Terror in Vienna – They Won’t Get Through!

(c) EUJS
(c) EUJS

Just three days ago, a jihadist was hunting people right here. During his cowardly attack, he murdered four people and injured at least 22 others. Our thoughts today are with them, their families, and all those affected.

The attack was aimed at our Vienna. The attack started right up here. In one of the centers of Jewish life in Vienna. Whether or not the attack was ultimately aimed specifically at the city temple, we do not know. But this question does not change the horror of the crime. 

What happened here exactly three days ago was exactly the scenario that we, Jews in Europe, have been warned against since we were little children, the scenario that we have been warning against for years. 

We are used to being questioned by armed security guards before Jewish events, at EUJS we do not publish the address of our office, my Jewish school looked like a high-security prison, in this school we practiced not only fire drills but also terror drills.

On my first trip with the EUJS, we were first in Brussels, where the synagogue is protected by machine-gun-carrying soldiers, because the threat of Islamism is even more present there, and then in Washington DC, where for the first time I was in a synagogue with an open door that had no protection. I felt more uncomfortable in the USA. Because for me – like for most Jews in Europe – the constant presence of security measures, the feeling that something might happen, is, unfortunately, the absolute normality.

And yet you are never prepared when it actually happens. Especially not when it happens in your own town, in your own community. In the city that has been a home to me since my birth.

The perpetrator was a jihadist, his act an expression of the barbaric ideology of Islamism. An ideology which, like fascism, manifests itself through contempt for human beings, antisemitism, anti-feminism, hatred of those who think differently, of those who deviate, of progressiveness and of modernity. A murderous ideology. This ideology is our enemy, this ideology we must fight. 

An ideology whose dangerousness is often underestimated. While Muslims are often criminalised by many, jihadism has long been neglected in Austria. This must change. Today we have to make it very clear: We won’t give Islamism a single inch!

Even the best preventive measures against Islamist radicalisation are of little use if no action is taken against extreme right-wing Grey Wolves, anti-pluralistic Salafist groups, and other Islamists. You cannot be against Islamism and work together with Islamists.

So act when we say: Racism kills. Antisemitism kills. Fascism kills. Islamism kills. 

The terrorist and Daesh, the so-called “Islamic state”, have a very clear goal: they want to divide us, to play us off against each other, and create a culture war. Just like the right-wing extremists and neo-fascists from Generation Identity who will gather on St. Stephen’s Square today, they want to create as much hate as possible. In order to get more and more people into their clutches, in order to radicalise more and more people.

This is why our response to terror must also be to work together. To take a clear stance against all forms of racism, to live on. But also to fight the far-right agitators too. The fight against Islamism must be waged with the maximum rigour of the rule of law. But it cannot be won by marginalisation, exclusion, and deportation. If the fight against jihadism leads to the exclusion of Muslims from our society, we all lose. Because our response to terror is solidarity!

In this respect, it is a wonderful sign that you are all here. We are showing lived solidarity here today. A commemorative rally, organised by Jewish and Muslim organisations, with representatives of all democratic parliamentary parties, political organisations, civil society and, above all, a very large number of people living in Vienna, is the strongest response we can give to the henchmen of Daesh. Our reaction, both as a Jewish community and from all people living in Vienna, is impressive – we do not let ourselves be crushed, we remain loud and self-confident!

As we stand here and commemorate the victims of an Islamist terrorist attack, there are people who risk their lives every day in the fight against Daesh. This week was World Kobane Day. Six years ago this week, the advance of Daesh was stopped and large parts of northern Syria and Iraq were freed in bloody battles from the reign of terror of the jihadists. Especially today, our thoughts should also be with the courageous Kurdish self-defence units in Rojava and elsewhere. Without them there would probably still be a caliphate, without them there would probably be no more Yezidis in Syria and Iraq. 

The Islamists who threaten them, who threaten us, are also supported by Erdogan’s regime. If Europe is serious about combating jihadism, that must also mean taking action against Erdogan and imposing sanctions. To show solidarity with the Kurds and also to stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia!

More security forces and cameras are not enough to fight Islamism and fascism in the long run. We must change our society. We must build a counter-model. An inclusive society with positive migrant and Jewish narratives. A society based on a genuine anti-fascist and anti-racist consensus. Only then can we feel safe. This must be the lesson of terror!

For life, for freedom!

They will not get through!

This is a speech that was given by EUJS President Bini Guttmann on Nov. 5 at a commemoration rally for the victims of the jihadist terror attack in Vienna on Nov. 2, organised by the Austrian Union of Jewish Students, the European Union of Jewish Students and the Muslim Youth of Austria. You can find the speech (in German) here: https://youtu.be/JSo4AV-sNig

About the Author
Bini Guttmann, from Vienna, Austria, is the President of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), the umbrella organization representing more than 160.000 young Jews between 18 and 35 in 36 countries.
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