JERUSALEM (Jun. 28)
The sensational libel trial in which a district court judge justified most of the charges against Dr. Israel Kastner, former head of the Hungarian Jewish Rescue Committee and now a member of the staff of the government-controlled radio station “Kol Israel,” had its reverberations today in the Israel Parliament, with two motions of non-confidence against the government.
Dr. Kastner was charged by Malkiel Gruenwald, a 70-year-old pamphleteer, that, as head of the Hungarian Jewish Rescue Committee, he collaborated with the Nazis and was responsible for the murder by the Nazis of Hungarian Jews. Mr. Gruenwald also charged Dr. Kastner with being responsible for the acquittal by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal of Hummler’s deputy in Hungary.
As an official of the Israel Government, Dr. Kastner complained to the attorney general that he was being libeled, and the attorney general had gone to court to press the libel case. The trial, which lasted for about a year, ended last week with a verdict by the district court judge that Mr. Gruenwald’s charges against Dr. Kastner have been proven.
At today’s session of the Israel Parliament, the right-wing Herut Party deputies, and the deputies of the Communist Party, introduced separate motions of non-confidence, censuring the government for bringing the case to trial. After a heated debate, marked by stormy scenes, both motions were voted down. The Herut motion was opposed by 50 votes against nine, with 22 abstentions, while the Communist motion was defeated by 60 votes against seven, with 17 abstentions.
Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, addressing the Parliament on the issue, abstained from defending or condemning Dr. Kastner. The latter insists that he is innocent, and is being backed by many Hungarian Jews in Israel. However, Mr. Sharett said that, in view of the gravity of the charges, he approves of a decision taken today by Israel’s Minister of Justice, Pinhas Rosen, ordering the attorney general to appeal against the conclusion of the district court judge.
ASSOCIATION OF HUNGARIAN JEWS PLEADS FOR DR. KASTNER
Meanwhile, it became known today that the Association of Hungarian Jews in Israel yesterday appealed to Mr. Sharett and Dr. Rosen, asking them to order a review of the Kastner trial. The association expressed itself in support of Dr. Kastner. Two kibbutzim have also expressed their faith in Dr. Kastner by offering him membership. One of the kibbutzim is named for a parachutist, Goldstein, whom Dr. Kastner was charged with betraying.
The case of Dr. Kastner came up for discussion yesterday at a meeting of the Cabinet. It was decided to leave the entire matter in the hands of Dr. Rosen. The Minister of Justice today announced that he ordered the Attorney General to appeal against the verdict to the Supreme Court, and called upon the people and the press of Israel to abstain from discussing the verdict publicly in order not to prejudice the Supreme Court’s decision.
On the other hand it was announced today that a group has been organized to back Mr. Gruenwald, the pamphleteer who voiced the charges against Dr. Kastner. The group, named “Council to Defend Gruenwald,” said that it will file two more charges against Dr. Kastner.