The Israeli Flag Flies in the City That Gave the World Herzl and Hitler

In the midst of May’s Israel-Hamas conflict, the Austria chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, had the flag of the Jewish state hoisted over the seat of the government in central Vienna’s Ballhausplatz. Meir Soloveichik explores the “unique and profound poetry” of this gesture:

In 1895, Theodore Herzl, working as a journalist in Paris, returned home to Vienna and found the city in the midst of a mayoral election that would be won by the charismatic Karl Lueger, known to his admirers as “Der schöne Karl,” [handsome Karl]. Lueger would come to be seen as the man who would change Vienna, reconfigure it into an embodiment of modernity, technology, and beautiful gardens, which is why he is celebrated to this day in the city’s Karl Lueger Square.

But Lueger would herald the coming 20th century in another, more ominous manner: he demagogically described the Jews as a cabal controlling Europe and as the central threat facing European civilization. . . . Lueger’s anti-Semitic diatribes earned him the adulation of the Austrian masses, among them a young man by the name of Adolf Hitler who studied in Vienna during the mayor’s administration. Hitler would cite Lueger as his role model and make special mention of Der schöne Karl in his own memoir, Mein Kampf.

It is often assumed that it was the Dreyfus affair that inspired Herzl’s vision, but in fact, as Rick Richman has noted, Herzl had originally assumed Dreyfus’s guilt, and he had dismissed French anti-Semitism as a mere “salon for the castoffs.”

Rather, as Richman has demonstrated, it was Lueger’s anti-Semitism that truly moved Herzl to reconsider the fate of European Jewry. Soloveichik concludes:

We are now able to understand the meaning of what it meant to fly the Zionist flag in the city that taught Hitler the power of hate and the city that taught Herzl the importance of Jewish nationalism. In a speech to American Jews, Kurz argued that Austria’s history “guides my political work today,” reminding him that “we have to be a strong partner of Israel.” By flying the Israeli flag, Kurz communicated that Vienna faces a choice: to stand with the locus of living Jewry, or to stand with Hamas, the heirs of the Nazis’ quest for genocide of the Jewish people.

Read more at Commentary

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


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict