Conflicting views over Israel-Palestine violence escalate in Czechia

As war between Israel and Gaza rages on, tensions are flaring in Czechia and throughout Central Europe.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 26.10.2023 11:34:00 (updated on 28.10.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have emerged in the Czech Republic following Prime Minister Petr Fiala's recent visit to Israel, where he affirmed Czechia's support for the Israeli side.

In Prague, a demonstration was held in front of the Foreign Ministry to voice concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza in the context of ongoing Israeli military operations.

In a separate incident in Pilsen, police opened an inquiry into the owner of a kebab shop after anti-Semitic messaging was posted outside the establishment.

Across Europe and beyond, escalating violence in Israel and Gaza has fueled both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies calling for peaceful solutions. As discussions continue on all sides of this complex issue, debates within the Czech Republic reflect global polarization.

Inflammatory messages outside a kebab shop

Police in Pilsen are currently investigating posters with anti-Semitic messages displayed at a kebab stand owned by a foreign national. The text of the poster criticized Israel and claimed that the Palestinian Hamas movement is doing "nothing wrong." The posters also cited Islamic texts criticizing Jews for their treatment of prophets.

"I wrote the truth, it is in the Koran," the shop owner said on Tuesday. He added that he was prompted to write the message after watching the news, in which he could see every day how many people he believes are dying in the war because of Israel.

The vendor, whose restaurant stands next to Pilsen’s Old Synagogue, denied that Hamas was to blame, referring only to the bombs Israel sends to Gaza. He referred to the state of Israel, not the radical Palestinians, as terrorists.

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"These Jews are the people who killed the prophets like sheep. For this reason, God has cursed them," reads one message. Another says: "The Jews are the ones who call the pure Virgin Mary unchaste."

The head of the local Jewish community in Pilsen reported the posters. He told the media he has good relations with many Arabs in the area and was surprised by the incident. The kebab seller said he was sharing truths from the Koran. Police have since removed the posters.

Pro-Palestine protesters criticize the West

Around 100 people rallied in Prague on Wednesday to protest Israel's actions in Gaza. Organized by the civic group Not In Our Name, demonstrators first gathered in front of the Czech Foreign Ministry to condemn "collective revenge against Palestinians."

The group continued its March to Malostranské náměstí, chanting slogans supporting Gaza and calling for an end to the occupation. Some demonstrators held up signs accusing Israel and the West of genocide and mass murder.

Student Muhammad, who has family in Gaza, urged those present to be a voice for the voiceless. "We have survived 75 years of political repression, no matter what happens, we will rise again. We will fight until the last drop of blood," he said.

Photo of Wednesday's pro-Palestine protest in Prague by Vaiva Bezhan
Photo of Wednesday's pro-Palestine protest in Prague by Vaiva Bezhan

Protestors said they want the Czech government to pressure Israel to immediately resume supplies to Gaza, establish a ceasefire, and release prisoners. They called on Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský to end all support that could worsen Palestinian suffering.

"Insist on an immediate halt to population transfers, which is just another word for ethnic cleansing," the organizers called on the government. Wednesday's demonstration was the third organized by the Not in Our Name! initiative in support of the Palestinians in Prague.

‘We stand by Israel,’ Fiala pledges

During a state visit to Israel Wednesday, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the Czech Republic is ready to provide assistance to Israel due to its strong defense industry. While he did not give details, Fiala said Israel was interested in aid and he had discussed concrete forms of support with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.

Fiala also said it was important for Europe to calm the Middle East situation and recognize Israel's right to self-defense. He promised that he would push at an upcoming EU summit for unequivocal support of Israel. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, we must treat it accordingly, we must be sure that no European money is used to support terrorism," he added.

The events of the past week highlight the complex debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is playing out even in traditionally more neutral Central European countries like the Czech Republic. As Fiala stakes out a firm pro-Israel stance, it has polarized discussion and drawn impassioned responses on both sides of the issue.

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