NEW YORK (Jul. 30)
Bruno Kreisky, a born Jew whose actions during his reign as chancellor of Austria raised strong protests from Israel and the Jewish community, died Sunday of heart disease at Lainz hospital in Vienna. He was 79.
Kreisky, a self-declared agnostic, was a figure of great controversy among Jews because of his warm relations with Arabs hostile to Israel, particularly the Palestine Liberation Organization.
At one point he called off a planned trip to Israel over concerns for his safety, following his involvement in a controversial prisoner exchange.
Elected chancellor in 1970, Kreisky’s 13-year reign over Austria was marked by an intensification in Austria’s relations with the Arab world and the PLO.
In 1981, Kreisky compared Israelis to Germans under Hitler. In 1982, in the wake of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he severely attacked Israel.
On the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in reaction to the abduction of emigrating Soviet Jews by Palestinian raiders on the Schonau Castle Transit camp, Kreisky closed the center, despite a desperate, last-minute trip to Vienna by then Prime Minister Golda Meir.
TARGET OF THREATS
Jerry Goodman, former director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said Monday that the center had become a target of threats from Arab sources, was too accessible to the public and was a security risk. Austria subsequently opened another, more secure, facility.
Leon Zelman of Vienna, director of the Jewish Welcome Service, credited Kreisky for keeping open a Vienna transit center.
Kreisky’s brother, Shaul, lives on a kibbutz in Israel, according to the Israeli Consulate in New York.
While not enamored by the tactics employed by the Palestinians, Kreisky still had close contacts with Palestinian leaders, like PLO chief Yasir Arafat.
In the mid-1970s, Kreisky recognized the role of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians, and permitted the PLO to open an office in Vienna.
Kreisky believed that Israel should withdraw entirely from the occupied territories and acquiesce to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He also believed that Israeli settlements in those areas should be dismantled.
While he was in office, Austria voted in favor of pro-Palestinian resolutions and condemned Israel for its 1981 aerial destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor at the United Nations.
In recent years, Kreisky condemned those attacking Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, following charges that Waldheim covered up his actions during World War II while serving with the Wehrmacht during the German occupation of the Balkans.
Born to Irene Felix and Max Kreisky on Jan. 22, 1911, Kreisky attended schools in Vienna and, at the age of 15, joined the Socialist Youth movement.
In 1935, he served 18 months in prison for activity in the Social Democratic Party, which had been previously outlawed.