Vienna’s Most Controversial Statue Is of a Still-Beloved Mayor Who Wedded Anti-Semitism to Democratic Politics

Oct. 20 2021

In the past two years, the United State has seen a series of controversies over the fate of statues of historical figures whose real or imagined sins have rendered them unfashionable. Just this week, New York City’s municipal government decided to remove a sculpture of Thomas Jefferson from city hall. The people of Vienna, influenced by the American example, have been dealing with a more complex case: the prominent likeness of Karl Lueger, who was the city’s mayor from 1897 to 1910. An immensely popular figure who did much to modernize the city, Lueger and his Christian Social Party also made anti-Semitism a key part of their political platform, and Viennese enthusiasm for Lueger did much to convince Theodor Herzl that Jews had no future in Europe. Liam Hoare explains:

The monument is one of the largest in Vienna. At its summit stands Lueger, thirteen feet tall, cast in bronze, staring out eastward across the Ringstrasse, [the grand boulevard that surrounds the city’s historic central district], as if addressing an expectant crowd. His feet are placed upon an enormous octagonal stone pedestal which is layered like a wedding cake. Its sides are engraved with reliefs depicting his various achievements: the municipalization of the gas and electricity supplies, the preservation of the forests surrounding Vienna, entitlements for widows and orphans, and charitable housing for the destitute. Its scale, position, and propagandistic quality all stand to burnish the cult of Lueger.

Even if Lueger himself was not [personally] an anti-Semite—and the historian Florian Wenninger tells me he suspects he was not—it was certainly the case that through anti-Semitic rabble-rousing, anti-Jewish agitation, and a party platform steeped in nationalism and xenophobia, as well as Germanic and Catholic supremacism, Lueger rode a wave of hatred and hostility among the Viennese lower-middle class to reach the highest office in city hall.

It was Lueger who, for instance, campaigned against the “Judaization” of the University of Vienna, which Lueger decreed to be a matter of “Christian” honor, and for a numerus clausus [restrictive quota] to protect “German-Austrians” against the influx of what he termed Hungarians and Galicians, [by which he meant Jews]. Rhetorically, Lueger often couched his anti-Semitism as a defense of Christianity, but his underlying ideology was evidently grounded in ideas of ethnicity or nationhood.

Another famous Viennese, Adolf Hitler, was one of Lueger’s most devoted admirers.

Read more at K.

More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Austria, Theodor Herzl, Thomas Jefferson, Vienna


Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia