Peres’ Speech Interrupted by Angry Hecklers Who Call for the Pardon of Accused Jewish Underground Me
Menu JTA Search

Peres’ Speech Interrupted by Angry Hecklers Who Call for the Pardon of Accused Jewish Underground Me

Download PDF for this date

Israeli Premier Shimon Peres, addressing an audience of 1,400 people last night in Hunter College several hours before his scheduled departure for Israel, had his speech twice interrupted by hecklers calling for the pardon of the accused Jewish terrorists now on trial in Israel.

Shortly after his appearance, a nearby anti-Israel demonstration by an estimated 1,000 Hasidim turned violent, leaving one woman injured with head wounds. She was taken to a hospital.

A city police inspector on the scene said that between 40 and 50 police were called to quell the melee which erupted as the audience, composed largely of Jewish college students, filed out of the Hunter College auditorium and was confronted by Hasidim, some of whom were shouting “murderous Nazis,” “Zionism is for Nazis” and exchanged taunts with some of the audience which had just heard Peres speak of the new government’s desire to introduce “a new style” to Israel, one where Jews would learn to “argue, but don’t hate” and to “debate, but don’t divide.”


A man who police later said identified himself as Nissim Ganar picked up a large metal garbage basket and hurled it at a crowd of Hasidim involved in the “Nazi” shouting. The heavy basket struck a 22-year-old New Jersey woman. She was taken to a hospital by ambulance. Police said she received several stitches. Ganar, 27, was arrested and charged with felonious assault.

A man who identified himself to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as Rabbi Meyer Weberman, and who said he represented the Central Rabbinical Congress, the organization of Satmar Hasidim, said at the scene that the demonstration was organized by the Congress to protest the “horrible desecration” of “the ancient burial sites” in Tiberias “for mercenary reasons.”

He asserted that owners of a hotel there uprooted and then “dumped into the ocean” graves from an adjoining ancient Jewish cemetery while clearing the site for construction. Many of the vehicles which brought the demonstrators to the college bore signs such as “All civilized countries respect the sanctity of cemeteries.” Weberman said the demonstration drew people from all the area’s branches of Hasidim.


Inside the college earlier, Peres had spoken for about five minutes at the forum, sponsored by a coalition of national Jewish student groups, when two young men seated in the auditorium arose and shouted in Hebrew for Peres to release the Jewish underground members from prison. The stunned Peres and audience were stony silent for several minutes as the pair waved a banner and raised their fists in the air as they shouted.

After the two were finally guided out, the silence was broken by a third man, dressed in a suit and wearing a yarmulka, only five rows from the Premier, as he stood up and shouted at Peres.

Peres said drolly over the din from the hecklers, “Well, you make me feel at home.” The audience’s hand-clapping and shouts of “out, out, out,” thundered through the auditorium as the third man was led out.

Before Peres could finish his next sentence, a fourth man stood up and shouted, “Free the underground.” He was quickly and roughly hustled out by a group of audience members. Peres then continued with his address, uninterrupted.


Peres reported that he received “an exceedingly friendly reception” from Administration officials and the American people during his visit to Washington and New York. “Israel enjoys a unique position in the feelings and thinking of the American people,” he said just prior to the disruption.

“As an Israeli, I was deeply moved. “He pointed to overwhelming Congressional ? of the U.S. Israeli Free Trade Area, saying in the light-hearted way which marked his address, “I wish we had such a majority in our own parliament.” The Senate approved the measure 96-0 and the House approved it by 436-6.

He reiterated many of the points he had made earlier in the week about Israel’s economic problems. “I didn’t come as a beggar and I didn’t come for cash,” Peres declared. “I came to say that we’ll do whatever we need to do at home.” He spoke of the “new country” and the “new economy” which he said he and his new unity Cabinet hoped to build with the help of the American government and American Jewry.


The Premier referred on several occasions to political divisions in Israel, to a parliament with 16 different parties. “We are divided on every possible issue,” he said, but when it comes to the United States, “we are all united.” He called Israel “the only country, despite all the American help, that remains pro-American.”

He also pointed out that “We are so sharp in our arguments and so traditional in our pluralism.” He said that in spite of the differences there are areas of agreement, such as the desire to rehabilitate the economy, and to insure the security of Galilee while “bringing our boys back from Lebanon.”

Referring to the Jewish underground, Peres said that a pardon “will not be given under pressure or because of pressure.” He added: “Ministers will not become judges and judges will not become ministers.”

Peres asked for a commitment for increased aliya. “I can’t offer you a five-day week. I can offer you a real need,” he said. Israel, he noted, cannot offer to make immigrants richer but it can offer a “rich life.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund