Czech Jewish leaders are welcoming a last-minute decision by Prague officials to cancel a march by extreme right-wing supporters through the city’s Jewish Quarter.
City authorities had come under heavy pressure from Jewish groups for originally agreeing to allow Saturday’s procession organized by right-wing figures Petr Kalinovsky and Petr Fryc, who said they wanted to commemorate “Palestinian Holocaust victims” in Israel.
Approximately 40 extremist supporters, including several young girls, were told that the march was canceled shortly before it was due to start at 5 p.m.
The group then walked away from its gathering point on Franz Kafka Square, next to the Jewish Quarter, under the watchful eye of dozens of police, including officers on horseback. There were no arrests and the group dispersed about a mile from the city center.
Before calling off the procession, Kalinovsky told his supporters that Jewish immigrants “started massacring” the original Palestinian inhabitants “under the pretext of a dubious historical right.”
He also described the Israeli flag as “a mere rag.”
Prague’s Jewish leaders intensively lobbied Czech politicians and Prague officials in the 24 hours before the march after having been told by police that there was nothing they could do to stop the procession because it had been cleared by city officials.
“We are quite happy that the march was canceled,” even though it was at the last minute, said Tomas Jelinek, chairman of the Prague Jewish community.
“On the other hand, we could see that there was a hard core of neo-Nazis who were not afraid to show up under the pressure of the media and the police. I think the municipality needs to examine why this march was originally allowed to go ahead because I think they made a horrible mistake.”
Czech President Vaclav Havel also welcomed the decision to stop the march.
“The president’s view is that there are times when force or power is required to preserve the freedom of the human being against those who publicly admire violence or criminal ideology, and this is just such a case,” said a spokesman for Havel, Ladislav Spacek.
The day before the march, Jewish leaders described it as an event designed to provoke the community.
“This procession is a visible attack on Jews in the Czech Republic,” Jelinek said. “They say they are doing this because of what is happening in Israel but this is basically an anti-Semitic act.”
Kalinovsky and Fryc, both of whom have been linked to the banned right-wing group Republican Youth, were not available for comment.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.