NEW YORK, Oct. 26 (JTA) — It’s never easy completing a 26-mile race, but one European far-right leader might find next month’s New York City Marathon particularly grueling.
At least one Jewish politician is threatening to interrupt Jorg Haider, the leader of Austria’s Freedom Party, if he goes ahead with his intention to compete in the Nov. 7 marathon.
“My goal is to have a conversation with him. I want to understand his views on the SS when he calls them men of character,” said New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents a district that is home to many Holocaust survivors and Orthodox Jews. “I intend to do it during the race” with a group of survivors or children of survivors.
Hikind made his comments after the president of the New York Road Runners Club refused requests from him and from Brooklyn’s Chasidic community to ban the 49-year-old politician from the race.
“We don’t discriminate. We are not going to change this route, and we are not going to kick him out of the race,” Allan Steinfeld, the president of the New York Road Runners Club, was quoted as saying.
The race, one of the world’s largest marathons, goes through all of New York City’s five boroughs.
Several mainstream Jewish groups, while not hesitant to share their dislike of Haider, are not opposing his participation in the race.
“If he keeps mouthing off the way in Brooklyn he has been in Austria, he may be running for his life,” said Phil Baum, the executive director of the American Jewish Congress, adding that Haider has the legal right to run in the marathon.
A spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League said his group did not oppose Haider’s participation in the race.
Haider’s Freedom Party made international headlines earlier this month when it finished second in Austria’s parliamentary elections, capturing 27 percent of the vote.
Haider, who ran on an anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner platform, has repeatedly made comments in the past praising Hitler.
“His ugliness does not belong on the streets of Brooklyn, where many survivors have taken up residence after the Holocaust,” Hikind said. “A man who seeks to replant the seeds of Nazism and fascist nationalism should not be allowed to run to taunt the population.”