JERUSALEM (Jan. 21)
Israel official sources angrily rejected today the charges voiced in the Moscow newspaper “Trud” that Israeli diplomats in the Soviet Union had engaged in “espionage” and are helpful in activities for the American Central Intelligence Agency.
Terming these allegations as “fabrications,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman here said that they constitute “gross contraventions of international practice.” The allegations were termed “ridiculous and absolutely unfounded” by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in a statement made in Tokyo, Japan, where she is now on an unofficial visit.
The charges in “Trud” provoked excited articles against the Soviet Union in the entire Israeli press. The Soviet newspaper had said that Israeli diplomats in Moscow are using synagogues to spread Zionist literature and to collect espionage information. It mentioned Joshua Pratt, the first secretary of the Israeli embassy in Moscow, as a person who had been in contact with the three leaders of the Leningrad synagogue who were sentenced recently to long terms of imprisonment for being in contact with representatives of a “foreign power.” The three Leningrad Jewish leaders are Gedalia E. Pechersky, 60; E.S. Dymkin and N.A. Kaganov. Both Mr. Dymkin and Mr. Kaganov are in their late seventies.
ARREST OF RABBI IN VILNA REPORTED BY MOSCOW NEWSPAPER
The article in the Moscow paper said Mr. Pratt had “often passed out anti-Soviet and Zionist literature “to members of synagogues. Similar charges had been made by Soviet newspapers earlier against two Israeli diplomats in Moscow, Yaakov Kelman and Yaakov Sharett, both of whom were ordered to leave the Soviet Union.
“Trud” also alleged that Mr. Pratt headed a “spy ring” that recruited agents among Soviet Jewish citizens, and declared that the activities were carried on not only with the knowledge of the Israel Government but also on orders of the United States Government. According to Trud, there have been ties between the Israeli intelligence service and the Central Intelligence Agency, the organization conducting intelligence work for the U.S. Government.
(In Paris, the press carried a cable from Moscow stating that Trud has also reported the arrest of “the rabbi of Vilna.” The Soviet paper did not name the rabbi, but linked him with “speculators and smugglers” on trial in Lithuania.)
The press in Israel came out today with sharply worded articles against this latest Soviet campaign against Jews in the Soviet Union. Davar, organ of the Histadrut–Israel’s Federation of Labor–said in an editorial: “The deliberate tendency in Russia to portray the synagogue as a center of treason, and worshipers as servants of foreigners, evokes a grim association with Czarist incitement methods. That is a very dangerous road, appealing to prejudice of a most primitive character.” A similar editorial was published also in the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s English daily newspaper. The same sentiment was also expressed in other Israeli newspapers.