Cabinet Split over Ban Issued by Begin on Arab Conference
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Cabinet Split over Ban Issued by Begin on Arab Conference

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Premier Menachem Begin’s Cabinet was split over the advisability of banning the Communist-sponsored “Arab Congress”, a political gathering of Israeli Arabs to hove token place in Nazareth next Saturday. Begin ordered the ban yesterday in his capacity as Defense Minister, citing Regulation 84 of the British Mandate which is still applicable under Israeli low.

Ironically, that regulation was often used by the Mandate authorities against Begin’s Iran and its sister underground organization, the Stern group in pre-State hood days. It has been invoked only rarely since the Jewish State was founded.

It was learned today that the two Deputy Premiers, Simcha Ehrlich and Yigael Yadin, opposed the ban as did Interior Minister Yosef Burg and Education Minister Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party. They argued that the views held by the organizers of the Congress were shared by legitimate political parties represented in the Knesset, such as the Communist Party and Sheli and certain elements of the Labor Alignment. They contended that it was’ therefore improper to prevent the some views from being aired by Israeli Arabs.

But Begin was determined to outlaw the gathering. He was supported by a Cabinet majority that included Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, Justice Minister Moshe Nissim and Health Minister Eliezer She-oak. They insisted that the Congress was organized to identify with the Palestine Liberation Organization and thereby create a new political body that would be hostile to the State. Security sources also recommended the ban.


Invoking the Defense Emergency Regulations cutting from 1945, Begin declared the planned Congress illegal because the participants would be identifying with the “organization called PLO.” The PLO is outlawed in Israel. Begin’s decree did not mention the Nazareth gathering specifically. It noted that any gathering based on the June 6 Charter, a manifesto published at summer in the Arab Communist newspaper Al-Letihod, was illegal because the manifesto called for the establishment of a PLO-ruled Palestine state alongside Israel.

Decrees of this kind hove been few and for be tween in the 32 years since Israel was founded Their use to prevent political assemblies was restricted by a Supreme Court ruling that “the freedom of assembly is one of the principles of the democratic system and one of the basic rights of citizens.”

The initial reaction among the Arab population was moderate. The organizers of the Congress are deliberating what steps to take to fight the ban. They are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, however, they intend to launch a local and international campaign in support of the right of Israeli Arabs to freedom of assembly.

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