Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Recalling Dov Sperling

Here is Yaakov/Yasha Kedmi/Kazakov at the memorial event for Dov/Boris Sperling at the Jabotinsky Institute I attended last night:

Dov immigrated to Israel in January 1969, having been imprisoned earlier

Here he is (1st on left front row) in 1960 in a prison camp

Seated from the left:Jora Nutsuev, Meir Draznin (Kiev), Iosif Shnider (Riga), 
Davod Havkin co (Moscow). Standing: Haim Kaufman-Koristen, 
Anatoli Rubin (Minsk), Dov Sperling (Riga), 1960

hooked up with Yasha and became one of the most high-profile and charismatic of the new generation of activists and quite outspoken.

(Left to Right: David Khavkin, Yosef Shneider and Dov Sperling, Riga, 1964)

On October 19, 1969 he and Lea and Boris Slovin and Kedmi met with with Prime Minister Golda Meir and realized that salvation would not come from the Israel government to the extent and form they desired and knew was required, especially after have discussed matters with the chief of Nativ Shaul Avigur in August. (source)

Eventually, they both went to the States* where I met them as an activist in Betar and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry ("Others such as Lenore Wolfson, Yisrael Winkelman (now Medad), and Beth Spiegelman [my wife] were outstanding.").

During Yasha's hunger strike, Yasha used my sleeping bag and twice I slept over in the mobile van at nights to keep him company and to make sure no harm would come to him.  Of that strike, we read this:

A friend of Yasha Kazakov accused the Israel government today of short circuiting the struggle by the 23-year-old Russian emigre to secure emigration rights for his family in Moscow. Boris Sperling claimed that the government did not wholeheartedly support young Kazakov’s eight-day hunger strike in front of United Nations headquarters in New York and actually “short circuited” it by calling on him to end his fast. Mr. Sperling, speaking at the Commercial and Industrial Club here, hinted at possible sympathy strikes in Israel. As long as the government fails to carry on the struggle in the way “we understand it should be conducted, we will abstain from our normal work and carry on the struggle openly, shouting aloud what we have to tell the world,” he said.

Later, Dov tried to enter Likud politics but did not succeed or rather was basically prevented from succeeding and eventually became a Jewish Agency representative in Vienna.

Although close for a brief period of a decade or more, I lost contact with Dov.

He was handsome, energetic, impassioned, brilliant and a good person.

Silva Zalmanson and Elie Valk, Chairman of the Association of Latvian & Estonian Jews in Israel, and family members also spoke.

His passing hurts.

Let’s return to 1969 when you and Dov Shperling planned to travel to the States.

We met many people. At a meeting with a group of officers I made the acquaintance of Arik Sharon and later Yitzhak Shamir—I was in his home, a small two-room apartment on the second floor. Geula Cohen once introduced us to an American named Bernie Deutsch. We told him the same story that we told everyone else. It made such an impression on him that he was eager to familiarize American Jews with this information. He began to plan a trip in conjunction with Jewish organizations in the States. He informed Nehemia about it and turned to Begin, the head of the right-wing opposition. At Levanon’s request, Begin tried to talk us out of the trip.

Ultimately Begin said that he did not have the right to forbid us. People had escaped from behind the Iron Curtain and how could he say “no” to them. Acting on instructions from Tzvi Netzer, who headed “Bar”[7], Yoram Dinshtein, the Bureau’s representative in the U.S., contacted all the Jewish and non-Jewish organizations with which meetings had been arranged. In the name of the Israeli government he asked them not to meet with us because one of us was most likely a spy and the other a provocateur or the other way around. Almost all the Jewish organizations listened to him but the non-Jewish ones did not. I recall that we gave an interview to the Christian Science Monitor. The journalist said, “I don’t understand how the Israeli embassy could say such things about you.”

This Maariv story on March 2, 1970 is headlined: "Are Kazakov and Sperling suspect Soviet agents?"

You were aware of it at the time?

He told us after the interview that they had called him from the embassy and told him all kinds of things. “How could they say that? Your words are the most deserving of publicity.”

After our return Shperling wrote a good article in Maariv about how they hindered us and why. I wanted to sue them.

Here is Yona Yahav (now Mayor of Haifa and then recently elected WUJS head) announcing in Maariv on July 6, 1970 that Yigal Allon was lying in the Knesset when he claimed as Foreign Minister that no pressure was brought to bear against the students active for Soviet Jewry, specifically including Sperling and Kazakov):

The Bureau?

The head of “Bar” in Israel and his representative in the States. But Geula Cohen dissuaded me. When we returned my parents were already refuseniks. After Shulamit Aloni’s speech in the Knesset and others’ remarks, the censorship in Israel was a little more accommodating. Then Geula said, “Let me interview you.” I agreed.

Until then journalists were unable to interview you?

They couldn’t publish it. Geula interviewed me at length and sent it to the censorship. The censor left about twenty percent. “This will anger the Soviet Union and aggravate relations.” Moreover, the censor demanded that it appear as if the interview had not been conducted in Israel and that my name not be mentioned. Geula did not agree with this decision and decided to create a scandal. After some struggle, they permitted almost the entire lengthy interview. It was published in two Friday editions, creating a strong impression in Israel. It included everything that I am telling you now and also information about the situation in Russia. Bernie Deutsch, who had arranged our trip to the U.S., then translated the article into English and disseminated it there.

and I recall Abe Bayer blocking an entrance to prevent Yasha speaking, which was unsuccessful.

1 comment:

Uri Schneider said...

Thank you for this post - very interesting! Dov Sperling was indeed one of the most important Jewish Zionist activists from the former USSR!

Uri Schneider (son of Prisoner of Zion and Dov's friend - Joseph Schneider Z"L)