March 6, 2017 | The Jerusalem Post

BDS Austria Barred from Holding Event at Vienna Cultural Institution

A Vienna cultural institution barred BDS Austria from holding an event, the WUK cultural center told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

“The WUK distances itself clearly from ‘Israel Apartheid Week Vienna 2017’ and its organizer, BDS Austria, and there is no place for any form or statement of antisemitism,” Christine Baumann, a spokesperson for the WUK, told the Post.

She added that the “Israeli Apartheid Week Vienna 2017” was not planned as a WUK event. “In the concrete case of BDS Austria, the use of the room was approved because the organizer was mistakenly believed to be for equal rights and against repression and far removed from antisemitism.”

BDS Austria wrote on its Facebook page that the WUK cultural center prevented a discussion and “jumped on the comfortable train of general propaganda and agitational mood against the BDS movement.”

The BDS Austria event was slated to take place at the WUK on March 15.

According to the WUK’s website, the center “is a 12,000-square-metre space of culture, workshops and social gathering, located in one of the biggest cultural centers of Europe.” The city of Vienna provides public funds to the WUK.

BDS Austria also disrupted Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s talk at the University of Vienna last month.

One BDS Austria event is set to feature Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, a British-Palestinian lawyer who is a consultant for Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq. Her talk is titled, “Apartheid and its applicability to Israel/Palestine.”

Shawan Jabarin, head of Al-Haq, “has been linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization,” according to the Jerusalem- based NGO Monitor. The PFLP is classified as a terrorist entity in the US and the EU.

The cancellation of the event posed another setback for the group.

The Amerlinghaus, a municipal- funded cultural center in Vienna, canceled BDS Austria events last March because of opposition by Vienna’s mayor and political parties.

Austrian politicians and civil society organizations have pushed back against the anti-Israel movement over the last year.

“The city of Vienna rejects boycott calls against the State of Israel and the association BDS Austria receives no funding from the city of Vienna,” Martin Ritzmaier, a spokesman for Vienna’s Social Democratic Mayor Michael Häupl, told The Jerusalem Post last year. Student associations at the University of Vienna issued a statement last March stating their opposition to every form of antisemitism, including the BDS movement.

The Austrian Parliament canceled an event last February that would have featured late BDS activist and anti-Zionist Hedy Epstein.

Vienna’s Jewish community, which has over 7,000 members, banded together with a coalition of civil society groups fighting antisemitism to organize a protest against BDS Austria last year. The group spoke out “against the antisemitic masquerade of ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’” on their website, Boycott Antisemitism.

The Austrian financial giant Erste Group terminated BDS Austria's bank account last year.

Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal