Kreisky Rejects Jewish Agency Charges That Austria is Interfering in the Processing of Soviet Jews

Chancellor Bruno Kreisky of Austria has rejected charges by the Jewish Agency of Israel that the Austrian government violated the Agency’s contract with the Austrian Red Cross which granted it exclusive use of a facility in Vienna which processes Jews who have left the Soviet Union, according to the Austrian press and information service office here.

Leon Dulzin, chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Executives, said last Wednesday in Jerusalem that the Austrian government “decided unexpectedly” to allow Jewish and non-Jewish groups, including church organizations, to enter the facility “and operate among Soviet Jews for immigration to countries other than Israel, despite the fact that these people emigrated (from the Soviet Union) with visas for Israel only.”

Kreisky, according to the Austrian press office, said that Austria would continue to insist that any person entering the country had an inalienable right to choose his or her country of destination. Austria, he said, would continue to give other organizations working in the field of immigration the right to contact Soviet Jews and assist them in finding a permanent home. The Chancellor noted that Austria had carried out this policy for 10 years at considerable security risk and cost to the country.

TEMPORARY COMPROMISE IS REACHED

Austria’s Interior Minister Erwin Land pointed out that the agreement with the Jewish Agency, that it had exclusive use of the facility, was binding only with regard to those Soviet Jews who expressed a willingness to go to Israel, the Austrian press office reported. The percentage of Soviet Jews willing to go to Israel has decreased steadily and presently stands at 20 percent, Lane said.

After a meeting Friday afternoon in Vienna between Austrian government officials, Jewish Agency personnel and Ambassador Yissachar Ben-Yaacov of Israel, it was agreed, for the time being, that posters in the facility informing immigrants of aid offered by various Jewish and non-Jewish organizations to help them settle in the United States would be taken down, the Austrian press office said.

However, each arriving Soviet Jew would have to sign, in the presence of an Austrian official, a slip of paper written in Russian that he or she is aware of other immigration possibilities and that he or she was going to Israel without any coercion. A further meeting was set for this week.

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