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Israel to Mount International Campaign to Ascertain Whereabouts of Poc Iosif Mendelevich

February 17, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Cabinet has decided that Israel will mount a world-wide campaign utilizing public opinion to ascertain the whereabouts of Jewish Prisoner of Conscience Iosif Mendelevich, the last of the 1970 Leningrad hijack trial defendants still incarcerated in the Soviet Union. Israel will also try to secure his release.

Premier Menachem Begin raised the matter at yesterday’s Cabinet session after Mendelevich’s

sister, Rivka Dori, a resident of Gush Etzion, reported him missing from Perm Labor Camp 36 in the Urals where he was held incommunicado for the past year. She recently received word from friends in Moscow that their inquiries about Mendelevich’s condition had elicited a terse telegram from the camp commander stating “The prisoner you inquired about is no longer in this camp.”

Mendelevich had been on a hunger strike since last November to protest his continued detention and mistreatment. He was denied visitors and mail. His sister fears he may be seriously ill and transferred to a hospital or may have died. His apparent disappearance came up at the 19th annual convention of the Israel Communist Party, attended by a delegation from the Soviet Union, which closed in Haifa Saturday night.

The Israeli organizers of the convention refused to accept a letter from Ilana Friedman, sister of imprisoned Ida Nudel, asking Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev to free her. But one of the Soviet delegates, Prof. Genricas Osherovitz, a member of the Lithuanian Communist Party Central Committee, accepted the letter. He said he knew nothing of either Nudel or Mendelevich.

The Communist Party gathering was devoted almost entirely to denunciations of Israel and its policies. The only delegate to voice even mild criticism of a country other than Israel was Ryszard Wojna of Poland who referred to the “justified protest of the (Polish) working class against the distortion of Leninist norms in the (Polish Communist) Party and the errors of the former (Polish) administration who are responsible for the mistakes and distortions.”

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