was the flatulence of our elite so embarrassingly on display
as in its response to the entry into the Austrian government
of Jorg Haiders Freedom Party. The first to make a
complete fool of himself was Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak. Sounding like someone from central casting, Barak
spluttered that "for every Jew in the world it is a
highly disturbing signal." Then Shimon Peres chimed
in: "[Hitler] was from Austria
Even Hitler came
to power by so-called democratic means." Israel duly
withdrew its ambassador from Vienna and announced that Haider
would not be welcome in the country.
European Union then announced that it would have nothing
to do with Austria. Our rulers outdid one another in their
total contempt for democratic procedures. Who cared what
Austrians wanted? "The ideas of the Freedom Party,"
argued French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin rather menacingly,
"are contradictory to the principles on which the European
Union was founded... The aim is to make the Austrians wake
up and see that this project is broken off." Jospin
did not explain what these terrible "ideas" were.
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel saw no purpose to
Austrias existence: "Its too simplistic
to say that we must keep Austria in Europe at all costs.
I think Europe can very well do without Austria." German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroder unquestionably won the championship
for emitting the most gas. "If we make it clear that
we want nothing to do with politicians like Herr Haider,
that is not interfering in another countrys affairs,"
he explained. "It is an expression that we stand for
a Europe based on values and that Herr Haider has constantly
violated those values."
extraordinary thing about all these pompous declarations
is that no one bothered to explain what it is Haider is
supposed to have done. Newspaper accounts kept repeating
the same three or four utterances. Even by todays
hysterical "hunt the anti-Semite" standards the
case against Haider is pretty thin. Since these statement
are the only ones on offer we must assume that this is the
best case against Haider there is.
"Our soldiers were not criminals, at most they were
victims," he is alleged to have said in October 1990.
This is staggeringly innocuous stuff. Haider may be wrong,
but his use of the word "victims" hardly suggests
an ardent Nazi. Second: "In the Third Reich they had
an orderly employment policy." This was uttered in
the middle of a June 1991 debate in the Carinthian state
legislature. Taken out of context, it is hard to know what
Haider meant. Is an "orderly employment policy"
a good or a bad thing? Either way, Haider later apologized
for the remark. Third: Haider once allegedly referred to
Mauthausen as a "punishment camp." He later corrected
himself, saying he meant "concentration camp."
thats the case against Haider. Not one phrase
and people have been searching assiduously that sounds
remotely anti-Semitic. Not one remark that denies the Holocaust.
Not a single defense of Nazism. Not a single defense of
the Anschluss. Yet from the screeching of U.S. officials
you would have thought the swastika had been hoisted over
the Hofburg palace. Slavishly courting the Jewish vote,
Hillary Clinton wrote an ingratiating letter to World Jewish
Congress President Edgar Bronfman. "Haiders record
of intolerance, extremism and anti-Semitism," she wrote,
"should be of concern to all of us. Neither he nor
his party should be seriously considered as a partner in
an Austrian government." Madeleine Albright
loathsome as ever got into the act: "Well
be watching, and well take appropriate steps. Theres
always a concern when countries dont deal with their