Austria deserves world condemnation

We should be comforted that leaders of numerous nations are protesting the new government of Austria. The Jewish world thankfully does not stand alone in its concern.

Jorg Haider, leader of Austria's Freedom Party, has repeatedly praised Hitler and embraced the ideology of the Nazi SS, with which his father served. While Haider has issued apologies, he has often returned to the same themes, perhaps using somewhat subtler language. But his xenophobia remains obvious, as does his hatred for anything non-Aryan.

While Haider is not a member of the new government, many of his loyal followers are. That has put a chill in diplomatic relations between Austria and much of the Western world.

Austria's citizenry needs to be taught that the election of hate mongers is unacceptable in today's world.

Unfortunately, the rise of a neo-fascist party in Austria is not an isolated incident. With the fall of communism, ultranationalist factions have been on the rise in Eastern Europe.

By serving as the world's conscience, Jewish organizations can play an important role in combating that phenomenon in the political arena. They can remind the world of the all-too-present dangers in a government run by leaders of the far right.

World leaders undoubtedly were quick to pronounce their horror of Austria's new government because Jewish organizations have been sounding the alarm ever since Haider's group scored a huge victory in Austria's October parliamentary election.

Perhaps Haider will surprise us all and behave himself. Perhaps his henchmen in the government will not take Austria down the road it traveled in the 1940s.

But rest assured that if Haider suddenly moderates his views, it will only happen because of world pressure.

Nevertheless, Jewish organizations must monitor the man's every word and make sure he doesn't return to his old ways.