JERUSALEM (Jul. 13)
Mapam Secretary General Victor Shemtov challenged the government today to prosecute Mapam for allegedly spreading anti-war propaganda among Israeli troops at the front in Lebanon. He was referring to a leaflet displayed by Premier Menachem Begin at last Sunday’s Cabinet meeting which outraged the ministers by declaring that it was impossible to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization by military means.
The leaflet bore the imprint of Mapam. Begin likened it to the propaganda the Bolsheviks spread among Russian troops in 1917 in order to demoralize the Czarist armies fighting the Germans. The Cabinet demanded an investigation by the Attorney General aimed at bringing criminal charges against Mapam, a partner in the opposition Labor Alignment.
Shemtov declared today that Mapam welcomed prosecution because it would “prove to the nation” the “stupidily and malevolence” of the Likud government. He said the leaflet in question was an internal document stating Mapam’s public position against the war in Lebanon.
It was not “disseminated among the troops,” Shemtov said. It was sent to party branches and kibbutzim for the guidance of party activists and copies that found their way to the front lines were brought there, just as any other material, by soldiers returning from leave, he said. There was no intention by Mapam to propagandize the army, he added.
He noted further that the positions stated in the leaflet have been aired in dozens of media articles which had far wider circulation among troops at the front. The leaflet claimed what many critics at home and abroad have been saying of Israel’s action in Lebanon: That its purpose was not simply to secure a terrorist-free zone in south Lebanon but to destroy the PLO by military means and establish a government in Lebanon subservient to Israel.
Begin, meanwhile, backed away from a suggestion by former Mapam MK Dov Zakin that he initiate legal action against Mapam himself since he was so outraged by the leaflet. In a letter to Zakin, made public today, Begin said it was up to the legal authorities, not the Prime Minister, to take action in cases of this kind.