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Israel President Defends Arms Deal with Germany; Answers Czech Jews

President Itzhak BenZvi this week-end warmly endorsed the Israel Government’s sale of mortar shells to Western Germany, challenged Jews behind the Iron Curtain–who objected to these sales–to protest to their own governments for selling arms to the Arab states, and chided Communist East Germany for failing to make reparations for the mass murder of Jews during the Nazi regime.

The rare political statement by the President, who seldom participates in political affairs, was made in a letter to the Council of Jewish Religious Communities in Bohemia and Moravia, and the Central Committee of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia. These two organizations, which represent organized Jewry in Czechoslovakia, had written to Mr. Ben Zvi, protesting against Israel’s arms deal with West Germany.

“Every one who is concerned for Israel’s welfare,” President Ben Zvi stated in his letter, “must share the concern for Israel’s security and must support the measures taken by the Israel Government to strengthen the country’s defences.”

Expressing satisfaction that the Czechoslovakian Jews have evinced interest in Israeli activities, the President said in his reply he hoped the letter to him “is a sign of a desire to renew fraternal contact and cooperation” with the Jews in Israel.

ASKS JEWS TO PROTEST CZECHOSLOVAK SALE OF ARMS TO ARABS

“Israel,” continued the President, “is not only concerned with the perpetuation of the memory of the Jewish martyrs of Nazi extermination, but regards its main mission and reason for existence the principle that such a tragedy must never recur. We have revived the free homeland of the Jewish people in an independent State, ready to serve as a home for every Jew seeking refuge.

“To fulfill its mission, the leadership of our State must regard the development of the country’s defences as a matter of prime concern. The Israel Government believes that the arms transaction referred to in your letter is one of the steps required to strengthen the security of the State of Israel. The Knesset, our legislature, which was chosen by democratic elections, approved this attitude by a decisive majority.”

“The need for strengthening Israel’s security,” the letter continued, “is greater, so long as large quantities of powerful arms are being received in a steady flow by the Arab states, which do not conceal their intention to use those arms for Israel’s destruction. It is no secret that the country in which you live is one of the main suppliers of arms to our neighbors. I would be gratified if I knew that you were employing all your influence in your own country to prevent an arms race in the Middle East, and to lessen the endangering of peace and the danger to the survival of Israel.”

Since the letter from Czechoslovakia had referred to West Germany’s guilt in regard to extermination of Jews under the Nazi regime, President Ben Zvi stated in his reply; “It must be said to the credit of West Germany that it is making reparations to the families of victims of Nazism. But to East Germany, the words of the Prophet Elijah, addressed to Ahab, apply: ‘Hast thou killed and also taken possession’?”

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