Dr. Reinhold Lopatka, a member of the Austrian parliament, vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and vice-president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, spoke with Arutz Sheva - Israel National News about his part in the European Jewish Congress solidarity mission to Israel.

“Because of our history, and because of the immense positive contributions Jewish people have made to Austria, we have an obligation to support Israel. The best way to do that is by visiting and seeing what is happening with your own eyes.”

Dr. Lopatka speaks about his meeting with some of those affected by the war: “I was both impressed and depressed in my meeting with the survivors. We met one woman who last heard from her daughter three weeks ago when she was captured by Hamas. She is still strong. That is what makes it clear to us, and to all European countries, that we cannot see this as a war between two states - we must see Hamas as a terrorist organization, like a list of similar organizations, and Israel as a country with the right to defend its territory.”

He proposes a theory for the silence towards Hamas in Europe: “We have war in Europe too - the Ukraine war. We have more than one hundred thousand refugees from Europe in Austria, and that was still ongoing when this began. Also, there have been decades of rocket attacks against Israel - nothing of this intensity, of course, but they have been going on for some time. When you have so much news happening every day, it can be hard to keep focused on what Hamas did.”

Dr. Lopatka breaks down some of the inaccuracies in how the conflict is being portrayed in Europe: “The first problem is that people are calling it a war between Israel and Palestine, which is not true. The second is that when we try to portray both sides, we have elected politicians from Israel against ‘official representatives’, allegedly, of the Palestinians. They were not elected, but appointed by a government that last held an election perhaps twenty years ago. We cannot hold a debate between parliamentarians without parliamentarians on one of the sides.”

“There are two more mistakes that Europe as a whole has made. The first was assuming that we had found a way to live peacefully alongside Russia, even when they took Crimea. Now we have a war in Ukraine. The second is thinking that Israel had somehow found a way to live alongside Hamas, and we see what happened here.”

These misconceptions, Dr. Lopatka says, brought more with them: “We are trying to work for peace, for what’s best for all people. You have to understand that there are people who are not working for that, and so you need people fighting on the ground, and people explaining why you are doing it. That’s where politicians can help. I am one of them, but there are others. We show the flag of Israel in our offices, we start our meetings with a moment of silence, and we have networks where we try to coordinate this work. Even so, it is still a big challenge.”

Dr. Lopatka says that Europe’s Jews are being targeted as well: “We have always had antisemitism from the far right, and now have a second pillar of it from all the refugees we took in from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Antisemitism is growing and was even before this war. We must fight it every day, and it is an uphill battle.”

He expresses resentment over having taken in refugees at all: “We have international obligations, and we may lose the next election for honoring them. Of nine million inhabitants of Austria, two million were not born in Austria. I was born in the 1960s, when we had eight thousand Muslims. Now, we have eight hundred thousand. It changed our society completely.”

He also proposed a solution: “We should do everything to send refugees back, especially those who do not accept our society, laws, or values. They stand not only against Jews, but Christians as well. That makes this, for me, a war between the free Western world, and terrorists supported by a brutal regime. We have to be strong and spend more money on defense and for information. We need a holistic fuel against these brutal, totalitarian regimes.”