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Widespread Demonstrations in Israel Protesting Leningrad Trial and New Trials

December 22, 1970
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Israel was still seething with protest today over the Leningrad trial and new trials of Jews expected to start soon in the Soviet Union. Demonstrations were held on university campuses in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. The trial and repression of Soviet Jews continued to be denounced by national leaders. The Ministry of Education ordered all principals and headmasters to devote one hour tomorrow to explaining to pupils the significance of events in the Soviet Union and supplied a recommended reading list. Wrath against the Soviets erupted into a shouting match in the Knesset today when members of the Labor Alignment, the independent Liberals and other factions exchanged insults and abuse with Meir Wilner of the pro-Moscow “Rakach” Communist faction. The contretemps started when Wilner took exception to a remark by Labor Party MK, Abraham Silberberg, that Russians, not Nazis, had killed members of his family during World War II. Wilner shouted that the Russians had saved millions of Jews. The Negev branch of Siah, Israel’s New Left party, assailed the Leningrad trial as a denial of the national rights of Russia’s Jews and a contradiction of Socialist principles.

The demonstrations throughout the country were peaceful. Several thousand Hebrew University students suspended classes for two hours to march on the Knesset carrying 37 torches, symbolizing 37 Russian Jews reportedly imprisoned for their “Zionist beliefs.” (The number of Jews on trial or imprisoned in Russia has been put at anywhere from 30-40 by various sources.) The students were received by Minister of Agriculture Nathan Peled who said, “Not only these 37 but the entire Jewish people are in the dock.” Students at the Haifa Technion held a campus rally after re-naming their Student House the “Leningrad Prisoners’ House.” They were addressed by Haim Landau, of the Herut Party and Dov Sperling, a Jewish emigre from Russia. Demonstrators at the religious-oriented Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan painted a swastika on a Soviet flag and burned it. Students at the Orde Wingate Physical Training Institute at Nathanya sent a petition to Moscow via the Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv which handles Soviet affairs in Israel. Prof. Kalman J. Mann, director general of the Hadassah Medical Organization cabled the Soviet Academy of Sciences to press for the immediate release of Jewish prisoners so that they could re-unite with their families in Israel. The Israeli Nurses Association and the Organization of Anti-Nazi fighters sent cables to the International Federation of Nurses and United Nations Secretary General U Thant respectively, urging their intervention on behalf of Jewish prisoners in the USSR.

A delegation of Israeli Druze visited hunger strikers at the Wailing Wall today to express their solidarity with the Jews in Russia. Premier Golda Meir addressed the fasters last night. She predicted that “the tears of sorrow will one day become tears of joy when Soviet Jews will be allowed to join us in our country.” Louis Pincus, chairman of the Jewish Agency, led a delegation of Agency executive members to the Wailing Wall. He said the suffering of Soviet Jews was a “foremost concern of the Zionist movement.” The Young Judea of the United States and the Israeli Scout Movement, holding a joint convention here, adopted a resolution of solidarity with Soviet Jews after hearing an address by Mrs. Meir. While the situation in Russia was uppermost in the Premier’s mind, she reserved some scathing remarks for young Jews who joined the New Left, and according to her, sought to repudiate their Jewish nationality. Israelis were further angered yesterday by allegations that the families of the accused Jews in Leningrad were being persecuted by Soviet authorities. Shmuel Zalmanson, of Riga, father of three of the Leningrad defendants, made the accusation in a telephone call to his brother in Tel Aviv. He said no relatives of the accused were allowed to enter the court and that Soviet authorities were demonstrating “a cruel attitude toward them.” The Israeli Chamber of Advocates sent a letter to the chief Soviet prosecutor R. Rudenko last week asking permission to send two Israeli lawyers to the trial as observers. They have received no reply.

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