TEL AVIV (Aug. 22)
Two protest meetings were held here this evening to protest the Soviet bloc takeover of Czechoslovakia as Israelis of virtually all political views voiced solidarity with the Czech people and condemned the invasion.
Thousands of students and members of youth movements met to hear denunciations of the Soviet invasion and the subordination of the Czech Republic. Posters appeared declaring “Now Czechoslovakia – Who Comes Next?” and “Russians Go Home.” Later participants signed a petition of protest for presentation to the United Nations. The meeting took place during the rush hour and police had a hard time keeping traffic moving, but — in sympathy with the protest — they allowed drivers to stop and listen to the speakers. A sea of Czech flags was held by people and many auto owners had put Czech flags on their windshields.
The other rally was sponsored by the moderate Communist Party faction at which leader Shmuel Mikunis denounced the Soviet action as “pure imperialism.” The split between the two Communist factions was dramatized last night in statements. The Mikunis faction called the Soviet action “a brutal intervention in the affairs of a Socialist state.” The New Communist faction presented a spokesman in a radio interview who said he was “certain” that the Czech people “welcomed” intervention which he said had been undertaken “to save them from counter-revolutionary designs.”
Concern was felt for the welfare of Israelis visiting Czechoslovakia when the Russian tanks entered Prague. Among them are exchange students and Prof. Yehuda Leo Pickard, of the Hebrew University, attending a scientific conference there. The Swedish Embassy, which has represented Israeli interests in Prague since the rupture of diplomatic relations after the 1967 Six-Day War, was asked to help the Israelis return home. There are about 45 Czech nationals presently in Israel.
The Israel Writers Association, which had been expecting a delegation of Czech writers for a visit in October, cabled a message of solidarity to its colleagues, though an association spokesman expressed doubt that the cable would reach its destination. The message said in part, “we, the sons of a nation that knew only too well persecution and suffering, understand your hour of trial and believe in the victory of the spirit, freedom and liberty.” The whereabouts of the liberal Czech writer, Ladislav Mnacko, were unknown today. Mrs. Mnacko, who is in Israel, said her husband was to join her here, planning to leave Prague a day or two before the invasion. Mr. Mnacko gained prominence through his self-imposed exile in Israel to protest Prague’s anti-Israel stand after the Six-Day War. Mrs. Mnacko today joined other Czech citizens at Kibbutz Shomrat, a settlement populated by Jews of Czechoslovak origin.
Zeev Sharef, Israel’s Finance Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry, expressed support for Czechoslovakia at a rally marking the liberation of another Eastern European country — Rumania from Nazi occupation 24 years ago. Mr. Sharef declared that “a day will come when every nation will be able to live as it wishes and no tanks or bombers will be able to move it from its chosen course.” He paid tribute to Rumania for standing fast on Its principles despite Soviet pressure, Rumania is the only Eastern bloc nation that did not yield to Soviet and Arab pressure to break relations with Israel after the Six-Day War.