May 29, 2012 | The Jerusalem Post
Austria’s Günter Grass Scandal: The Socialism of Fools
My latest straight-news report on critics asserting that Austrian defense minister Norbert Darabos ignores Iran’s determination to build a nuclear weapons device coupled with his attacks on Israel unleashed a spiraling war of words.
The crossfire reminds me of an Austrian governmental version of the Günter Grass scandal. Exactly as Mr. Grass—a lifelong German social democratic activist—found himself just a few months ago, the social democratic party (SPÖ) minister Darabos now finds himself locked in a war of words with his Jewish and non-Jewish critics. And exactly as Iran celebrated Grass's artistic contributions to international affairs, the Islamic world's most dangerous clerical regime has emerged as Mr. Darabos' chief advocate.
Iran has proved to be no fair-weather friend to Mr. Darabos. My Jerusalem Post dispatch “Austrian Defense Minister Should Resign” sparked Iran’s regime-controlled German language outlet (Iran German Radio, IRIB World Service, Das Deutsche Program) to bitterly complain about the “anger of Zionist circles in Europe.” According to IRIB, Dr. Shimon Samuels, from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “in an interview with the Jerusalem Post intervened in internal Austrian affairs with surprising demands…”
During that said interview, Dr. Samuels told me that Mr. Darabos ought to resign because he endangered Austrian’s foreign policy and engaged in an anti-Semitic reflex by insisting that Israel is the only Mideast country to be blamed for the region’s problems. (Incidentally, when I asked Mr. Darabos’ spokesman Stefan Hirsch to send me examples of other foreign politicians that Mr. Darabos targeted for robust criticism, he declined to answer my email query). Mr. Darabos flatly rejected the accusation that he is “anti-Semitic” and proudly declared: “I am an anti-fascist par excellence.”
So what prompted Tehran’s defense of Mr. Darabos in its state-financed media outlets?
Last weekend, Mr. Darabos told the Austrian daily Die Presse’s Christian Ultsch in an eye-popping interview that Israel’s “threats” were “unnecessary” because “Iran is not ready to build the bomb.” In the same interview, Mr. Darabos termed Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman “unbearable” and accused Israel of using the danger of an Iranian nuclear program – and the Palestinian issue – to deflect attention from Israeli domestic and social problems.
However, while Mr. Darabos sat comfortably in Austria and downplayed the Iranian threat, that very same weekend saw Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, give a speech in Tehran where he declared the need for the “full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end.”
To compound the question marks over Mr. Darabos’ conclusions on Iran and fitness as defense minister, a UN report on Friday noted that Iran increased its work on its illicit uranium enrichment program.
Moreover, the British Guardian reported on Saturday that a widely respected US-based think tank—Institute for Science and International Security—asserted in its analysis that “Iran has significantly increased its output of low-enriched uranium and if it was further refined could make at least five nuclear weapons.”
Clifford D. May, a colleague of mine at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, penned last week a must read on “What Iran’s Ruler Want: War, genocide, and nuclear Weapons.”
He neatly captured the multi-pronged lethal nature of Iran’s terror apparatus since the country’s 1979 Islamic Republic revolution.
One of Austria’s most insightful writers, journalist and blogger Christian Ortner, seized the timing of Mr. Firouzabadi’s call for the obliteration of Israel and Mr. Darabos’ pooh-poohing of Iran’s drive to obtain a nuclear weapon to deliver a powerful recommendation. Mr. Ortner writes that Mr. Darabos ought to be sacked.
However, while Mr. Ortner is clearly no Darabos-supporter, he does clarify that it is not likely that Mr. Darabos seeks to secure votes from the “partly latent anti-Semitic milieu of SPÖ-voting migrants in Vienna.” Rather, he writes, the work of winning over the latent anti-Semitic part of Vienna’s Muslim voters has been delegated to the SPÖ-city council man Omar al-Rawi. Mr. al-Rawi spoke at a pro-Hamas demonstration in 2010 and incited violence against the state of Israel.
The pro-Hamas council man’s conduct triggered at the time a number of Jewish resignations from the Austrian Social Democratic party.
In view of the social democratic defense minister Darabos’ attacks on the Jewish state, the SPO's courtship of the anti-Semitic vote, and the growing number of social democrats launching tirades against Israel, perhaps it is time to cart out the 19th century saying “Socialism of Fools.” When mushrooming anti-Semitism consumed left-wing Europeans in the late 19th century, the German Social Democrat August Bebel coined the phrase “Socialism of Fools” to describe the new expression of Jew-hatred.
Critics accuse the leading politicians from the Social Democratic Left in Austria and Germany of maintaining a blind spot toward left-wing hatred of Israel. Reactions to the social democrats' anti-Israel statements serve as a kind of barometer of the party’s will to crackdown on bias of Israel in an era of hyper-attacks on the Jewish state. Writing in the late 1960’s, the left-leaning Austrian Jewish writer Jean Amery (and survivor of Auschwitz) predicted the future, and clearly saw the handwriting on the leftist wall. “Anti-Zionism contains anti-Semitism like a cloud contains a storm,” wrote Mr. Amery about the efforts to dismantle Israel.
Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democratic party, invoked earlier this year one of the most beloved forms of negating the existence of the Jewish state. He termed Israel’s policies to be the functional equivalent of an “Apartheid-regime.” Just recently, Mr. Gabriel went to great lengths to defend his party colleague Günter Grass at the height of the controversy.
Back to Austria: The Darabos affair might very well turn out to be a kind of litmus test for Austria to internalize the nefarious effects of left-wing bias and hatred toward the Jewish state.