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Eban: Efforts Being Made to Secure Release of Imprisoned Soviet Jews

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Foreign Minister Abba Eban addressed the Knesset today on the trial of nine Jews which opened in Leningrad this morning. Today’s Knesset session was the third in three months to be devoted to the situation of Soviet Jews. But Eban spoke to a half empty chamber. Only the visitors’ gallery was full as he expressed the hope that “enlightened public opinion the world over would again raise its voice today as it has with some success in the past.” Eban assured the House that efforts were being made to mobilize world opinion to secure the release of imprisoned Jews but said he was unable to give details at an open plenary. He recalled that the international outcry at the first Leningrad trial last December helped get the sentences of the accused Jews reduced and was also partly responsible for delaying the opening of the new trials. Another factor, he said was the 24th Communist Party Congress held in Moscow early in April which prompted Soviet authorities to hold off on the trials in order to protect their image. Eban ridiculed charges that the nine Leningrad defendants planned subversive activities with postcards from Israel, Hebrew songs, Hebrew textbooks and the Bible. All they wanted, he said, was their right to emigrate to Israel. He lauded the spirit of Soviet Jews and suggested that the Soviet regime would do well to recognize that a fear campaign directed against Jews would do nothing but accelerate their desire to go to Israel.

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