Riots Mark Knesset Debate on Proposal for German Negotiations
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Riots Mark Knesset Debate on Proposal for German Negotiations

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Dozens of civilians and police were injured here today as policemen used clubs, high pressure streams of water, tear gas and fire barricades in fighting off several thousand demonstrators who attempted to penetrate the police lines and barricades around the Parliament building to protest the government’s proposal for direct negotiations with Germany on reparations. The demonstrators massed outside Parliament in response to a country-wide call issued by the rightist Herut Party.

The Knesset session itself broke up shortly after Premier David Ben Gurion, in a half-hour address, insisted that Israel is entitled to inherit the property of ruined and destroyed Jewish communities and heirless Jews who were murdered and despoiled by the Nazis. While the thousands of demonstrators jeered outside and hurled stones through the windows of Parliament, injuring some of the deputies, a terrific uproar broke out when Herut leader Menahem Beigin called the Premier a “hooligan.” The Speaker of the House, Joseph Serlin, called upon Beigin to retract his remark, but the latter refused. As deputies from both sides of the House rose to menace each other and fist fights appeared certain, Speaker Serlin hastily adjourned the session.

In a day of rioting reminiscent of the final days of the Mandatory Administration, the demonstrators attacked the police lines around the Parliament from three directions. Before the Parliamentary session was adjourned the attackers had penetrated two of the three main lines of defense of the police who were fully armed and in battle dress, although their instructions in the morning had been not to use force except in the event of a serious emergency.


The first advance was met by appeals from the police to disperse. When these were jeered and the demonstrators pressed onward, a fire brigade turned high pressure hoses on them. This had little effect, whereupon the police hurled tear gas bombs and swung clubs. A number of the gas bombs were picked up by demonstrators who threw them back at the police and, in some instances, into Parliament where several deputies were discomfitted.

At one time several deputies were receiving first aid for cuts and bruises caused by flying stones and glass splinters. The first aid room was also filled with police suffering from the effects of the tear gas turned on them by the demonstrators. Outside, the wails of ambulances and the cries of the injured filled the air, giving the scene a battlefield atmosphere which made its impression on the deputies inside the building, many of whom left their seats during the debate to watch the fight.

Only a fire barricade seemed effective in halting the advance of the pressing crowd. When barricades of men and barbed wire proved useless, the police poured kerosene on the grounds and roads surrounding the Knesset and ignited it. From afar it seemed that the building itself was ablaze.

Although the fire barrier managed to half the crowd, it remained massed and menacing and showed no signs of dispersing. Some of the demonstrators went to the roofs of nearby buildings and hurled torches down on police and government vehicles.


Premier Ben Gurion, in his address before Parliament, reviewed the steps already taken by the Israel Government in connection with securing compensation from Germany for. Nazi-looted Jewish property. He emphasized that experts–after careful and efficient investigation–had established that the property was worth at least $6,000,000,000.

The Premier recalled that the Israel Government had addressed a letter on January 16 of last year to the Big Four Powers regarding the restitution of Jewish property belonging to private persons. The letter, he said, emphasized that restitution to individuals does not free Germany from the ### the entire Jewish people.

On March 12, Mr. Ben Gurion continued, Israel ### a letter to the same powers with regard to German restitution, asking for $1,500,000,000 “which is only a small part of the value of the looted Jewish belongings.” This letter pointed out that Israel is clearly entitled to receive from Germany the minimum of restitution which it demands.

“The demand for restitution.” Mr. Ben Gurion told Parliament, “rests on two bases: Firstly, Israel is entitled to inherit the property of the ruined and annihilated Jewish communities as well as heirless Jewish property; secondly, Israel took it upon itself to bring to Israel and to absorb the remnants of the Nazi extermination.” He reported that the United States, Britain and France had recognized Israel’s right to restitution in their replies to Israel, but that the U.S.S.R. had not replied to the Israeli note. He added that world-wide public pressure had forced the West German Government to announce its readiness to pay restitution, an announcement which, the Premier underlined, had recently been confirmed by Bonn Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in an official letter.


Rabbis in numerous synagogues today preached against giving encouragement to the government to begin negotiations with Germany, while a mass service against such negotiations was held at Mt. Zion in the “Cave of the Exterminated.” Rabbi Judah L. Maimon, former Minister for Religious Affairs, published an article today in a Tel Aviv newspaper strongly opposing any negotiations with Germany.

The evening paper Maariv today announced the results of a “Gallup poll” on the issue. About 80 percent of the more than 10,000 persons who participated in the poll expressed opposition to direct negotiations with Germany. Most of the morning papers published articles calling upon the members of Parliament to cast their votes not along party lines but according to their personal feelings.

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