Knesset Expresses Regret over Arrests of Religious Leaders in Russia

The Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, expressed regret today over the recent arrest of Jewish religious leaders in the Soviet Union. The only exception was the Communist party which was rebuffed on a motion to remove the subject from the Knesset agenda.

The Knesset similarly approved a proposal by Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, to submit the issue to committee for study and possible action. Menahem Beigin, Herut leader, who had submitted a motion for full Knesset debate on the subject, withdrew his motion.

Mrs. Meir, in discussing the question, said that regardless of differing individual or party attitudes toward the Soviet Union, everyone in Israel wanted friendly relations with Russia. This, she said, has been the policy of every Israel Government since stablishment of the State.

Declaring that Jews in Russia should have opportunities to live unhampered cultural lives like other Soviet minorities, Mrs. Meir said Soviet Jews should be permitted to migrate to Join family members or to take up life in Israel.

She said that reports of the limitation of religious facilities on Soviet Jewry and of a decrease in the number of synagogues in Russia must be regarded with concern. She added it was “proper” for Knesset members to “express what is in your hearts” on learning of the charges against Jewish leaders sentenced and Jailed in secret hearings in Russia in recent weeks.

Mrs. Meir said she was confining her statement to the most suitable method for the Knesset to deal with the issue but added she would not comment on Mr. Beigin’s description of the charges against the jailed Jewish leaders as “mad accusations” and a challenge to “so-called socialist justice” as dispensed in the Soviet Union.

She read aloud a translation from the Leningrad issue of Pravda, the Communist Party organ, of November II which reported the trial of three Leningrad Jewish leaders and their imprisonment and exile for four to 14 years for alleged contact with a “capitalist state” for which they had allegedly provided information used to “harm the Soviet Union.

(The 38th annual convention of Women’s Branch of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America in Atlantic City today sent a telegram to Mrs. Marietta Tree, United States representative on the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, asking for “utmost effort” to end the “discrimination and intimidation of the Jewish minority,” in the Soviet Union and to seek the release of the arrested Jewish religious leaders.)

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