Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has dramatically changed his country’s foreign policy toward Israel. Previously, Austria and Israel maintained a cold relationship. But with Kurz, that relationship has been heading in a new direction. Will the warm relations last?
To understand how significant this development is, you must look at Austria’s history, one marred by anti-Semitism.
The European continent has been plagued by various waves of pogroms against Jews.
For centuries, Austria was at the heart of the Habsburg empire and ruled much of Europe while allied with the Catholic Church. During the Spanish Inquisition, Holy Roman Emperor Charles v greatly supported its cause and heavily persecuted the Jews. This hatred toward the Jews continued into the New Age, flourishing in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“During the last few decades of the Habsburg empire, anti-Semitism became a pronounced and firmly established aspect of Austrian life,” writes Menachem Z. Rosensaft in Jews and Anti-Semites in Austria at the End of the Nineteenth Century. At this time, Vienna was a model of “cultural sophistication,” Rosensaft notes.
As described in Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler morphed from a “soft-hearted cosmopolitan” to “an out-and-out anti-Semite” while in Vienna. Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry explains in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire that the history of the Holy Roman Empire inspired Hitler. During World War II, millions of Austrians followed Hitler’s example.
Even more recently, Austrian foreign policy has been motivated by a certain disdain for Israel. In “Is a Netanyahu-Kurz Bromance Responsible for Austria’s New Direction on Israel?” the Times of Israel wrote on June 29:
In May 2010, after Israeli troops killed nine Turkish activists in a skirmish aboard a Gaza-bound ship, Austrian authorities immediately singled out Israel as the guilty party.
The Vienna City Council in a near-unanimous motion declared that it “strongly condemns the brutal action against the peaceful aid fleet—especially in international waters.” It ignored evidence that the activists assaulted the Israeli troops during their seizure of the boat, which was legally mandated under Israeli rules.
“Israel must end its counterproductive blockade on the Gaza Strip. Such bloodshed is shocking and I expect rapid and complete clarification,” said Michael Spindelegger, who was then Austria’s foreign minister and a former leader of the same People’s Party that Kurz now heads.
The scene is very different today. Kurz is leading all of Austria, against popular opinion, into a new partnership. Lukas Mandl, an Austrian lawmaker in the European Parliament, commented that Kurz is “not afraid to make unpopular moves, for which he gets a ton of criticism, if he believes that’s the right thing to do. I think he’s acting out of conviction on Israel, too.”
Karl Pfeifer, a well-known Austrian-Jewish journalist and Holocaust survivor, said Kurz is making “a huge shift” for any Western European country. “But it’s especially remarkable in Austria” given its tradition of near-neutrality and its history in World War ii.
Austria’s relationship with Israel has had its ups and downs over the years, but rarely if ever has it been on such a high as it is under Sebastian Kurz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a 2017 speech for the American Jewish Committee, Kurz called Austria’s incorporation into Nazi Germany the darkest period in the country’s history. He also noted that it “guides my political work today.” He gives anti-Semitism “a zero-tolerance approach” and promised that under his leadership Austria will “be a strong partner of Israel.”
Kurz has backed these words with action. Times of Israel wrote:
The chancellor, who is head of the conservative People’s Party, has been to the Jewish state six times since 2014 and sharply changed course on the countries’ formerly cold relations. …
One of the fellow world leaders Kurz feels closest to is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That could help explain why Kurz has reversed his country’s stance toward Israel during his tenure from very critical to very supportive.
Austria is the only Western European nation whose government is actively shielding the Jewish state from sanctions by the European Union over Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. New sanctions would require complete consensus among its 27 members.
In March, Kurz congratulated Netanyahu on a “clear election victory.” While many hoped for Netanyahu to lose the election, Kurz stood with him.
Kurz also praised Netanyahu for his advice during the coronavirus crisis. “Also, I can say in this case: Thank God for Bibi Netanyahu,” he said. “He contacted me some time ago and told me, ‘Hey, you’re underestimating this over there in Europe. Wake up and do something.’ That was a wake-up call that shook me up.”
During Kurz’s visit to Jerusalem last year, Netanyahu welcomed Kurz as a “tremendous friend of the State of Israel, a champion of fighting anti-Semitism, a great leader for Austria.”
While there, Kurz addressed one of Israel’s greatest concerns: Iran. “I am very concerned about Iran’s statement to want to enrich more uranium,” he told Austrian reporters after his meeting with Netanyahu. He also said that Austria would act with Europe, “united and determinedly,” against Iranian nuclear ambitions.
In response to Kurz’s visit, Netanyahu said:
You have backed up your words with actions. You’ve shown zero tolerance toward anti-Semitism; you established a place of remembrance in Vienna listing the names of all 60,000 Austrian Jews who perished in the Holocaust; you’re funding youth visits to Mauthausen and education and memorial projects. Yesterday you announced in Yad Vashem a €4 million fund for a heritage center in Yad Vashem. We are deeply grateful for these and other important steps and for your leadership. …
You also said that during Austria’s presidency, you will raise these concerns, as well as anti-Semitism. I must say, this is a breath of fresh air and this is leadership. …
Finally, Sebastian, I want to tell you how moved I was and how many Israelis have been moved by the fact that you have actually moved things forward, you’ve moved our relationship, which between Austria and Israel was always good, but you are taking it to greater heights. I know this is personally important for you and I want you to know that it’s personally important for me. But what we understand too is that this intensifies the bond between Israel and Austria, which I think is important for our common future. So thank you once again and welcome friend, welcome to Jerusalem.
