JERUSALEM (Dec. 27)
The Knesset Presidium will discuss next week an unprecedented act by a member of Knesset. Charlie Biton, the Knesset representative of the pro-Moscow Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (the coalition of Rakah and former Black Panther members) handcuffed himself to the Knesset rostrum microphones during a debate on Prisoners of Zion in the Soviet Union. Biton demanded that the Knesset drop this subject from the agenda and discuss the conditions of prisoners in Israel instead. His parliamentary secretary is in jail pending a murder trial.
Biton was granted time to speak on his request to strike off the agenda a motion calling on the Knesset to express solidarity with Soviet prisoner Ida Nudel. Instead of presenting a short statement, as is usually done in such instances, Biton began to read a long speech criticizing the support given to Soviet Jewish prisoners and denouncing Silva Zalmanson as a “terrorist” for having participated in the attempt to hijack a Soviet plane in 1970. He said the government was neglecting the “real prisoners of Zion, who sit in Ramla and Ramallah, Beersheba and Nablus.”
When the chairman of the session called Biton to order, the legislator pulled out large handcuffs from his pocket and chained himself to the microphone. The Knesset was thrown into an uproar with several Knesseters trying to unchain Biton. Unable to do so, a gardener was rushed to the chamber who used shears to cut the handcuffs.
Biton, 31, was one of the founders of the Israeli Black Panthers group in the early 1970s and became widely known when he led anti-government demonstrations demanding social equality for Sephardic Jews. He served several short periods in Israeli prisons, during his youth, on burglary charges and later in connection with the Black Panther demonstrations. During his speech in the Knesset, Biton referred to what he termed the mistreatment he was subjected to while in prison.