Czech citizens rally in Prague to support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

ICEJ Worldwide

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Posted on: 
25 Jan 2017
Czech citizens rally in Prague to support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
In September, about four hundred people assembled at Wenceslas Square in the center of Prague to protest the Czech Ministry of Education’s decision to identify Tel Aviv as the capital of the State of Israel in future Czech geography schoolbooks, instead of Jerusalem. Representatives from ICEJ were very involved in the protest. The controversial decision, issued by a lesser civil servant at the request of Khalid al-Atrash, Palestinian ambassador in Prague, sparked wide outrage among Czech citizens and politicians alike.

Miroslav Kalousek, Chairman of the TOP 09 conservative party, highlighted the special friendship between Israel and the Czech Republic: “People need good friends who are not afraid to call a spade a spade. That is even more important when issues of great sensitivity to our friends are at stake.” Senator Daniela Filippi recalled that Jerusalem has been the most sacred city to the Jewish nation for three thousand years and called the Palestinian request a blatant interference in Czech internal affairs.

In response to this uproar, Katerina Valachova, Minister of Education, issued a statement effectively retracting her department’s earlier decision. “There will be no changes to schoolbooks and the maps should reflect reality,” she said, adding the Ministry of Education would not engage in politics. She also stated respect for Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital city.

This turnaround may be attributed to several factors, including a letter from the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to Czech Prime Minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, and pressure from politicians across the political spectrum, including the Social Democratic Party, which holds the education portfolio.

The ICEJ branch quickly mobilized civil protests on social media, and an online petition was initiated which threatened civic disobedience should the Ministry fail to withdraw its decision. The petition gathered almost three thousand signatures within a few days, showing that Israel enjoys wide support in the country.

A few weeks later, in response to UNESCO’s resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” the Czech Parliament passed a special resolution rejecting the “anti-Israel, hateful spirit” of the motion and decried its omission of Jewish and Christian ties to the holy places in Jerusalem. The Czech resolution added that “the wording, [which] contradicts the neutral and peaceful nature of the UN, discredits UNESCO and in the final analysis strengthens anti-Semitic trends on an international scale.”

 

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