Israelis Aim Angry Protest at Visiting Soviet Group
Police arrested protesters who tried to block Soviet diplomats from leaving their hotel today in the angriest anti-Soviet demonstration since the delegates arrived a week ago.
The eight delegates are the highest-ranking Soviet officials to visit Israel since the Kremlin broke ties with Israel 20 years ago. They are here to survey property belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church and to renew passports for Soviet citizens.
As the diplomats emerged from the luxury seaside Hilton Hotel, about 20 activists demanding liberalized emigration for Soviet Jews chained themselves together at the building’s entrance.
Dragged From Car Top
Policemen cut the chains, and a police spokeswoman said two protesters were arrested. One was dragged away after climbing atop a car carrying the chief delegate, Yevgeny Antipov.
The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said one arrested protester was a woman. Israel radio identified the other detainee as Vladimir Magarik, 44, a Soviet immigrant whose son Alexei is in a Soviet prison.
The radio said police planned to post more officers to guard the Soviet team.
The delegates were delayed 10 minutes and then left the hotel accompanied by a police car and van to the Finnish Embassy, which represents Soviet interests in Israel.
The delegation has been interviewing some of the 2,500 Soviet citizens in Israel and renewing their passports. They also have taken applications from several dozen Soviet immigrants who have requested visas to return to the Soviet Union.
Protesters have followed the diplomats almost daily, but none were arrested before today.
“Life for any Soviet delegation will be humiliating as long as Soviet Jews are denied exit visas,” the protesters said in a statement.
Israel contends that 400,000 of the 2.5 million Jews in the Soviet Union wish to emigrate. Soviet officials dispute the figures and say the issue of emigration is an internal problem.
About 260,000 Soviet Jews have been allowed to leave the Soviet Union since 1969. Of these, about 170,000 live in Israel.
Despite the protests, the delegates, who will be here at least three months, generally have been warmly received in Israel.
But some criticism surfaced today on the editorial pages of Israeli newspapers. The English-language Jerusalem Post called on Moscow to let Israeli diplomats make a reciprocal visit to the Soviet Union.
If the Soviets seek to improve ties with Israel, the newspaper wrote, “an official Israeli group will before long have to be allowed in the Soviet Union to handle the consular affairs of Jews wishing to be repatriated to their ancestral homeland.”