Expertise, repression and the long shadows of state power: When the state institutionalises a fourth and fifth state power.

Statement on the defamation and attacks against our association by the “Documentation Centre for Political Islam”, the media and political parties

“A stricter Islam law. Closed mosques. A headscarf ban for female teachers. Values courses. A planned criminal offence against ‘political Islam’ – measures aimed at Muslims were an opportune means of winning elections with votes from the right in the era of Sebastian Kurz.But what happened on the 9th of November 2020 had nothing to do with populist politics. On this day, one of the largest police operations of the Second Republic began: Officers had been observing the targets for a total of 21,000 hours before 960 police officers moved out across four federal states on that Monday morning and raided around 60 homes, businesses and club locations. 70 suspects were targeted, 30 people were arrested and brought in for immediate questioning. The name of the gigantic operation: Operation Luxor.”

This is how the Austrian weekly magazine “Profil” sums up “Operation Luxor” in November 2020, which it analyses as a “political and public scandal” and disaster, stating that “Austria” – and thus the government of the ÖVP/FPÖ and the Green Party – “allowed itself to be abused as a willing pawn of foreign powers.”1

“Today, two and a half years later,” Profil continues, “there is hardly anything left of the allegations. Little by little, it is becoming clear what lies at the heart of this knitted scandal: It’s about biased experts, compliant constitutional protectors, a questionable EU referendum – and an Islam researcher suspected of having received money from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his work on alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Austria.” 

“The devastating judgement of the higher authorities”, Profil writes in its analysis: “is that there is no solid evidence that the suspects belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood. And even if they did, that would not be grounds for prosecution either, as it is not illegal. The Muslim Brotherhood is a broad movement, it is impossible to label it as radical or even terrorist in its entirety.”

However, much remained of the accusations: traumatised small children who were torn from their beds at night during this police action, brought out into the cold at gunpoint, character assassination that led to job losses and an intimidated community that for years no longer dared to exercise the constitutionally guaranteed right of assembly, academics who left the country because the political climate in Austria had been poisoned. A political climate that is now becoming even more repressive with Israel’s war against the Gaza Strip.

And the well-researched article in Profil rightly states that there are no consequences for this scandal, which can only be described as an abuse of office. Not for the public prosecutor, and even less for those politically responsible or the experts from the Documentation Centre for Political Islam. On the contrary, for the ÖVP under Karl Nehammer, it was a complete political success that can be repeated with pleasure.

The Documentation Centre for Political Islam – full name: Austrian Fund for the Documentation of Religiously Motivated Political Extremism – criticised in the Profil article, launched a comprehensive political attack on the Association for Anti-Racist and Peace Policy Initiative – Dar al Janub – in a recent publication, which was immediately taken up by ORF, oe24 and the ÖVP in an OTS press release.

But what is the Documentation Centre for Political Islam? 

It was set up in 2020 by the Austrian government of the ÖVP and the Green Party and is intended to “scientifically document and research political Islam”. An even more reactionary ÖVP-version of the originally social-democratic-orientated DÖW (Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance)2.

Behind the façade – to use the jargon of dubious foundations such as the Documentation Centre or the DÖW – it is a politically motivated, highly questionable, pro-government foundation that carries out dirty contract work for the ruling right-wing government. Its credibility is particularly questionable in view of the fact that its experts and advisory board members work in a dubious and unscientific manner, taking on politically commissioned work for the government and incorporating false information into their reports. According to investigations by Profil magazine, one of its scientific advisory board members, Lorenzo Vidino, is linked to controversial commissions. Vidino, a so-called “Islamism expert”, wrote a well-criticised study on the Muslim Brotherhood in Austria on behalf of the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Leaks and witness statements revealed his connection to a private intelligence service working on behalf of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which calls into question the integrity of the Documentation Centre for Political Islam. Despite these questionable connections, Vidino remains firmly in the saddle of this organisation, raising doubts about its independence and neutrality3. The same applies to other employees who were involved in the preparation of “Operation Luxor” as “experts” and were allowed to fabulate about the international human rights campaign BDS as part of the Muslim Brotherhood in the police reports. The latter was in turn linked to the fascist Mussolini regime.4

Historian Heiko Heinisch is also on the advisory board of the Documentation Centre for Political Islam. His name already appears in the internal documents of “Stop Extremism”, a dubious campaign that receives funds from even more so dubious sources for its work; a connection that may suggest he is a supporter. However, Heinisch denies any connection to “Stop Extremism”. He is known for numerous “Islam-critical” denunciatory publications, most of which he publishes in various media, often in collaboration with the political scientist Nina Scholz. Heinisch is also said to have been involved in a joint study with Lorenzo Vidino.

