JERUSALEM (Aug. 3)
Tension continued to prevail today in various parts of the country as a result of attempts at repeated demonstrations by North African immigrants. The efforts were checked by the police, who are now on the alert ready to handle firmly any possible disturbances.
Police last night moved swiftly to break up plans for demonstrations in Beersheba, in the village of Pardess Hanna, in Lydda and at Ramleh. At Beersheba, six leaders of a planned demonstration were arrested before they could stage the disturbances. In their homes, police found pamphlets calling for a demonstration under the slogan: “We are hungry and discriminated against.” Police said that a youth who is the leader of the Beersheba group has a long criminal record.
At Pardess Hanna, where the population consists predominantly of North African immigrants, there has been anger over the dismissal of a North African from his job at a brick factory. Authorities said today, however, that the firing of the man had nothing to do with his origin, being due to the fact that he has repeatedly clashed with the foreman on the job.
In the labor exchanges at Ramleh and Lydda, police intervened to halt demonstrations by unemployed, but quiet was maintained on the whole through firm preventive action.
Haifa’s Mayor Aba Houshi, testifying today before a governmental committee probing the first of the Haifa riots in the North African immigrant quarter of Wadi Salib, declared that “criminal elements” are responsible for the disturbances, saying there was an “underground” directing the clashes.
70 ARRESTED IN HAIFA; 59 REMANDED TO JAIL TO AWAIT TRIAL
Arrests in Haifa alone have totalled 70 persons, it was revealed today. Of these, 59 have been remanded to jail for 15 days each, to await trial. Investigations are being centered on efforts to find out who the “outside sources” are that are backing the rioters. David Ben Haroush, self-proclaimed leader of the Wadi Salib immigrant group, who is under arrest, told the government committee at Haifa last week he was receiving financial aid, and boasted “you’d be surprised if you knew who is helping us.”
There is a general feeling here now, following yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, that the government is handling the situation satisfactorily. Several members of the Cabinet pointed out that, while some of the new villages erected for the North African immigrants have vacant homes, immigrants are flocking into Wadi Salib, making an overcrowded slum of the area.
The Mapai Party, whose Wadi Salib election rally Friday night was used as a pretext for the latest Haifa riot, announced today it will hold another election rally in Wadi Salib, “We will not yield to force,” said the Haifa leaders of Mapai.
A hint that political motivation may be behind the rioting appeared today in the newspaper Davar, organ of the Israel Federation of Labor. Davar, supporting the “firm” action taken by the police, pointed out that the political affiliations of Mr. Ben Haroush “are well known.” Mr. Ben Haroush stated recently before a governmental committee that he “favors” the program of the right-wing Herut Party.
Spokesmen for Herut, on the other hand, are blaming the police for the disturbances, alleging that police authorities “pre-arranged the riot in order to squelch Ben Haroush.” There are 250,000 immigrants from North Africa in Israel, and, as the election campaign develops, there is keen competition among the various political parties for the good-will of these citizens.
Menahem Beigin, leader of the Herut Party, opened this week-end his party’s election with a speech at Ramat Gan, charging the government with “the use of arms in internal difficulties,” which was a reference to police actions against rioters in Haifa and other cities. He indicated in his address that this will be one of the major issues in the November elections. Another major issue which the Herut Party intends to exploit during the election campaign is the recent arms deal with Germany. Mr. Beigin said that the General Zionists did not “sincerely” oppose the sale of arms to West Germany.