Opposition in Knesset Fails to Force Debate on Security Censorship

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion adroitly warded off in the Knesset last night three separate denunciations of security censorship in Israel. He succeeded in preventing a full dress debate on the issue.

Appearing in his capacity as Defense Minister, the Prime Minister replied to three separate motions for debate on censorship “interference with freedom of expression,” and managed to have the issue referred to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.

Arich Ben Eliezer, a Herut deputy, with whom Mr. Ben-Gurion clashed on issues of alleged libel in the 1954 “security mishap” case, cited examples of political censorship to disprove the Prime Minister’s repeated declarations that only security censorship existed in Israel.

S. Abramov of the General Zionists charged that the Israel censor exceeded his bounds and was guilty of overzealousness. He said it was “absurd” that the Israel press could not reprint items from overseas newspapers, and added that “suppression of news” led to exaggerated rumors, created confusion and under mired morale.

Moshe Sneh, the Communist deputy, asserted that a public statement by former outgoing Chief of Staff Chaim Haim Laskov, which he called entirely political, had been banned by the censor but permitted to appear in the Histadrut newspaper, Davar. Other inconsistencies were cited by speakers who pleaded for a more realistic approach and less “hyper-sensitivity” by the censor.

Asserting that the issue had been blown up “beyond” its actual proportion the Prime Minister cited a long-standing agreement between news editors and the Army’s general staff to submit to a three-man committee any disputes about censorship. He said that, during the past six years, censorship officials had listed 21 complaints, and that the committee had unanimously sustained the complaints, fining 20 papers and closing one for one day.

In 18 complaints by editors, the committee had lifted four censorship orders, and upheld nine, listing the others as inconclusive. The Prime Minister said this information disproved the charges of those seeking a debate. The majority of the Knesset supported him and, by mutual agreement, the matter was referred to committee.

The clash between the Prime Minister and the Herut deputy Ben Eliezer developed when the former challenged Ben Eliezer to waive Parliamentary immunity and stand prosecution for libel. The deputy had read a press extract charging Shimon Peres, now Deputy Defense Minister, with forging documents in the 1954 security mishap case when he was director-general of the Defense Ministry. Before the session was ended. Mr. Ben Eliezer took the floor for a private statement in which he denied libeling Peres and attacked the Prime Minister’s practice of challenging deputies to waive immunity as “demagogic.”

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