Dear Knesset Member Glick,
We are writing this letter to you as it has been widely reported that you intend to meet with Heinz-Christian Strache, vice-chancellor of Austria and the leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), and Karin Kneissl, Austrian Foreign Minister, who was appointed by the FPÖ.
We, the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS), in partnership with the Austrian Union of Jewish Students (JöH), as the elected representatives of Jewish students worldwide, implore you to reconsider this trip. We ask you to align yourself with the Austrian Jewish community and the Government of Israel, which have chosen to boycott the FPÖ and its officials. We believe the FPÖ to be vehemently antisemitic, xenophobic and racist. It is of utmost importance to disallow the normalization of their far-right beliefs.
Vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, was arrested in 1990 for activities with an illegal German Neo-Nazi Group, and participated in paramilitary drills with Austria’s leading Neo-Nazi, Gottfried Küssel. Karin Kneissl wrote a book stating that Zionism is a "blood and soil ideology", and compared it to the German nationalism of the 20th Century. 41% of the FPÖ’s parliamentarians are members of "Burschenschaften", far-right, antisemitic, German nationalist fraternities. Many of these still have an "Aryan clause", barring everyone they do not consider "German" enough from membership, including Jews and all other minorities. There are countless incidents in which lower-level functionaries of the party were involved in antisemitic acts, including Holocaust denial.
This is not a partisan issue. Austrian-Jewish elected community leaders from every political, religious and ethnic background unanimously condemn the FPÖ in the strongest possible terms and consider the party and its leadership deeply antisemitic. We believe the FPÖ to be a grave threat to democracy and to Jewish life in Austria. At the WUJS General Assembly, held in Jerusalem on December 31st, nationally elected Jewish student leaders from all over the world agreed with this sentiment and voted to boycott the FPÖ officials in this government.
The Government of Israel clearly shares our concerns, as it chose to boycott ministers from the FPÖ immediately following the recent national elections in Austria, deciding not to engage with the FPÖ in any capacity.
MK Glick, we urge you not to fall prey to the lies and deceits of the FPÖ. This party is trying to pander to Israel and the Jewish people in a thinly veiled attempt to normalize far-right politics, values and rhetoric. It attempts to whitewash its antisemitic nature. Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, and its elected representatives, have a special moral and historical obligation to protect our Jewish values and stand against the rising tides of hate, bigotry, and antisemitism.
Please join us in sending this unyielding message to the FPÖ and far-right organizations everywhere: we see through them, we know who they are, and we will not be fooled. The world needs to know that representatives of the Jewish State will not engage with those who openly or covertly seek our destruction.
We thank you for your time, and hope you will do the right thing.
Jewish Students Stand Against the Holocaust Bill passed by Poland
The thousands of exceptional young Jews represented by the European Union of Jewish Students are a true testament to the outstanding and improbable revival of Jewish life in Europe after the Second World War. This revival would not have been possible without a burdensome effort towards dialogue and reconciliation between Jews and other nationals in the countries affected by the German Nazi regime. All these countries must navigate the fine line between victimhood and complicity and accept the role that they have to a lesser or larger extent played in the perpetuation of the Holocaust.
Among these, Poland is both different and the same. Unlike many other countries, the Polish regime was not collaborationist. If anything, no other country was affected so drastically, with six million of its citizens murdered - three million Jews and three million ethnic Poles. Indeed, we cannot speak of “Polish death camps” or “Polish concentration camps”. This formulation is inaccurate and unacceptable. What we also cannot do is ignore the antisemitism endemic to pre-war and war-time Poland and the many Polish individuals who collaborated with the German Nazi regime against Jews. We cannot ignore the Poles who outed or extorted money from Jews in hiding or the Poles who rounded up Jews for the extermination camps. We cannot ignore the antisemitic pogroms during and after the war, most notably the 1941 pogrom in Jedwabne, in which four hundred Jews were set on fire by their neighbours.
History is complex; It is rarely black and white and any attempt to simplify it is an injury to the millions who perished and, in fact, to the almost seven thousand Polish “Righteous Among the Nations” who risked their lives to save their Polish Jewish neighbors and who are recognised and celebrated today at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust.
Seventy-three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, as survivors pass away and those alive during the Second World War are no longer with us, the responsibility of keeping the memory of the Shoah alive, the responsibility of “Never Again” and of “We Remember” is more important than ever. Young people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have the essential mission and moral obligation to take the stories of those who survived to the ears of those who will never know survivors. Seventy-three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, this process is being blatantly hindered by the changes introduced by the Polish parliament and approved by President Andrzej Duda to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance.
We must have a heightened sensitivity to the genuine attempts of Poland to heal itself of the dark horrors of the Second World War. But we must be adamant in saying that this healing will never occur without an honest and open dialogue and it will never occur without a commitment to education rather than condemnation.
The student activists of the European Union of Jewish Students supported by the student activists of the World Union of Jewish Students and by powerful voices around the world will continue to nurture the memory of the Shoah through an unshakable pledge to education and dialogue. We hope that the Polish Government will follow in our footsteps.
There is not a single Jew in the world today who is not a descendant of refugees. Our history is filled with stories of escape, hunger, deportation, fear, suffering, and persecution. We, the children and grandchildren of refugees, have a special moral obligation to treat refugees today as our people should have been treated in their times of need.
The African immigrant/refugee crisis in Israel is not a regular political struggle. Both the Israeli government and the anti-deportation campaigns accept that refugees and migrant workers may be deported, but only on the condition that they are returning to a safe place where they will come to no harm. This issue is not a clash between the left and the right; it is not even truly an argument. When carefully considered, it becomes clear that both sides of this issue are agreeing about the most important points.
What makes this issue unique is that no one can seem to agree about the facts. One side calls these people infiltrators and migrant workers, while the other calls them refugees. One side claims their destination is a safe home port, the other claims those who are deported will suffer the brutal and unforgiving fate.
We, the World Union of Jewish Students, call upon the Government of Israel to halt deportation plans until the safety of the destination country can be guaranteed beyond all doubt in a transparent manner. We ask it to implement a sound asylum policies in line with Jewish values and international law.
Additionally, we call upon our friends - the Israeli public, Jews around the world, and human rights and NGOs - to help Israel and work together with its government in coping adequately with this complex problem.
We encourage all parties to be mindful of nuance and careful with their language, so as to create a positive, cooperative discourse, focused on an actionable, ethical solution to this challenge. This solution would take into account Israel's security, as well as its social and demographic needs, while also employing Jewish values and empathy towards this marginalized community.
The State of Israel has a historical and moral obligation to do more that the legal minimum. We ask that the government instate a follow-up system, so we may have a clear conscience, secure in the knowledge that those seeking asylum are truly safe.
We ask that Israel reform the asylum process and establish a clearly defined refugee status in Israeli law, so that those who truly qualify for recognition as refugees can be afforded the protections they deserve.
Let us stop falsely accusing each other of hidden agendas, and instead work together towards ensuring the safety of all people.
President, World Union of Jewish Students
Find all the latest official statements put out by WUJS here. For the most up to date WUJS news always check out our Facebook page.