Security concerns relocate Israeli game

A soccer match to be played in Austria on Saturday by Maccabi Haifa and German club SC Paderborn had to be moved to a new venue due to security concerns after a violent anti-Israel protest disrupted the Israeli team's last game in Bischofshofen in Salzburg province.

Security concerns relocate Israeli game
Photo: APA (epa)

The match then took place in the town of Leogang in Salzburg province, where Maccabi Haifa's training camp is located, after the town of Kirchbichl, about 60 kilometres away in Tyrol province, refused to host the game for security reasons. Maccabi won 2:1 against the German team which gained promotion to the German Bundesliga last season.

Protesters against Israel's military offensive in Gaza had invaded the pitch and attacked Maccabi Haifa players at a friendly game against Lille on Wednesday in Bischofshofen, causing play to be abandoned. Around 20 youths of Turkish origin ran onto the pitch with Palestinian flags and anti-Israeli placards, police said.

Photo: Twitter @jj34

Hannes Empl, head of the SLFC organisation that hosts soccer training camps in the Salzburg region, said on Friday the players were slightly tense but ready for the match to go ahead as normal. "They've been coming here to train for ten years and they'll be coming back next year," he told Reuters by telephone, adding that the team would be leaving on Sunday.

In Austria the soccer protest was sharply condemned by politicians from all sides as well as by the leader of the Jewish community in Vienna. "There can be zero tolerance in Austria of violence motivated by religion or anti-Semitism," said Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People's Party (ÖVP).

Political scientist Thomas Schmidinger said the protest was a symptom of a recent Islamicised form of anti-Semitism that has been given new life by the Gaza conflict. "One can combine the old-fashioned anti-Semitism wonderfully with the new anti-Semitism," said Schmidinger, a Middle East specialist at Vienna University.

But he said the area where the violent protest took place had known problems with right-wing Turkish youths and was one of a few such pockets in Austria, and urged that the official reaction be proportionate. "It seems to me that it was not a big concerted action but probably down to local youths," he said. "I find it a bit overdone that the game has been cancelled. I think it's the wrong signal to react like that."


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Israeli MP urges his country to drop its ‘absurd’ boycott of Austria’s foreign minister

An Israeli MP called his country's boycott of Austria's foreign minister "absurd" on Tuesday after meeting with the Austrian vice chancellor and head of a far-right party founded by former Nazis.

Israeli MP urges his country to drop its 'absurd' boycott of Austria's foreign minister
Hardline Israeli rabbi and parliament member Yehuda Glick speaks as he sets up a make-shift office outside the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in August 2017 to protest a ban on lawmakers from ente

Yehuda Glick, of Israel's ruling right-wing Likud party, was speaking after a meeting with Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl during a visit to Vienna.

He said he also met Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) chief Heinz-Christian Strache earlier in the day, despite objections from the local Jewish community.

The Freedom Party's entry into government in December prompted Israel to say it would not have direct contact with FPÖ ministers, including Kneissl who was nominated by the party even though she is not herself a member.

Glick said the boycott had led to the “absurd situation” where the Austrian ambassador in Israel was able to freely meet ministers there while the foreign minister was boycotted.

“Many of the opinions about Mrs Kneissl herself and about the Freedom Party are prejudiced,” Glick said, calling Kneissl “a true friend of Israel”.

“I will do every effort I can to try to convince the Israeli foreign ministry of the importance of strengthening the relationship with all the parties in Austria,” he said, while emphasising that he was not in Austria as an official representative of the Israeli government and did not want to meddle in Austrian politics.

Glick said that in his meeting with Strache he had stressed the importance of remembering the crimes of the Holocaust and stamping out racism and anti-Semitism, and that the FPÖ had a special responsibility to distance
itself from such ideas.

Strache promised that he would have a “direct channel” to raise concerns about any racist activity in the FPÖ, Glick said.

Glick also thanked Strache for expressing his opinion that Austria should move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, while recognising that he was now bound by the official Austrian government line.

Asked about the FPÖ politician Udo Landbauer, whose student fraternity was found to have published a songbook containing virulently anti-Semitic lyrics, Glick said he was “happy that this gentleman is not a candidate any more”.

Landbauer resigned from the FPÖ after the revelations, while maintaining he had not known of the songbook's existence.

Israel suspended relations with Austria when the FPÖ first entered the government in 2000, eventually normalising relations again in 2003.

Strache, 48, has sought to soften the party's image and has visited Israel several times, the last time in April 2016 when he met members of Netanyahu's Likud.

READ ALSO: Austrian far-right party says criticism of Nazi ties is partly justified and pledges to clean up its act