This past Saturday evening, Chabad rabbi Dov Gruzman was conducting the annual ceremony to light the public Chanukah menorah in Stefenfaltz Square in Vienna, Austria. Suddenly, a local Muslim rushed over, began cursing the Jews, then “hurled himself” at the Rabbi, punching and kicking him. As the rabbi tried to hold off his attacker, the Muslim suddenly “bit his victim, severing part of his finger.” The attacker was caught and arrested; the rabbi was hospitalized, and doctors tried to reattach his finger.
I hope the rabbi does not have rabies.
Rabbi Gruzman was not dispirited. In fact, he has just planned a much larger public lighting of the menorah and increased the usual order of 50 sufganiyot (Chanukah jelly doughnuts) to 700. “This is our answer to anti-Semitism.”
I hope that this attack is not minimized or justified as yet another example of one deranged individual. While Sudden Jihad Syndrome may indeed be practiced by deranged people (here, Major Nidal Hasan comes to mind), such attackers are also acting out the wishes of a specific culture of hatred. Terrorists are not necessarily “deranged.” They may, indeed, be high-functioning “sociopaths.” Hitler certainly was.
Hitler loved Vienna. The Viennese, nay the Austrians, loved Hitler too, once he came to power.
Therefore, just because we can psychiatrically diagnose someone does not render them less dangerous. They can carefully plan attacks. They use terror as a means of control, to get their way–not as an expression of how undone they may be.
Today, the hatred of Jews, both as “infidels” and as “Zionists,” is routinely taught to most Muslims from childhood on by their religious leaders, parents, and peers. In our times, as I wrote in my book The New Anti-Semitism, the most lethal, even genocidal threats towards Jews and Israel are coming from the Islamic world. This is a prejudice that western leftists share and which partly explains why they make common cause with Islamists to support “the Palestinian victims” against their alleged Israeli “oppressors.”
Like Rabbi Gruzman, Israel’s response to increasing global anti-Semitism is also a proactive one. The Israeli government has convened a global conference to combat anti-Semitism which will take place later this week on December 16th-17th in Jerusalem.
Given Austria’s lousy track record, they, too, ought to convene such a conference. I challenge the Austrian government to do so.
Remember: Even when it became quite clear that former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim had quite a Nazi past, the Viennese still voted for him for the Presidency of Austria. Most recently, Vienna was the unembarrassed city which did not have the Israeli national anthem on hand to play in case the Israeli fencing athletes happened to win the competition. The Israeli female athletes did win top honors—and after a long and humiliating silence, they sang “Hatikvah” themselves, a cappella. In addition, the Austrians have an abysmal track record in terms of returning property and belongings stolen from Jews during the Holocaust.
But Herzl, a son of Vienna, is certainly not turning over in his grave. Herzl, a highly assimilated Austrian Jew, “got it” when he covered the Dreyfus case in Paris. In 1897, Herzl convened the first Zionist gathering in Basel, Switzerland. And, in 1949, Herzl was re-buried with honors in Israel. Freud, another Viennese son, “got it” when, as a Jew, he could not gain an appropriate appointment to a Viennese medical faculty. Still, Freud refused to leave his beloved Vienna behind until 1938, when Hitler was already on the march and Freud’s life was at stake. Freud and his family fled to England, where he died and was cremated in 1939.
Like the Biblical bones of Jacob and Jacob’s son Joseph, their bones, too (or at least their remains), were taken out of Egypt-in-Vienna.
Vienna is a very inviting city. I was quite enchanted by it when I visited it for the first time in 1982 after delivering a lecture in Saltzburg. Had the Austrians not supported Hitler’s exterminationist programs, I might have grown up in Poland or Hungary or Austria, sipping kafe mit shlag to my heart’s content and conducting interviews and writing in cafes. I loved the Viennese spa life too. When I was asked to meet with the media, I did so. And, when a journalist asked me what I thought of Vienna, I startled him by saying: “It reminds me of Tel Aviv.”
“What do you mean?” he sputtered.
Said I: “The Austrian Jews whom you did not kill or force to flee, all have Viennese-style furnishings, polished wood tables, and lace curtains. Thus, when I’m next in Tel Aviv, I will remember Vienna.”
Well, I used to be cheekier than I am today.
Still: My maternal grandmother loved the Emperor “Franz-Yoisef;” she thought he had been kind to the Jews. And, my mother of blessed memory used to play a certain saccharine tune on the piano and I’d sing along: “I hear you calling me…Vienna My City of Dreams.”
Yes, I’d say that Vienna is a dream alright—a perfect nightmare where Jews are concerned.
C’mon, you old, still beautiful, waltz-hungry, spoiled, seductive, Jew-hating city: Do right by the Jews for once.