JERUSALEM (Oct. 17)
The Knesset was virtually unanimous today in denouncing the severe sentence imposed last Friday on Soviet Jewish activist losif Begun and the persecution of the Hebrew language and of Soviet Jews wishing to come to Israel. Begun was sentenced to seven years imprisonment to be followed by five years of internal exile. He had been charged with “anti-Soviet” activities.
Only two Knesset members, Meir Wilner and Charlie Biton of the Hadash (Communist) Party, refused to join the protest and repeatedly interrupted the proceedings. Biton termed the attack on the Soviet Union a “circus.”
Knesset Speaker Menachem Savidor said the Soviet authorities could not be compared to the Nazis, but in the Soviet Union only one language — Hebrew — is officially banned. He said the Nazis had bumed Jews in the ovens, while the Russians sought to “burn the spirit.”
Uzzi Baram, chairman of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee, said the Soviets sought to sever the link between Russian Jewry and Israel — the Hebrew language. He spoke scathingly of the Knesset Communists, saying it was a pity they were not like the Communists in Italy and France, who sometimes took an independent line and criticized Kremlin policies.