Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Austrian bishop resigns from NGO over antisemitism at Palestinian event

Bishop Manfred Scheuer resigned on Monday as president of the Catholic peace organization Pax Christi in Austria because of outbreaks of antisemitism within the NGO and at a Pax Christi event with the Palestinian ambassador. Scheuer, Bishop of Linz -- Austria's third largest city -- said that the reason for his resignation is Pax Christi's "criticism of Israel's politics" and over the assessment of the "criticism as antisemitic," wrote the Catholic wire agency Kathpress.Scheuer said, "I am convinced that because of the Shoah in Germany and Austria a special responsibility and sensitivity is necessary toward the state of Israel." Pax Christi International supports the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign targeting the Jewish state.In addition to anti-Israel antisemitism, Scheuer cited an additional reason for his break with Pax Christi: verbal attacks on members of the Jewish community in Linz during a late May lecture by Salah Abdel Shafi who serves as the Palestinian ambassador to Austria and the UN in Vienna. According to Kathpress, during the joint Pax Christi event with Abdel Shafi, insults were leveled at a writer and Anna Mitgutch, a representative of the Jewish community in Linz, as well as two members of the community. Mitgutch told the Linz Kirchenzeitung (Church Paper) that the language used was a "new flare up of antisemitism." It is unclear what the nature of the alleged antisemitism was at the Pax Christi event with Abdel Shafi, who is an economist and was born in Gaza City. A Post query to Abdel Shafi on Tuesday was not immediately returned. Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, "This resignation therefore marks an important turning point -- for the first time, a member of the Catholic hierarchy in Europe has openly criticized the organization for this activity. By highlighting the antisemitism, Bishop Scheuer's resignation might also lead the Vatican to issue long overdue guidelines for Pax Christi and other Catholic NGOs such as Misoerer in Germany, that promote BDS. " The bishop said he shared the concerns of the Jewish community over growing antisemitism in Europe. "Every form of antisemitism is disgraceful and should be sharply criticized, " said Scheuer. He said antisemitism should have no place in Austria and elsewhere. Churches, society and politics must decisively fight antisemitism,added the bishop. Scheuer lamented that antisemitism shows that "people have forgotten history and are not aware of the entire catastrophe of the Shoah." The bishop cited Pope Francis's statement: "It is impossible to be a Christian and at the same time an antisemite." Pax Christi has 30 branches and the Pax Christi Bank is listed as a bank to send funds that could be used for BDS. Dr. Elvira U. Groezinger, the head of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post: "It is high time for such a step like the one of the Bishop of Linz. Pax Christi is also one of the most notorious supporters of the BDS in Germany as well. Only recently for instance in the city of Essen they co-organized a BDS event with Jews as actors. There was no protest from the mayor there." She added, "Jena's mayor has supported them in the past and was heavily criticized for that. All these local politicians but above all the heads of the Catholic Church should now follow the Linz Bishop's example. He has put them to shame by showing what moral and ethic integrity are, missing totally in the Pax Christi circles." The Social Democratic Mayor Albrecht Schröter in the east German city of Jena joined the Pax Christ boycott of Israel in 2012 and has faced allegation of stoking hatred of Jews and Israel in Germany. Steinberg said, "Pax Christi is heavily involved and partners with antisemitic groups and activities, including BDS and lobbying the EU to 'suspend economic relations with Israel.' They are also co-founders of EAPPI, whose activists accuse Israel of 'apartheid,'and promote the Palestinian victimization narrative. Pax Christi repeats Palestinian accusations of 'collective punishment' and 'unjustified and disproportionate use of force,' erasing terror and contributing to demonization and antisemitism."

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