The leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), Heinz-Christian Strache, came under fire after posting an anti-Semitic cartoon on his facebook account on August 19, 2012.
The caricature was of a corpulent banker with a hooked nose, wearing Star of David cufflinks, accompanied by a comment decrying "EU banking speculators" for taking tax money from Austrians. Another figure labeled "The Government" is pouring a drink for the banker, while a third, poorly clothed and thin figure labeled "The People", sits opposite the banker with a bone on his plate and looks on in dismay.
Strache did not defend his right to use the cartoon but reacted by posting a second version almost immediately after the first was criticized. The Star of David emblems were removed from the banker's cufflinks and the shape of his nose was changed.
The Jewish community, as well as Austrian politicians from both center-left and conservative parties, condemned the initial cartoon.
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, issued a statement saying, "This latest anti-Semitic expression from Heinz-Christian Strache is all the proof anyone needs to see that he has not given up his anti-Semitic beliefs."
"Now, he's promoting the anti-Semitic canard that Jews control international finance and manipulate governments to enrich themselves at the expense of non-Jews. Strache brings shame to Austrian politics and should be repudiated for his anti-Jewish bigotry," Foxman added.
Strache responded to the criticism with a further comment on Facebook saying he did not tolerate anti-Semitism and insisted that he was highlighting his contempt for "the caste of greedy bankers."
Before condemning Heinz-Christian Strache for a clearly anti-Semitic cartoon, it is important to look at the complete picture of this man.
Israel Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara described the Freedom Party of Strache as the only one in Austria that supported Israel following the Gaza flotilla incident and that condemned calls for a boycott of Israel, "while the socialist parties proposed a general boycott of Israel."
"Does this mean that this is a Nazi party?" he asked rhetorically. "Its platform says that it is based on the Judea-Christian heritage - is that a Nazi party?"
Under Heinz-Christian Strache's leadership since April 23, 2005, the Austrian Freedom Party became friendlier towards Israel. In December 2010 the FPÖ (as part of a senior delegation of European right-wing politicians) attended a conference “against Islamist terror” in Ashkelon Israel, where they issued the "Jerusalem Declaration"; this affirmed Israel's right to exist and defend itself, particularly against Islamic terror.
They also toured Samaria Monday in support of the Jews who live there, whom they see as a bridgehead in the struggle against a common foe – Islamic jihadism and expansionism. Strache assured the settlers: "Our hearts are with you!"
Upon Strache’s return to Austria, he extended an invitation to Israeli Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara of the Likud party to visit Vienna. Kara attended a ceremony for the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
The present FPÖ has variously been described as right-wing populist, national conservative, "right-conservative", "right-national", and far right. Under the leadership of Heinz-Christian Strache, the FPÖ promotes its role as a guarantor of Austrian identity and social welfare. The party also maintained that "the protection of cultural identity and social peace in Austria requires a stop to immigration."
While the party was identified with anti-Semitic elements within its early years, since the late 1990s the party has warned against the growing influence of radical Islam, this was later expanded to include concerns about Islamisation and the increasing number of Muslims in general.
The struggle against Islamization has clearly brought Heinz-Christian Strache to a positive understanding of the State of Israel. The cartoon was probably a glitch in his efforts to build a strong link with Israel.