European groups implore the world to isolate Austria

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LONDON — About 200 of Europe's Orthodox rabbis have aborted plans to meet in Vienna next month as a protest against the inclusion of Jorg Haider's far-right Freedom Party in Austria's governing coalition.

The Conference of European Rabbis said it would move its scheduled March meeting to Slovakia because it was now "inappropriate" for the rabbis to meet in Austria, conference Secretary-General Aba Dunner said this week.

While the conference will now be held in Bratislava, Slovakia, the delegation of rabbis is slated to journey across the border to nearby Vienna for an evening reception that is being planned by Vienna's Jewish community.

According to Dunner, however, delegates will not attend a civic reception that had been planned by the Vienna municipality.

The decision came as the European Jewish Congress also lashed out at the decision to include Haider's party in the new coalition.

The EJC, which serves as the diplomatic representative in discussions involving some 2 million European Jews and their respective governments, hailed the decision by the European Union to isolate Austria diplomatically.

In a statement issued Sunday, the EJC also called on all the peoples of Europe to impose a tourist boycott on Austria.

Joining those calling to isolate Austria, the chief rabbis of several European countries have spoken out in recent days.

"As leaders of Jewish communities in Europe, we feel bound to register our dismay at the turn of events in Austria and to signal as clearly as we can that this is not the way forward for Europe," said British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

French Chief Rabbi Yosef Sitruk said, "We cannot feel comfortable in a country where a xenophobic party forms part of the government."

For his part, Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said attempts are being made to stamp out such parties in Russia and Eastern Europe.

"We must ensure it is clearly understood that such parties are unacceptable in modern-day Europe," he said.

Austria's chief rabbi, Chaim Eisenberg, was equally outspoken about the anti-immigrant Freedom Party's inclusion in the government.

"This new trend evokes memories of a very nasty Austrian past," he said. "One had hoped that such policies and sentiments would never be seen or heard again in this country."