VIDEO: Austria Protests Israel Attack on Gaza Aid Convoy

Rihanna may have raved about her "amazing" trip to Israel several days ago, but most of the rest of the world, and namely Europe, isn't as impressed with the Jewish state.

Most EU governments and their citizens seem to have united in their criticism of Israel's raid on the "Freedom Flotilla" that had aimed to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Europe's big sluggers, Germany, Britain and France, have come down hard on the Jewish state. Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an end to Israel's blockade on Gaza, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Israel to respond to its many critics, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the attack a "disproportionate use of force."

Even here in Austria, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said he was "shocked" at the bloody raid of the flotilla by Israeli commandos and had summoned the Israeli ambassador to Vienna to "clarify the situation."

"Israel must end the counterproductive barrier policy to the Gaza strip, as has already been emphatically and repeatedly required by the UN Security Council in New York and by the European Union," Spindelegger said.

His comments are significant especially as Austria is a country that rarely steps up to the political batting plate to take a swing, especially on matters dealing with Islam or the Arab world.

Similarly, a majority of its residents would seem to generally prefer that their government doesn't insert itself in the political problems of another part of the world.

This is not to say that Austrians are apathetic or close-minded.

But based on the recent finding by Mercer, a human resources consultancy firm, which placed Austria at the top of a list of the 50 cities in the world with the best quality of life, it makes sense that they would like to protect their convenient and comfortable quality of life.

But Austria, like any place, has its own misfortunes.

When I first moved to Austria from Egypt in 1999, racism was not rampant, but it was hardly concealed. At the time, Jorg Haider, a right-wing politician and former head of the Freedom Party had managed to form a coalition government with the People's party, sparking widespread outrage both in Austria and the rest of Europe.

But it also caused tension on the streets of Vienna prompting several foreign embassies to shut down in the weeks following the coalition's formation.

In the early 1990s Haider was quoted as having said that, "the social order of Islam is opposed to our Western values. Human rights and democracy are as incompatible with the Muslim religious doctrine as is the equality of women."

I don't remember much about the political impact of Haider's rise to power, but I do remember the social impact I felt on a personal level.

As a 14 year-old "auslander" (the German word for foreigner) I was astutely aware that I was different, but unaware that I would be reminded of the fact on many occasions.

One day on the tram, several young Austrian schoolboys began to spit in my direction. I assumed, that they assumed I was one of Austria's many Turkish immigrants (estimates suggest nearly 40 percent of Austrians are from Turkish descent within two generations) as I could make out the word "Turk" every now and then in their taunts.

Eventually they began to sing, "Musel, Musel, MuselMann... der das land verlassen Kann" (Muslim, Muslim, Muslim man, who can/should leave the country now!).

This incident was one of a slew of events that at the time had heightened my sensitivities to my skin color and foreign demeanor.

Yesterday, as I walked back home along the ring encircling downtown Vienna, I was reminded of these incidences when I noticed a crowd of nearly 2,000 demonstrators (most of them Turkish) protesting Israel's attack on the Gaza aid convoy.

Video shot with Blackberry:

Protests in Austria are rare, and when they do happen they are seldom passionate or tense events, regardless of the cause.

Over the years my family was living in Vienna I had attended anti-war demonstrations, including some large ones during the worst years of the Iraq war, but yesterday's protest was noticeably different.

This was, by far the most vigorous mobilization effort I had ever seen in Vienna. It was also among the most homogenous.

The protest began with 500 protesters gathering in front of the Israeli embassy, where speeches were held by a Turkish imam, one from Leo Gabriel, an activist of the European Social Forum and Michael Probsting, a member of the League of Socialist Revolution.

While the crowd included several Austrians and members of the League of Socialist Revolution, most were Turks, Kurds, and Arabs.

I had never seen so many of Austria's minorities gathered in one place at once, fervently yelling slogans such as "Israel! Terrorist!", "Intifada", "Israel, USA, Human Rights, Ha Ha Ha!" and "Let Gaza Live!"

Because the demonstration wasn't announced to the police beforehand, there was the potential for prosecution and arrests. But the police presence was surprisingly passive as they seemed most concerned with managing traffic, and made an obvious effort to avoid an escalation to violence.

The next demonstration is scheduled for Friday, it will be interesting to see if these people are allowed to continue to congregate, how the government decides to involve itself (or not) in the issue, and if the anger and passion - uncharacteristic of a protest in Vienna - will once again consume the crowds. In the interim, with another convoy on the way to Gaza, it would do Israel well to reassess their approach to such confrontations.

It will also be interesting to see whether, the Obama administration, which has expressed its sympathies to Turkey, but refrained from condemning Israel, will fulfill its responsibility of reigning Israel in.

Obama might use his rhetorical flair to condemn Israel. But his words alone wouldn't carry much weight or appease the thousands of protesters the world over.

If I were an Obama advisor I would encourage him to make his point through actions not words, in fact one simple act.

He should organize a US ship to carry several tons of humanitarian aid and sail towards Gaza without any public announcements, putting the ball in Israel's court and giving them a second chance to do the right thing.

That would be change I could believe in, as unbelievable a possibility as it may be.