Europe

In Israel, Austrian President Visits Coexistence Center, Admits Shared Blame for Holocaust

In addition to meeting with Israel’s top leaders during his visit to the Jewish State this week, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen visited a center that promotes Israeli-Arab coexistence and admitted that Austria bore “shared responsibility” for the Holocaust.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday that Van der Bellen said that the Center for a Shared Society in Givat Haviva is “a message of hope for the entire world.” In 2016 the Austrian government presented the center with one of its Intercultural Achievement Awards.

On Monday, Van der Bellen visited Yad Vashem, and on Twitter called the Holocaust memorial “a powerful place of commemoration and reflection.” He added, “It is a warning to future generations, a reminder of the fragility of democracy and of the values we so often falsely take for granted.”

Van der Bellen continued, “#Austria recognises its shared responsibility for the unspeakable atrocity of the #Holocaust, and our special obligation to make sure that #NeverForget becomes #NeverAgain.”

While in Israel, the Van der Bellen also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prior to his visit to Yad Vashem, Van der Bellen was received by Rivlin.

During their meeting, Rivlin welcomed his counterpart, saying, “Our past is the basis for our values, our beliefs, the choices we make. The Jewish people also grew out of its past and today is building its future here in the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state, democratic and Jewish. I believe that cooperation between Israel and Austria can benefit both our economies and contribute the world at large.”

Van der Bellen responded, “Austria and Israel share a special history. In the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, Theodor Herzl is mentioned. He was a great Austrian and the seer of the Jewish state, the spiritual father of the State of Israel.”

With Netanyahu, Van der Bellen signed a memorandum of understanding covering cooperation in the fields of science, culture, and education. They also signed a declaration to offer assistance to third-world nations.

The Israeli prime minister thanked Van der Bellen for taking a strong stand against anti-Semitism, and, in particular, “putting out a simple truth – that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are one.” Netanyahu also praised his visitor for pushing to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

In a visit to Israel last year, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that Israel’s security was in his country’s “national interest.”

[Photo: A. Van der Bellen / Twitter ]