After President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that Jerusalem is officially recognized as Israel’s capital, the news was met by angry Muslim protesters all across the world.
In Vienna, Austria, pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets on Dec. 8 with chants like “down with Israel,” “death to Israel” and “Jews, remember Khaybar,” a reference to an ancient massacre of Jewish people in Saudi Arabia by Muhammad’s conquering army in the early days of Islamic history, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Those pro-Palestinian protesters — who reportedly numbered in the hundreds, and several of whom were waving Palestinian, Syrian and Turkish flags — were confronted by three pro-Israel activists bearing an Israeli flag. Even though the angry protesters were shouting genocidal death threats, it was the peaceful activists who ended up getting into trouble with the law.
Vienna police have now filed criminal charges against those three activists, who may be fined 100 euros or face two days in jail, for the apparent crime of supporting Israel at an anti-Israel rally and offending protesters with their own flag.
Indeed, the criminal notice filed on Jan. 3 by police stated the activists “showed an Israeli flag at a rally in an extremely provocative way and manner that was visible for participants at the rally and thereby produced considerable offense and provocation among the Palestinian protesters.”
It remains unclear how waving an Israeli flag is more offensive to Muslim protesters than Muslim protesters shouting “death to Israel” is to Jews.
The Post cited an interview with one of the activists named “Matthias” by the German-language edition of Vice magazine, in which he explained what had occurred.
“My mother is Israeli, her family (members) are refugees from Iraq and Libya,” Matthias said. “An Arab-speaking friend from Israel was able to translate some of the slogans yelled (at the rally), for example, the Arab battle cry to massacre Jews: ‘Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning,’ and … ‘Death to Israel.’”
The activist also reported hearing slogans such as “intifada” and “child-murder Israel.”
“We were shocked by these slogans and did not want to leave the slogans unchallenged,” he said. “Antisemitism and hate of Israel should not be tolerated.”
Matthias said that in response to the anti-Israel chants and the various flags being waved by the protesters, he and his two compatriots unfurled their own Israeli flag, much to the dismay of both the police and the protesters.
But when police stepped in to break up the inevitable scuffle — instigated by the Muslim protesters — they only confiscated the Israeli flag and took down the information of the three activists, while allowing the Muslim protesters to return to their rally.
Matthias explained that he and his friends would seek legal aid to counter the “unbelievable” prosecution. “We simply held a flag,” he said. “It can’t be that antisemitic slogans can be hollered and go unpunished while showing an Israeli flag is reason to be fined.”
According to Legal Insurrection, which cited a translation of Austrian media outlet Der Standard, the pro-Israel activists were accused of “disturbing the public order in an particularly reckless way.” Again, no mention of how shouting genocidal chants in the streets is also a rather reckless way of disturbing public order.
One of the activists, who went unnamed by the Austrian paper, stated, “According to my understanding of Austrian democracy, it should be permissible to hold the flag of a sovereign state. I don’t understand how this could be a provocation.”
The Austrian Jewish Students Union chimed in with a statement which read: “It is unacceptable that simply showing the Israeli flag on the streets of Austria is criminalized by the police as punishable provocation.”
We couldn’t agree more, and though we understand that “freedom of speech” is a bit different in Europe than it is in America, this still comes across as a massive infringement of the activists’ rights.
The blatant anti-Semitism that was permitted to continue unchecked while a show of support for Israel was cracked down upon is more than a little troubling as well, to say the least.
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