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Knesset Session Ends in Disorder As Premier, Communists Clash

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An argument between Premier David Ben Gurion and several Communist deputies over the latter’s charges that Israeli Army soldiers had imposed “unbearable hardships” on the inhabitants of an Arab village during a search, led to a near riot in Parliament today. Finally, Speaker Joseph Sprinzak adjourned the session rather than permit further dispute and name-calling.

The incident began when two Communist deputies, Tewfik Toubi, an Arab, and Meir Wilner, a Jew, scored the Army’s actions during a search for smugglers and infiltrees. They demanded the appointment of a Knesset investigating committee to hear the complaints of the Arab villagers.

The Premier angrily denounced the two deputies for “besmirching” the name of the Army and for making “irresponsible and treacherous allegations.” He insisted that although the deputies enjoyed Parliamentary immunity they “must know the limits” to statements which they make. He objected to “abuse” of the Army whose representatives were not present to defend it, and he praised the soldiers’ conduct during the search.

Throughout his speech, the Communists heckled him. Mapai deputies added to the confusion by shouting insults at the leftists. Soon other deputies joined the disorder and when continued gavel pounding failed to restore order, the Speaker angrily closed the session.

Deputy Toubi, in his attack on the government and the Army, spoke in Arabic. He took this step after a debate precipitated by a Herut motion to establish Hebrew as the sole official language of the state. Mr. Ben Gurion opposed the Herut move, declaring:

“The government objects to this motion on many grounds, but primarily on the ground of cultural self-determination of a minority in the state. There is no precedent of any Parliament in the world using a minority language as well as a majority language, but we will show the world how a democracy can be conducted. We gave and we will give absolute freedom to the Arab minority to study their own language and culture, trusting that they will also learn the majority’s language. But they will be able to use their own language in the Knesset and in its committees as everywhere else in the state.”

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