Menu JTA Search

Soviet Government Attacked at U.N. for Discrimination Against Jews

The Soviet Union was sharply and publicly attacked here today by Israel and by an American Jewish leader for discriminations against and oppression of the Jewish minority in the USSR.

The separate attacks were delivered before the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities by Dr. Joel Barromi, Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative, and by Labet A. Katz, national president of B’nai B’rith. Israel, not a member of the 14-man subcommission, is officially accredited by the group as an observer. Mr. Katz spoke on behalf of the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, composed of B’nai B’rith and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The CBJO holds consultative status as a non-governmental organization entitled to a voice, but no vote, on human rights.

Neither Dr. Barromi nor Mr. Katz mentioned the USSR by name, adhering to the subcommission’s rule against criticisms of any specific government. But, while all members of the group knew that the attacks were aimed at the Soviet Union, that fact was underscored further through protests voiced by the two Communist representatives on the body–Boris S. Ivanov, of the USSR, and Wojceich Ketrzynski, of Poland. In both instances, the Communist protests were supported by the subcommission’s chairman. Hernan Santa Cruz, of Chile.

Both Dr. Barromi and Mr. Katz spoke in the context of the subcommission’s current debate on a proposed UN Convention calling for the elimination of all racial persecutions. A separate agenda item, thus far stalled by Communist bloc pressure, would deal with religious intolerance.

ISRAEL SEEKS LEGAL PROTECTION OF JEWISH CULTURAL RIGHTS

Dr. Barromi expressed the hope that draft dealing with the outlawing of radem would include an article worded as follows: "The spiritual patrimony and the cultural values belonging to a group of persons of a given ethnic origin, are entitled to legal action as such. No discrimination shall be admitted between them and other spiritual patrimonies and cultural values solely because they belong to persons of a given race, color or ethnic origin."

Dr. Barromi told the UN body that Israel was submitting this proposal "because this rather elusive feature–cultural discrimination against an ethnic group–is not a hypothetical danger but a sad reality. We have before our eyes the case of a Jewish community which has been deprived of its fundamental cultural rights. The case of this community has already been forcefully referred to in this debate. As it has been said, schools have been closed, cultural institutions have been shut down, the teaching of the national languages has been prohibited, the study of the historical and philosophical and moral thinking of their ancestors has been discontinued. The once rich cultural life of that Jewish community that was so proud of its newspapers and its theaters, of its literature and of its educational network, has been stilled.

"It may be remarked," the Israeli representative continued, "that many of those cultural manifestations had a religious connotation and belong also to the not less Important topic of religious intolerance. But, as we know, race, national origin, ethnic origin and religion are often closely inter-related. This connection is certainly true in the case of the Jewish people, a human group which evolved from a common racial and ethnic origin, under the powerful influence of a distinctive religion, which became the prime factor in the creation of a strong national identity.

"For this very reason it is not always easy to determine the dynamics and the motivations of discrimination directed against a Jewish community. Sometimes the outward manifestation is apparently religious. But a closer scrutiny reveals the influence of ethnic attitude, while in other cases ethnic discrimination may have an inner religious motivation. The harsh criticism of Jewish religion for instance, may be often accompanied by scornful or sarcastic remarks on the Jews, and especially by the publicity given to the names of Jews accused of economic offenses.

"It is; therefore, distressing that the Government of the country in question, which enjoys a full control of the press, and has at its disposal all the legal recourses required against discrimination, has until now ignored this situation and has not taken steps which could have been expected in order to give effective remedy. It was this state of affairs that prompted the great philosopher Bertrand Russelt to state last April: I am troubled that there should be in your country journals expressing hostility to Jewish people as such.’"

SOVIET DELEGATE STRESSES KHRUSHCHEV’S DENIAL OF ANTI-SEMITISM

In his reply to Dr. Barromi, Mr. Ivanov did not name the Soviet Union specifically, noting that the letter by Prof. Russell had been addressed to the USSR’s Prime Minister, Nikita Khrushchev. Mr. Ivanov read into the record an earlier letter from Mr. Khrushev to Prof. Russell, denying there was any anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.

Just as Mr. Ivanov had protested against Dr. Barromi’s address, Mr. Ketrzynski took the floor after Mr. Katz’s speech, saying that the privileges of the subcommission had been "abused" through criticisms that were "frequently without factual back-ground."

In his address to the UN Subcommission, Mr. Katz recalled that, last week, Mr. Ivanov had delivered "a passionate plea" for outlawing racism. "Yet there are states, as everyone knows," said Mr. Katz, "which emblazon upon their banners equality of rights, give repeated expression to this writ, and yet fail to implement its practice."

"I know of a tragic situation," the B’nai B’rith leader continued, "where, for example, a Yiddish-speaking community of at most a half million people, out of a total Jewish community of about 2,500,000, has virtually no means of cultural expression, whether it be schools, newspapers, theater or books." He was referring to the fact that Soviet census figures show that 500,000 Jews in the USSR claim Yiddish as their "mother tongue."

"The state in this instance," Mr. Katz said, "claims that it espouses equality of rights for all racial and ethnic groups–but apparently applies this espousal to every ethnic or racial group except the Jewish one."

NEXT STORY