This interview with Maram Stern, deputy leader of the World Jewish Congress, appeared in the main Jewish newspaper in Germany, the Juedische Allgemeine.
Mr Stern, there were media reports last week that the Jewish community of Austria wants to "normalise" its relations with the FPO [Freedom Party], then a denial followed. How should we understand that?
One is rumours, the other reality. I know the Israelite Faith Community doesn't meet with the FPO and I hope that will remain true in future. I am fundamentally convinced that a dialogue or cooperation with right-wing populists is not good for we Jews. We should avoid it under all circumstances.
Would the situation change if the FPO candidate Norbert Hofer was federal president?
This is a question we have already asked ourselves and were not able to answer. We could not advise the community leader not to let himself be seen in the Vienna Hofburg [Presidential Palace]. But the federal president has mainly representative duties. Not seeing him during his term of office wouldn't be so tragic.
There are Jewish officials in both the FPO and the AfD. What is your view of this?
There are opportunists everywhere, Jewish and non-Jewish. If someone thinks they can make a career in these parties, that's their business. But these people as Jews do not represent the Jewish community.
Right-wing populists are flourishing in many countries across Europe. Can we disregard the will of the voters?
I believe so. We must keep our distance from such parties, whether they are democratically elected or not. We should be and remain polite, but not maintain any closeness to them.
Europe's right-wing populists are happy to demonstrate their closeness to Israel. Why?
Because it's always clever for a right-wing party to show they are for Israel. But many ideas of these parties are not compatible with our basic values. They think they can get better access to the Jewish communities in this way or improve their image. But that really isn't credible.
Right-wing populists are currently positioning themselves against, as you call it, political Islam. Do you think the Jews could be the next enemy?
Absolutely, I believe that. You can see that in some countries when the right-wing populists take a stance against basic principles of Islam and Judaism, such as those related to slaughter and circumcision.
Is there are unified Jewish line in dealing with right-wing populists?
I am trying to lead this debate. But every Jewish community is independent, and we don't want to and cannot give either instructions or advice.Source