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August 8, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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August 8, 2003

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JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 8, 2003 PAGE 13 Ry Ruth E. Gruber (JTA)--The iciness marked relations be- t Israel and Austria for the and a half years ap- L a. move that pleased both I theAustrian Israeli Foreign Silvan Shalom an- that Jerusa- . first time ,2000. decision," president said. "What's Israel is good for the I Community. Politically ng, it would even have sooner." recalled its chief en- to protest the in- the far-right Free- in Austria's coali- partywas Haider, a populist for playing on xeno- and who once ,fellow on lifted thestric- months. Israel nearly three suit. interim, Haider Freedom Party tnd the party suffered in elections late announced the de- ambas- mg a visit by Austrian Foreign Benita Ferrero- visit state by an Aus- since 1998. Axelrod [ (JTA) -When Shila in Israel for seminar on for young Eu- leaders, she was : by nature, Khasani J be told to gov- *.Was surprised by the of a wide array of from representatives ig and its place in the not at all like" I ex- 27-year-old graduate from at the Israeli Berlin. were posed, by and speakers, P~ple break out in a she said. best -- that we ideas, different receive a diploma young initiated in Foreign Minis- Jews from economy, ' to world- created Jewish aims to build ews, and to help "During our meeting today, we decided to open a new chap- ter in our relations, a chapter that would emphasize the his- toric ties of friendship between our two peoples," Shalom said. Explaining the decision to resume full relations, Shalom said that over the last three and a half years "Austria has con- ducted a fair and balanced policy toward Israel, while reiterating its condemnation of terrorism against innocent people and its support for the peace efforts in our region." Ferrero-Waldner also had attempted to improve relations between Israel and the Euro- pean Union, Shalom said. During her meeting with Shalom, Ferrero-Waldner em- phasized that Austria has ac- cepted responsibility for Nazi crimes during the Holocaust and pledged to fight anti- Semitism. "My country attaches great importance to relations with Israel and welcomes the resto- ration of normalcy to our diplo- matic relations," she said. "Simon Wiesenthal once said, 'There is no greater sin than forgetting.' We shall not forget. The best way of doing this is for Austria and Israel to work to- gether for a future without hate, anti-Semitism and intolerance," she said. Vienna-based Israeli diplomat Avraham Toledo told JTA later that Austria had rallied support for Israel during a U.N.-spon- sored anti-racism conference in 2001, and strongly opposed any attempt to belittle the Holo- caust or revive comparisons between Zionism and racism. Also, Austria had initiated steps to improve relations be- tween Israel and the European Union and had come out cat- egorically against any attempt to impose economic sanctions on Israel. "I'm not sure that people are aware ofwhatAustriahas done," Toledo said. 'I have been here for two years, and either you acceptwhat's been done, oryou put your head in the sand and ignore it," he said. At the news conference, Sha- lom stressed that Israel 'Mill continue to foUow events in Austria and elsewhere, and will maintain its policy of shunning politicians of any political party who espouse anti-Semitic posi- tions or ideas." He said, "As the cradle and home of the Jewish people, the State of Israel has the moral obligation to fight any manifes- tations o(anti-Semitism,wher- ever they may appear." These days, even Haider, gov- ernor of the province of Carinthia, hasbeen takingpains to demonstrate sympathy for Jews and Jewish causes -- pos- sibly to change his image ahead of a new drive to re-enter na- tional politics. He recently attempted to re- assume the position of Free- dom Party leader. In early July, he hosted a group ofCarinthian-born Israe- lis who fled Nazi persecution. After the event, newspapers pub- lished photographs showing the Jewish group waving Carinthian flags and local Carinthianswav- ing Israeli flags. "This country is not indiffer- ent to the fate of its Jewish citi- zens, even decades later," Haider told the visitors, the Austrian Press Agency reported. Haider was quoted as saying that Aus- tria was working to confront "the dark history of national get training strengthen a new generation of Jewish leaders outside Israel. The program is part of an Israeli effort tobuild support for the Jewish state by strengthen- ing Israel-Diaspora connec- tions. The effort has taken on a special urgency against the backdmpofworldwidecriticism of Israel's handling of the Pales- tinian intifada and as surveys show Zionist sentiment weak- ening among Diaspora Jews. Recently, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the main organiza- tion promoting immigration to Israel, initiated a task force aimed at supporting Jewish life in Germany. The project seeks to reinforce links between Is- rael and German Jews. Bayit Meshutaf's goal of em- powering young Jewish leaders may be its greatest challenge. In Germany, Khasani said, it has been hard to convince the country's Jewish establishment to take the younger generation seriously. 'q'he current leaders are miss- ing an opportunity," Khasani said. "We are the future." Khasani, who completed a de- gree in Jewish studies and soci- ology, comes from a family of Jewish leaders. Her father, Asher Khasani, who came to Germany from Iran in 1957, is descended from a long line of rabbis and heads the Jewish community of Hal on the SaMe. "I came to Germany to study medicine, and to research for myself and others why our brethren were killed here, and to show the Germans that we are here and not destroyed," Asher Khasani said. For Shila Khasani, the Bayit Meshutaf program provided more than a chance to learn about Israel; she also got to know 14 other young Jewish leaders from across Europe. 'qNe share similar problems and experiences," Khasani said. "Before, I didn't know any Jews from Finland or Ireland." The participants are creating an Internet forum to stay in touch. Now, several monthsafter her return from Israel, Khasani is looking for work in Germany, preferably in the Jewish com- munity. But she said she is con- sidering making aliyah one day. "Clearly, we want all the Jews in the world to come to Israel," said the director of public rela- tions for the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, Joel Lion, who presented the diploma to Khasani. "But everyone is free to choose." For now, it is important that these young leaders understand Is- rael so they can build ties with Israel at home, he said. "We want them to have not only slogans, but also an under- standing of what Israel is," Lion said. "It is nice to say you will demonstrate for Israel, but the essential thing is, what do you know about Israel?" This is es- pecially true for the many Jew- ish immigrants in Germany from the former Soviet Union, Lion said. "A person need not have much previous knowledge: about Israel to attend" Bayit Meshutaf, he said, but one does need self-confidence. "That is what is important for the Jewish community of Ger- many." he said. "These young leaders have power." Socialism and the persecution of Jews." An editorial in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz echoed Shalom's words of caution and urged vigilance. "Israel, which is trying to take advantage of the new atmo- sphere generated by the road map to improve its relationship with the European Union, de- cided that it could no longer ignore the developments in Austria and the world," the edi- torialists wrote. "That does not mean that Is- rael is ignoring the specter of Haider, who continues to threaten the integrity of the Austrian government," they wrote. 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