But there are also indications that Kurz is not the defender of Israel that he presents himself to be.
“One hitch in Kurz’s narrative came through his alliance with the far-right Freedom Party, which helped Kurz form a parliament majority in 2017,” Times of Israel wrote. “Jewish groups like the Jewish Community in Vienna had urged Kurz not to partner with the Freedom Party, which was founded by former Nazis and has a long record of anti-Semitism in its ranks. It was also a touchy issue in the relations with Israel, which for the most part has declined to have any dealings with the Freedom Party.”
And there are other warning signs that speak against Kurz’s promise to Israel that most people ignore.
During its presidency of the European Council, Austria set up a mini-museum in the foyer of the European Council building in Brussels with a large depiction of the crown of Charlemagne at the entrance. (You can read more about this in “Why Is Austria Promoting the Crown of Charlemagne?”)
Charlemagne forged a close alliance with the Catholic Church to form a cultural empire. And he did so by shedding much blood. Many European leaders—including Otto the Great, Charles v and Adolf Hitler—have been inspired by his example.
The crown of the Holy Roman Empire has a bloody history. The many emperors who took possession of it were among the greatest anti-Semites to ever live. They were responsible for furthering the persecution of Jews, even leading the Crusades into Jerusalem.
In 1935, Hitler asserted that Charlemagne’s violent methods were necessary to unite Germany. In 1938, Hitler moved Charlemagne’s crown to Germany. Professor and renowned German medieval researcher Johannes Fried pointed out in an interview with Die Welt that Hitler’s statements were “preparing for his own acts of violence, to praise Charles was a strategy of legitimacy.”
Kurz is upholding that history in Brussels even while portraying himself as Israel’s friend.
Kurz is also closely allying himself with the Roman Catholic Church. (You can read more about this trend in Mr. Flurry’s article “The Holy Roman Empire Goes Public—Big Time!”) The Catholic Church has had a large part in spreading anti-Semitic propaganda throughout its history. This institution has inspired numerous killing sprees against the Jews.
One simply cannot love the history of the Holy Roman Empire and be a friend of Israel.
The case might be made that loving the Holy Roman Empire doesn’t mean you will repeat its atrocities. But people ignored the warning signs in Hitler’s time, and he was openly anti-Semitic.
The strongest warning that Kurz’s approach toward Israel is deceitful comes not from history alone but from Bible prophecy. The Bible is specific in its warning, stating that Israel’s enemies will portray themselves as its friends just before betraying it.
Catholic Europe has led many crusades attempting to control the Holy Land. This ambition has never ended.
The Bible describes exactly what we are seeing today and what is ahead of us.
In this end time, Europe is prophesied to be invited into Jerusalem as a peacekeeping force after confronting one of Israel’s enemies. “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south PUSH at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon” (Daniel 11:40-41).
Notice that the prophecy states “at the time of the end.” Daniel is a prophetic book exclusively for the end time (Daniel 12:9).
Europe is prophesied to once more resurrect the Holy Roman Empire, referred to in Bible prophecy as the king of the north. The Bible reveals Europe will then confront radical Islam led by Iran, represented as the king of the south (the biblical identity of these nations is explained in detail in The King of the South).
Israel will likely welcome these actions; at which point, this European empire will enter into “the glorious land,” or Jerusalem. The Hebrew word for “enter” points to a peaceful entry, not a military invasion. Israel is prophesied to view the emerging European superpower as its ally (Ezekiel 16), despite the fact that Germany and Austria have committed some of the worst crimes against Jews in history. It “seems the Israelis can trust their worst historical enemy, but they can’t trust God to protect them! And God is their only source of help,” Mr. Flurry writes in Hosea—Reaping the Whirlwind.
In many ways, Kurz’s policy toward Israel is a forerunner of how the rising German-led Europe will treat the nation in the future. Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is a strong proponent of a more Israel-friendly policy and a close friend of Sebastian Kurz. The Watch Jerusalem has predicted for many years that Guttenberg will likely lead Europe into its prophetic destiny, which includes a two-faced relationship with Israel. Mr. Flurry has warned about this trend for years, stating:
Still, Israel continues to be “lovers” with the Germans. Soon it will go to the Germans in far greater desperation. This will lead to its destruction. It is not the Arabs who are going to destroy it. The friendship between Germany and the biblical nations of Israel is going to lead to one of the biggest double-crosses in human history!
Watch Jerusalem is warning of this coming double-cross. We can expect Europe to display an increasingly favorable view of Israel. But the Bible warns a betrayal is coming. Request a free copy of Hosea—Reaping the Whirlwind, by Gerald Flurry, to understand these prophecies in detail.