Austrian court overturns fine for showing Israeli flag
A court in Vienna has expunged a police fine against four activists who displayed Israeli flags while protesting against an event calling for the boycott of the Jewish state.
police fined four students €150 ($176) for waving an Israel flag at a protest in March 2019 against advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) targeting Israel.
Benjamin Hess, from the Austrian Union of Jewish Students, told the Austrian daily Der Standard, which first reported the court decision, that it was “clearly decided” that holding up an Israel flag and expressing pro-Israel sentiments is a legitimate expression of opinion.
He asked, however, why it “is necessary in Austria at all to go to court in order to have something so fundamental to be established.”
The Vienna city authorities argued that police warnings against the Israeli activists has not deterred pro-Israel activists from showing Israeli flags, and that there was a threat of escalation between the rival groups.
A spokesperson for an organization that monitors antisemitism (Informations und Beobachtungsstelle antisemitismus), who was at the protest in March 2019, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post at the time that a police supervisor told the students the Israeli flag was a “provocation” and issued the activists a €150 fine.
“Once again there was a demonstration in Austria in which antisemitic slogans such as ‘child murderer Israel’ were present, said the spokesperson for monitoring group combating antisemitism.”
In 2020, Austria’s national parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the BDS campaign as antisemitic and urging that the anti-Israel movement not be supported.
“BDS, which has also increasingly appeared in Austria in recent years, makes use of this antisemitic pattern,” stated the resolution. The antisemitic pattern
refers to one of the alleged antisemitic BDS goals that seeks to not “recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination,” the resolution explained.
Some 25 people attended the anti-BDS demonstration in March 2019 organized by the Austrian Union of Jewish Students and the Alliance Boycott Antisemitism. According to Der Standard, the pro-BDS group reportedly shouted antisemitic slogans, and one speaker wore a scarf from the US and EU-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The anti-BDS groups shouted “Long Live Israel” and held Israeli flags while calling “Free Palestine from Hamas,” the newspaper reported.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles, told the Post at the time, “Apparently it is still a provocation for Jews to defend their people’s honor by waving the flag of Israel. SWC urges the chancellor and other Austrian leaders to publicly wave the Blue and White [Israeli flag] on Israel Independence Day in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish community. And the police? Check their obvious anti-Jewish bias.”