Can a leader stamp out anti-Semitism?

The Week (US) - - 14 News - Pe­tra Stu­iber

Der Stan­dard It’s tough for a party with a neo-Nazi past to change its im­age, said Pe­tra Stu­iber. HeinzChris­tian Stra­che has been try­ing to do just that for his Free­dom Party, the ju­nior mem­ber of Aus­tria’s right-wing rul­ing coali­tion. The in­clu­sion of the openly xeno­pho­bic party in gov­ern­ment has caused diplo­matic rifts. Is­rael, for ex­am­ple, re­fuses to meet with any Free­dom Party mem­bers. And no won­der: Founded by ex-Nazis, the party from 1986 to 2000 was led by Jörg Haider, who de­fended SS veter­ans as “de­cent peo­ple” and called con­cen­tra­tion camps “pun­ish­ment camps.” Stra­che, though, seems to gen­uinely re­ject an­ti­Semitism. Good for him. Un­for­tu­nately, he heads a party, not a cult, and he can’t lead its mem­bers where they don’t want to go. Of course, not all Free­dom Party sup­port­ers are brown­shirts. But “‘in­di­vid­ual cases’ of glo­ri­fy­ing and/or ex­cus­ing Nazism” keep pop­ping up in this party, and only in this party. What else but a strong un­der­cur­rent of anti-Semitism can ex­plain why Free­dom Party–af­fil­i­ated fra­ter­ni­ties have been found us­ing song­books with lyrics about gassing Jews, or that Nazi para­pher­na­lia has been dis­cov­ered in the work­places of party of­fi­cials? Stra­che may be no bigot. But his party cer­tainly attracts them.

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