Communist Party of Austria goes against left to oppose ‘disgusting’ anti-Israel boycotts

The Communist Party of Austria has declared its opposition to the antisemitic BDS movement. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

The Communist Party of Austria (known in Austria as the KPÖ) has placed on record its opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, declaring that the movement has Nazi overtones.

The statement came about in response to a set of questions posed by the Austrian People’s Party in Graz, the capital of the state of Styria and Austria’s second-largest city, designed to thrash out whether common ground could be found between the two parties for them to work together.

According to Austrian daily Der Standard, one of those questions was: “Because of different statements, there was always repeated irritation between representatives of the KPÖ and the Jewish community. Where do you stand with respect to the BDS movement? Where do you stand with respect to Israel’s right to exist?”

The Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) responded: “Israel’s right to exist is inviolable for the KPÖ. A boycott of Israeli goods, as demanded by the BDS campaign, recalls, against the background of German-Austrian history, the disgusting ‘do not buy from Jews’ propaganda of the Nazis,…is deeply rejected.”

The statement is a welcome confirmation of the party’s rejection of the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the State of Israel through economic means.

In 2019, the KPÖ refused to vote for a resolution against antisemitism and BDS after the other parties refused its proposed amendments, as it claimed that the resolution as it stood gave credence to conspiracy theories over both left and right wing extremism. The move drew widespread criticism across Austria.

The same year, the German national parliament voted to declare BDS an antisemitic campaign, with Austria’s Federal government following suit with a unanimous vote in 2020.

The Communist Party of Austria is one of the oldest in the world, with it’s roots in the Communist Party of German-Austria, founded in 1918. The party was banned by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (the Nazi Party), and the Austrian Fatherland Front between 1933 and 1938.

In line with many Communist and left wing groups, the KPÖ supported the State of Israel at its founding in 1948, but turned against the Jewish state following the Six Day war in 1967, in which Israel fought off the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq.

Earlier this year, the party marked a significant victory when it won the municipal elections held in Graz, beating the long-standing mayor of Austria’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP). The possibility of having a Communist mayor have been widely discussed in Austria since.

Austria has experienced a sharp uptick in antisemitism this year. Figures compiled by the Jewish Community of Vienna show that the number of incidents in the first half of 2021 were twice that of the same period in 2020.

A total of 562 antisemitic incidents were reported between January and June – a 118 percent increase on last year’s figures, which was itself a record year for antisemitism in Austria. 331 were categorized as “harmful behavior,” 154 as “mass mailings,” 58 as “damaged property,” 11 as “threats,” and eight as “physical attacks,” according to Combat Antisemitism.

“The staggering number of cases reveals the reality many members of our community are facing every day,” Oskar Deutsch — president of the Jewish Community of Vienna said at the time of the report’s release in September.

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Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.