang Neugebauer, the recently retired head of the publicly funded office that tracks neo-Nazi trends in Austria. "They try to create an 'alibi Jew' to escape accusations of anti-Semitism."
The rightists sorely need positive publicity.
Their Freedom Party, which shocked Europe in 1999 by winning enough votes to merit a place in government, is on the ropes after its less extreme wing bolted to form its own party this year.
Even as official Austria struggles to come to grips with the country's part in the Holocaust during the time it was annexed to Hitler's Third Reich, the hard-liners continue to provoke uproar by sounding like apologists for the Nazis.
Just last month, Gudenus declared anew that whether the gas chambers existed should be "seriously debated." Last week he amended that view to "there were gas chambers, though not in the Third Reich but in Poland." He neglected to mention Mauthausen, 150 miles west of Vienna, whose gas chamber killed thousands.
Gudenus is under intense political pressure to give up his seat in Austria's upper legislative chamber. Meanwhile, Ewald Stadler, former top aide to Joerg Haider who led the Freedom Party to its 1999 triumph, also continues to stir the pot. He has equated Nazi rule of Austria to the post-World War II occupation by the Allies.
Stadler, who sports a dueling scar on his cheek and revels in the nickname "Doberman," was also at the bar mitzvah, beaming as he was dragged into a line of dancing rabbis,
What the rightists and the rabbi share is a campaign against the "Israelite Religious Community," the body formally recognized by the government as representing all Jews in the city, and therefore the channel through which the government doles out support to Jewish schools, synagogues and other establishments.
The set-up, a relic from Austria's imperial past, was ruled unconstitutional in 1982. But no one challenged the monopoly before Friedman, and the government has yet to rule on his bid to have his group recognized as a Jewish community independent of and fully equal to the 7,000-member Israelite Religious Community.
While the rightists sometimes cross swords with the group over such issues as compensation for Holocaust victims, Friedman's feud with the recognized Jewish community has grown so bitter that the latter has unsuccessfully sought to have him declared mentally incompetent.
So the rabbi has turned to Stadler, who is one of the country's three "People's Attorneys," or ombudsmen. Stadler says he could not hesitate, and besides, he says he and Friedman see eye-to-eye on important things.
"He has no Nazis in the family and I have no Nazis in my family!" says Stadler, with a grin.
The diminutive Friedman also courts controversy by uttering views that are repudiated by most Jews and in some cases embraced by far-rightists.
Friedman denies Israel's right to exist, saying it is up to God to lead Jews out of the Diaspora. He says Zionist Jews share the blame for the Holocaust, which he sees as punishment for straying from God's path.
Jewish anti-Zionism, on both religious or political grounds, is as old as Zionism itself. But it tends to be a minority view. Friedman is shunned by representatives of the Israelite Religious Community, who accuse him of being on the rightists' payroll - something he does not deny .
"He's a one-man show," says the Community's secretary general, Avshalom Hodik. "And Stadler is an extremist.
"We have extremists attracting each other."
It's only a matter of time before that wish becomes a reality.
Satmar or Bobover? This guy sounds more the outcast from Brooklyn who's driven by a need for self promotion and publicity. But the article is short on details.
The Satmars are the rabbis you'll see active in ANSWER, and other anti-Israel pro-Palestinian groups. They are constantly used as the token Jew to deflect charges of anti-semitism by overt anti-semites. They are in Israel too, which is quite amazing.
Thanks, I knew I was missing something!
WARNING: This is a high volume ping list
Neither. Neturei Karta are so whacked out that even the Satmar stay away from them.
Bobover are very decent Jews and they are not anti-Zionist.
My personal experience with Bobover followers must have been outside the official doctrine.
Neturei Karta. Makes sense. So this guy is a Neturei Karta missionary, that's got to make him one of the farthest fringe people on the planet.
In its early days FP had some supporters with shady Nazi pasts. For a time it was the centrist coalition partner of the socialists. Most recently, in the Haider era, some Austrians saw it as the only alternative to the power-sharing arrangements of the two main parties.
Perhaps Haider is as bad as the press says he is. I simply point out that things may not look as black and white in country as they do from abroad.
You should get a job as a graphic designer. Some people are just so talented aren't they...
Do you think Moshiach will be both a genius and a prophet ?