The Jewish student union of Austria along with other top leaders are calling for the resignation of the country’s new interior minister for a past comment accusing another political party of being controlled by its “American and Israeli masters,” ABC News reported.
A Monday open letter published by the Austrian Union of Jewish Students (JOH), and signed by Austrian notables such as Israeli-Austrian historian Doron Rabinovici, celebrated writer Elfriede Jelinek, former Supreme Court President Irmgard Griss, and well known actor Cornelius Obonya, demanded the resignation of Gerhard Karner of the OVP Party due to his “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
Karner was appointed interior minister last week when his predecessor Karl Nehammer became the country’s chancellor.
According to media reports, the politician responded on Monday to the controversy by saying that he is remorseful for what he said and would not say it today, but also rejected the accusations of anti-Semitism.
Karner is being accused of once claiming that the Social Democrats, a center left party, were working “against the country with gentlemen from America and Israel,” and also saying they were “climate poisoners,” Der Spiegel reported.
The comment was made over 13 years ago when Karner was a regional official for the Austrian People’s Party.
The news outlet also quoted a spokesperson for Karner explaining he was talking about alleged “dirty campaigning” by an Israeli political adviser.
“The anti-Semitic dimension of this comment is obvious,” the JOH letter said. “We are convinced that this person is completely unsuited to the office of interior minister and call on the government to put our security in the hands of moderate politicians.”
Karner said in a statement that combating anti-Semitism and extremism has been a “deeply personal” pursuit for him for decades.
He also stated that he will personally meet with the main leader of Austria’s Jewish community, Oskar Deutsch, who has asked him to clarity his controversial comment.
“If things I said then were understood ambiguously, I regret that,” Karner said. “The comments were never in any way intended to go in this direction, and I would not make them now.”