JERUSALEM (Dec. 1)
Premier Menachem Begin today banned a political gathering of Israeli Arabs that was to be held in Nazareth next Saturday. Acting on his authority as Defense Minister, Begin maintained that the purpose of the planned meeting, known as the “Arab Congress”, was to identify with the Palestine Liberation Organization which is an illegal body under Israeli law.
The organizers of the Congress flatly denied the charge and said today that they would consider “all legal means” to fight the ban. This could include an appeal to the Supreme Court and regional gatherings in all Arab centers in Israel. Begin acted under the emergency regulations dating from the British Mandate which are still applicable under Israeli law.
Reactions in the political community were mixed. Right-wingers welcomed the ban while leftisty expressed fears that it would only harden Arab hostility and further damage Israel’s relations with its Arab population. The “Arab Congress” was widely viewed as a tool of the Communist Party which was heavily represented among its organizers. Some Knesset moderates agreed with the view in government circles that the Congress was undesirable. But they opposed a legal ban, suggesting instead that the authorities quietly persuade moderate Arabs to boycott the event. As a purely Communist gathering it would lose much of its influence, they said, where as or ban it would only create hostility in Israel’s Arab circles.