East Germany May Be Courting Jews, but Its Support for the PLO Continues
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East Germany May Be Courting Jews, but Its Support for the PLO Continues

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East Germany appears to be courting Jews and Palestinians at the same time. It is seeking the good will of Jews on the suppositions that this will help foster better trade relations with the United States.

At the same time, it continues to provide military assistance and training for the Palestine Liberation Organization, and shows no signs of reducing its support of the PLO, according to West German diplomats and observers here.

PLO chief Yasir Arafat visited East Berlin last week and met for an hour with Communist Party boss Erich Honecker. The PLO chairman came to East Berlin to attend an international conference on disarmament, sponsored by the East German government.

Far from scaling down its military support, East Germany is allowing more “PLO fighters” to train at military facilities in the Tueringen district, according to diplomats who asked to remain anonymous. Some of the facilities are close by the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

According to the diplomats, Arafat discussed military cooperation between the PLO and East Germany with several prominent Germans in East Berlin.

The training program for PLO personnel includes courses at the prestigious East German war college for high-ranking officers.

Meanwhile, Honecker and other East German politicians have had talks with Jewish leaders recently about paying out some $40 million to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Unlike West Germany, the Communist regime in East Germany has refused even to consider restitution until recently.

Honecker and others indicated they expected in return that Jewish organizations in the United States would lobby on behalf of East Germany’s trade interests. In particular, the East Germans covet most-favored-nation trade status in the United States.

In another move to curry favor, Honecker promised two weeks ago that he would consider toning down attacks on Israel in the state-controlled East German news media.

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