Israel Attacks the Soviet Union in U.N. on Mistreatment of Jews
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Israel Attacks the Soviet Union in U.N. on Mistreatment of Jews

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Israel delivered today a full-scale attack here against the USSR’s mistreatment of Soviet Jewry. Speaking only of “a certain country,” Dr. Eliezer Yapou, Israel delegate, summarized all of the Soviet anti-Jewish actions of recent years so thoroughly that the blast was aimed unmistakably against the Soviet Government–without once mentioning the target country by name.

The fact that the Soviet Union was the country meant by Israel was underscored through an immediate reply to the Israel address from a USSR representative who told the United Nations in effect that the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union is none of Israel’s business.

The sharp criticism against the Soviet Union was voiced by Dr. Yapou in one of the General Assembly’s major bodies, the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, Protesting against a proposal to postpone the previously scheduled 1964 session of the Commission on Human Rights to 1965, and against the delays in debating a United Nations declaration on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance, the Israeli representative told the committee:

“This matter is closely connected with a very painful problem, one to which I have already had opportunity to call the attention of the Committee, relating to the position and condition of the Jewish community in one of the great countries of the world. From the constitutional angle, that country guarantees the freedom of worship.

“Within the limits of existing policies, the major religions with one exception are permitted to maintain central organs ensuring religious functions and services and promoting religious belief and practice. The exception is the Jewish faith for which no such rights are accorded. In the absence of such legally authorized instrumentalities, members of the Jewish faith are excluded from the possibility of maintaining normal mutual contact, of serving the religious needs of believers, and of working for spiritual continuity. While the other major religions are authorized to convene conferences of their clergy and representatives of the faithful, to issue religious publications and print Holy Scriptures, no such facilities exist for those of the Jewish community.

“The last Bible in Hebrew to be printed in that country dates back to 1917. In a period of more than 40 years, there has been but a single edition, virtually nominal in character, of the Hebrew Book of Prayer for a Jewish population numbering several millions. Government publishing houses have made no facilities available to the Jewish faith similar to those extended to other religions. Unlike other faiths, Jews are not authorized to produce the articles of religious significance to them.

“Even the baking of the traditional unleavened bread for the Passover–matzoh–is virtually prohibited. Jewish religious education is practically non-existent. Finally, no group of Jewish religious scholars from that country has ever been permitted to visit institutions of fellow co-religionists or to advance their studies at centers of higher Jewish religious learning abroad. Reference has already been made to the extraordinary harshness in this day and age of inflicting the death penalty for economic crimes. But it is, above all, Jews who are singled out for this savage punishment.”


Dr. Yapou’s mention of the death sentence in the USSR for persons convicted of economic crimes referred to a previous address, delivered to the committee by Mrs. Margaret Konantz, Canada’s representative in the group. Mrs. Konantz, a member of the Canadian Government, told the committee: “With considerable dismay, we hear of the death penalty being applied in certain countries for economic crimes. Such practices to us are more reminiscent of the feudal period of history than of the world in which we live and of the world that we are planning for tomorrow.”

Dr. Yapou assured the committee that Israel was speaking on the treatment of Soviet Jewry “in sorrow” and not in malice. “In speaking about this situation,” he declared, “my delegation does not seek to criticize the social system of general policies of the country concerned; but we felt bound to express our deep anxiety for a certain specific problem of human rights. In this spirit my delegation would express the earnest hope that the authorities concerned would give fresh thought to the matter.”

Dr. Yapou also called the committee’s attention to a study completed by a sub-commission here on the right of everyone to leave his own country and return thereto. That report was also aimed, in part, against the Soviet Union for refusing to permit the emigration of Jews. Before coming to the criticism against the Soviet Union, Dr. Yapou summarized briefly the social progress achieved in Israel through “modern public services in the fields of education, health, housing and social welfare.” In the educational field, he said, Israel was now facing “a great challenge.”

Replying to Dr. Yapou, Soviet delegate Y.A. Ostroysky told the committee that the problem spelled out by the Israeli “does not exist.” Statements alluding to the “so-called Jewish problem,” he declared, are “becoming tiresome” and exist only “in the mind of the delegate of Israel, who is becoming the defender of Jews in other countries when he should concern himself with Jews in his own country–and not only Jews there.”

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