Behind the façade

A favourite rhetorical trick of these politically motivated foundations such as DÖW, the Documentation Centre and their crownies is always the supposedly “investigative” phrase “behind the façade”. This is used to stylise opposition associations such as Dar al Janub, which has been carrying out all events, international conferences, German courses, funding and activities transparently and deliberately in the public eye for 20 years, as “dark machinations”, whose “hidden agenda” a dubious foundation such as the Documentation Centre has now uncovered thanks to years of research.

These rhetorical tactics are then backed up with unsubstantiated claims that use pre-defined political battle terms. The association – claims the documentation centre, compliantly taken up by the ORF, ÖVP, FPÖ, NEOs and SPÖ in rare unity, as well as Oe24 and co. – “enters into alliances with ‘left-wing extremist and anti-Semitic groups‘ and supports ‘various organisations classified as terrorist‘”. Which “alliances” with which “organisations classified as terrorists” these are supposed to be is not revealed in the “report” until the very end. Which of the allied organisations are supposed to be “anti-Semitic” also remains open. It is obvious that the IHRA’s highly controversial, widely criticised and politically motivated “working definition (!) of anti-Semitism” is now used as a guideline, as is the “3-D test” invented by the far-right Israeli minister Natan Sharansky, in which any criticism of Israel is pressed into the template of “anti-Semitism”.5

Under “alliances” and “support”, for example, the international, non-violent human rights campaign BDS is mentioned, which is supported by countless Jewish figures and Jewish human rights organisations, among others, and comes to the same conclusions and resulting demands as the internationally recognised human rights organisation Amnesty International. In its 280-page, thoroughly researched report, the latter rightly accuses Israel of the crime of apartheid according to the definition of international law, a crime against humanity. 

Interestingly, the Documentation Centre report cites as “proof” of “links to terrorist organisations” of Dar al Janub the publication of an interview with Hassan Nasrallah conducted by the later short-term Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, which was published in a magazine allegedly directly associated with the association. Seen in this light, the documentation centre should also dedicate a report to the former Foreign Minister of the ÖVP-FPÖ government.

The fact that we “show solidarity at demonstrations with the” now over 15,000 victims of the Israeli genocidal bombardment of the “people in Gaza”, including over 4,000 children6, is also used against the association in a defamatory manner – as if this were something for which one would have to justify oneself. Such facts are further embellished with the claim that “the actions of Hamas were trivialised”. Where exactly? When? What counts as “trivialisation” here?

The association would – according to the “Documentation Centre” on page 14 – “accuse” Israel of committing pogroms in the West Bank – as if this alleged “accusation” were not a well-known reality that has long been sharply criticised internationally by state institutions and non-governmental bodies – except in Austria and by the Republic of Austria, of course. 

It becomes even more absurd when the documentation centre and the reports mention that the Israeli domestic intelligence service (!) is the source for various assessments by the “documentation centre”. 

Finally, it is claimed completely out of thin air that “anti-Semitic incidents” and even “death threats” occurred at demonstrations co-organised by Dar al Janub and that “fascist symbols” could be seen. As a source for such – one can no longer call it anything else – lies, claims are simply cited that others have already made before – also simple lies. The organisation refers to itself as a source, so to speak7

The documentation centre makes particular reference to the fact that the Dar al Janub association has conducted or organised interviews or panel discussions with various representatives from politics and society relating to the so-called “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” in the course of its work. The documentation centre mentions Osama Hamdan and other representatives of Hamas, with whom Dar al Janub conducted interviews, as well as the director of UNWRA in Lebanon, Richard Cook. In its 20 years of existence, Dar al Janub has also had podium guests such as the SPÖ politician and former Member of the European Parliament Hannes Swoboda. During these years, there have been numerous meetings and interviews with Lebanese, Palestinian and Austrian members of parliament, such as Mr.  Sultan Abu Al-Einein, member of the Fatah Central Committee and advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, Mrs. Amneh Jibril Sulaiman, Chairperson of the General Union of Palestinian Women (a sub-organisation of the PLO), Mr. Marwan Faris, Lebanese MP and Head of the Human Rights Commission in the Lebanese Parliament, Mr. Salah Al Ahmad (Coordinator of the International Red Cross), Mr. Abed Assad (Representative of the Abu Jihad Al Wazir Foundation for the Disabled) and many more.

