Sharp differences of opinion have developed in Israel over the tactics of harassment and violence employed by Jewish militants against Soviet personnel and property in the United States and other countries. Such tactics were condemned by the Cabinet today in an unprecedented resolution declaring that the government “vigorously opposes acts of terror” in the struggle for the rights of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel. Immediately after the resolution was made public it was angrily denounced by militant nationalist circles here. The circles told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the government had no reason to adopt the resolution because it had not been asked to comment. They claimed that for years the New Left had “perpetrated atrocities throughout the world but no government has gotten excited about it,” The tactics of Jewish militants abroad, notably the Jewish Defense League in New York and other American cities, have been severely criticized by most Israeli newspapers. But judging from casual conversations with ordinary Israelis, it is by no means certain that such opinions are shared by a majority of the population, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent reported.
Eight former Soviet Jews living in Israel sent cables to American Jewish leaders denouncing their condemnation of the JDL and denying that the JDL’s acts endangered Soviet Jews. The cables, addressed to Dr. William A Wexler, president of B’nai B’rith and Rabbi Herschel Schacter, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, said they were convinced that the JDL’s “policy and activities are most effective.” The group also attacked Israeli authorities for alleged softness in fighting the Soviet Union on the issue of Jewish rights. Their cables said, “The Soviet government should be brought to understand that the liberation of Soviet Jews is preferable to endless international complications.” One of the signatories, Dov Sperling, claimed that the recent cancellation of the Bolshoi Ballet’s scheduled American tour was forced by the JDL and hailed it as the first public surrender by Soviet authorities to Jewish pressure. The wording of the cables implied that the signers believed that further straining of relations between Washington and Moscow would convince the Kremlin that it would be more expedient to let Soviet Jews emigrate than to allow relations with the U.S. to deteriorate, The Cabinet resolution did not single out the JDL by name but the target of its attack was clear. The resolution specifically mentioned acts of violence against Soviet establishments in the U.S. and Australia where JDL followers have been active.
The resolution marked the first instance in which the Israel government officially denounced acts of violence on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Foreign Minister. Abba Eban dissociated himself obliquely from such acts in a statement last week. The chief spokesman for militant nationalism in Israel, Herut leader Menachem Beigin, tonight declared support of acts of harassment against Soviet diplomatic establishments abroad, although he stopped short of endorsing violence. In a speech prepared for delivery at Tel Aviv University, Beigin urged Jewish youth all over the world to “demonstrate endlessly” outside Soviet Embassies for the right of Russian Jews to go to Israel. Beigin observed that Communists, acting under orders from Moscow, have organized demonstrations outside of various embassies. “It is only an act of historic justice if, for the right of Jews to return to the land of Israel, constant demonstrations are held outside the embassy of the Communist country which prevents the exercise of this right,” Beigin said. The Cabinet also passed a resolution today saying it “welcomes the awakening among the Jewish people in the diaspora, particularly the youth, and its solidarity with the struggle of the Jews of the Soviet Union” as well as the actions of governments and other influential bodies “to call for the rights of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel. The government considers it essential that this public political action be continued and intensified.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.