NEW YORK (Jul. 22)
Three leading American Jewish organizations today charged the Soviet Government with “shocking distortions” about anti-Semitism in the United States, in an effort to divert world attention from the Soviet’s official policy of prejudice and discrimination against its three million Jewish citizens.
The charge was made in an open letter to Izvestia, official organ of the Soviet Government. The letter was signed by A.M. Sonnabend, president of the American Jewish Committee, Dr. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, and Label Katz, president of B’nai B’rith.
The three leaders asserted that anti-Semitism in the U.S. today, “is at its lowest level in American history.” This fact, they said, is in direct conflict with an article in Izvestia, of May 19, which had “outrageously distorted the facts” in saying that “anti-Semitism has assumed a truly colossal scope in America,” and that “Jews in the U.S. suffer incredible humiliation, discrimination and anti-Semitism.”
The three organizations, whose common purpose is to combat anti-Semitism in the United States and throughout the world, did not deny that “anti-Semitism is present in America and that there are tragic imperfections in the relations between different groups in our country.” They said, however, that “through information and education, community action, public opinion, and with the help of law and government, we are working for the improvement of our society.” The letter added:
“We have the right freely to criticize and combat imperfections, to make demands of our leaders and government, to change institutions and the climate of opinion. Through our actions, and those of many other civil rights groups throughout the land, we have helped to bring about profound changes in practices and attitudes.”
U.S. JEWISH LEADERS CITE ANTI-JEWISH DISCRIMINATIONS IN RUSSIA
In contrast to the situation in the United States, the three organizations said that “Soviet Jews are deprived by official policy of religious and cultural rights which all other ethnic groups in the country have” and “Jews are the victims of discrimination in universities and in basic sectors of employment.”
The three leaders urged that Soviet officials admit “the existence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union” rather than contenting themselves with “ritualistic assertions that the Soviet constitution and Soviet law prohibit anti-Semitism and discrimination.” They added: “The same Soviet constitution and the same laws were in effect when Stalin’s ‘doctors’ plot’ was fabricated, as Pravda itself admitted, to ‘inflame feeling of national enmity’ and, according to Izvestia, to instigate ‘racial hatred.'”
Citing anti-Jewish propaganda in the Soviet press, the letter asserted: “For years the Soviet press has conveyed to its readers a viciously negative image of the Jews, drawn in all the traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes. In the last two years, the ominous impact of this press campaign has been sharpened, and the acute humiliation and alienation of the Jews aggravated, by a systematic campaign against economic crimes, for which the Jews have been used as the scapegoat.
“Employing the major public instruments of propaganda, pressure, and law, this campaign has singularly victimized the Jews and drawn public attention to their Jewishness,” the letter stressed. “Though they constitute little more than 1 per cent of the country’s total population, the government has made the Jews primarily accountable for economic crimes — 60 per cent of those executed for economic crimes have been Jews. The significance of this entire policy pattern is not lost on the Soviet people.”
CONTRAST RESTRICTIONS IN RUSSIA WITH FREEDOM OF U.S. JEWS
In a point-by-point refutation of the charges made by Izvestia about anti-Semitism in America, the organizations pointed to numerous “gross errors and distortions.” They said that “the person described in Izvestia as a high-ranking Pentagon official” who belonged to George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi party, was merely a “minor civilian employee of the U.S. Army Map Service. Because of his membership in Rockwell’s organization he was dismissed from his position.”
“If any government has connived with American Nazis, it was a Soviet official. Valentin M. Ivanov, a former first secretary of the Soviet Embassy who was expelled from the U.S. in 1960, had many secret rendezvous with Roger C. Foss, one of Rockwell’s supporters, trying to induce him — with cash gifts amounting to $500 — to get a U.S. government job from which he could report to the Russians.”
Contrasting the restrictions on Soviet Jews with the freedom of American Jews “to participate in those Jewish associations which express their own concept of Jewish identity,” the letter said: “In America, Jews can be identified with the Jewish group or not, as they choose. Their choices are many. They can be religious or secular. They can belong to religious institutions of their choice — Orthodox, Conservative or Reform congregations — or to non-synagogal Jewish community centers and to Hebrew cultural groups. They can choose from hundreds of Jewish newspapers and journals, and books of Jewish interest in English, Hebrew or Yiddish. They can elect to give their children a secular education or a religious one.”
The letter expressed the hope that the Soviet Government “will extend to its Jewish citizens the same human, religious and cultural rights that other Soviet citizens have.”