We even had direct contact with Judith Schwentner, then spokesperson for women’s and development policy for the Green Party and now Deputy Mayor of Graz, who called us in 2011 in shock when the then Israeli ambassador intervened with the ADA (Austrian Development Agency, an organisation of the Austrian Foreign Ministry) to prevent a Dar al Janub symposium with the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé and the Israeli NGO “Zochrot”, which the ADA had sponsored. Schwentner was inclined to submit a parliamentary question against this unacceptable intervention.

Dar al Janub also took part in a fact-finding mission to Gaza in 2012 (where, among other things, the incriminating picture with the former spokesperson of Dar al Janub was taken) and organised several educational trips to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where there were also numerous meetings with leaders of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. Dar al Janub offered its premises for a meeting between Palestine activists and Leila Khaled, who had officially entered the country on a Schengen visa and held an event on the premises of the KPÖ.

These racist documentary institutions and other agencies are very fond of mentioning funding that we received from OFID – an OPEC organisation – to support a project for women in Nablus/West Bank. Why is it not mentioned that we also received modest funding for public relations work on Palestine from the ADA – Austrian Development Agency until 2011 – until the Israeli ambassador intervened? Does this not fit the image of a “sinister Muslim organisation”? Or that the City of Vienna approached us through MA17 to organise German courses for migrant women when the City of Vienna itself was not yet sufficiently able to do so?

Incidentally, all funding received by the association in the past was made transparent and published on the association’s website. In contrast to the funding received by various “appraisers” and “experts”, they have been disclosed and correctly accounted for. 

The documentation centre digs into its trove of ancient website screenshots and images, and in its “report”, in sheer stupidity and ignorance, criticises event images as depicting a “Taliban fighter”. Like a satire of a Rorschach test, this not quite intelligent documentation centre interprets a collage by an artist who used Soviet propaganda images of Afghan fighters and projects documentary fantasies of Taliban into it. Or a menu picture of a photo of the entrance to a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon from the first decade of the 21st century on our website, from which the documentation centre is feverishly calling up a Hamas logo that can be seen somewhere in the photo.

No sooner has this ÖVP-FPÖ tool “Dokustelle” cobbled together its “report” than the ÖVP, the FPÖ, the NEOs, the SPÖ, the ORF in ZIB 1, Fellner, Krone, Standard, Puls4, Kurier and co. jump on the bandwagon and demand the dissolution of the association. They are calling for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Public Prosecutor’s office to smash an association that even the documentation centre describes as small and without reach, not because of a real danger, but to set an example – once again, as with Operation Luxor. (Not only) the Republic of Austria with all its institutions and parties want to stand unconditionally and unwaveringly behind the European, settler-colonial apartheid regime and its genocide, so voices that disturb this “harmonisation” of the discourse must of course be silenced.

Anyone who feels relieved that the repression is not affecting them now, who remains silent or stands by, will next be “dealt with” by these state organs and their para-official institutions.

  2. zur Arbeitsweise, Methoden des DÖW und der historischen Kontextualisierung solcher „Institutionen“ siehe hier
  3. siehe Fußnote 1
  4. Der Polizeibericht zur Operation Luxor wurde geleakt und liegt dem Dar al Janub vor.
  6. Zahlen zum Zeitpunkt der Verfassung dieses Statements
  7. Diese Behauptung der „Dokumentationsstelle“ wird „belegt“ mit einem „Antrag dreier pro-israelischer Fraktionen der Österreichischen HochschülerInnenschaft an der Universität Wien an die Universitätsvertretung aus dem Jahr 2021. Dieser „Antrag“ wiederum behauptet, ohne Quelle, ohne Belege, kontrafaktisch diese Lüge, auf die sich wiederum die Dokumentationsstelle bezieht. „Wissenschaftliche“ Arbeit vom Feinsten.

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