LONDON (Aug. 21)
The invasion and apparent takeover of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and her Communist allies may benefit Israel but is sure to hurt Czech and Slovak Jews, highly placed British observers believe. They said today that the events in Czechoslovakia may turn out to be useful to Israel since they will “serve as a warning to Egypt and Syria that you cannot expect to ride a tiger and come out of the exercise unharmed,” as one observer put it. The United States, it is believed, will now be more wary of Soviet Inroads in other regions of the world, Including the Eastern Mediterranean, and this too is seen as possibly benefitting Israel.
On the other hand, the new-found liberties of Czech Jews are now almost certainly going to disappear as freedom is snuffed out and replaced by neo-Stalinist repression in Czechoslovakia, the observers suggested. It is now doubtful whether the 1,000th anniversary of the Jewish community in Czechoslovakia, expected to be celebrated next year, will be held. The millenium celebration had originally been scheduled for last year but was cancelled after Prague broke diplomatic relations with Israel following the Six-Day War. It is probable that the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the Old-New Synagogue in Prague, approved by the Government for July 9-11, 1969, will go by the wayside. It had been hoped that Jewish communities around the world would be represented at the historic event. The synagogue, built in 1268, is the oldest one standing in Western Europe.
There is little likelihood that Jewish education will continue or that in the future Czech boys and girls will be able to spend their holidays in Israel. Especially precarious will be the position of prominent Jews connected intimately with the Czech liberalization movement under Communist Party First Secretary Alexander Dubcek. Most prominent is Prof. Eduard Goldsteucker, president of the Union of Czech Writers, who was that nation’s first minister to Israel in 1948 and in 1952 was a co-defendant in the Slansky trial, serving 18 months of a five-year sentence. Another prominent Jewish figure in the new Government following the ouster of former President Antonin Novotny was the economist Dr. Ota Sik, who was vice premier.
It was rumored here that Ladislav Mnacko, the non-Jewish Czech writer who exiled himself to Israel following the Arab-Israel war in protest against Prague’s position on the war, is again heading for Israel. He returned home after the Dubcek regime took over earlier this year.
JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS HAD ENJOYED MORE FREEDOM UNDER DUBCEK REGIME
Two of the country’s principal Jewish spokesmen have never been formally associated with any particular wing of the Czech Communist Party. They are Frantisek Fuchs, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Bohemia and Moravia, and Dr. Benjamin Eichler, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Slovakia. Both officials had been permitted by the Government to attend World Jewish Congress Governing Council meetings in Geneva from July 8-11, 1968 – the first time in 20 years that such a relationship had been permitted by a Prague regime.
Following an April 7, 1968 session the Council of Jewish Religious Communities in Bohemia and Moravia published in May a declaration demanding concessions that would benefit the country’s Jews. Citing the death of 80,000 Czech and Moravian Jews during the Hitler holocaust and ‘the bitter experience of the 1950s,’ it nevertheless pledged support for the reform regime.
Jews in Prague have been openly sympathetic with Israel, although the Dubcek regime, still following the foreign policy line emanating from the Kremlin, had not taken steps to restore diplomatic ties in the months following the Six-Day War. Many non-Jews felt the same way, and students on several occasions circulated petitions on street corners asking the Government to renew its friendship with Jerusalem.
Following the Cierna and Bratislava conferences, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Bonn correspondent Alfred Wolfmann visited Prague and was told by informed Foreign Ministry circles that in the near future there was no chance of such renewed diplomatic ties because such a step would anger Moscow and the other Eastern European states.
Many of the leaders in the Dubcek regime regarded the question of relations with Israel as one of the nation’s less important concerns in the face of the continuing Soviet pressure against the democratization process in recent months.
A new Government that is expected to be installed and sponsored by the Kremlin, reinforced by the presence of Soviet troops and tanks in Prague and elsewhere in Czechoslovakia, will probably be conservative and take the same anti-Israel line that was manifested in the joint communique following the Bratislava meeting between Czechoslovakia and her Warsaw Pact allies.
An unresolved question of Jewish concern – the facts surrounding the mysterious death of Charles H. Jordan, former Joint Distribution Committee executive vice chairman – may go unanswered now that the Soviet Union is apparently back in control. Mr. Jordan was found dead in Prague’s Vltava River four days after he disappeared from his hotel room on Aug. 16, 1967. According to one story, he had been murdered through the efforts of the Soviet secret police.