Fulbright Hit for Blocking Senate Action Favoring Soviet Jews

A House-Senate conference committee, responding to pressures by chairman J.W. Fulbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and by State Department officials, eliminated the Ribicoff amendment, which would have condemned Soviet anti-Semitism, from the Foreign Aid Authorization bill.

The conference scrapped the Ribicoff measure, a rider to the foreign aid bill, although 82 Senators had either voted for it on the floor or subsequently recorded their support. Only one Senator, Mr. Fulbright, had voted against it. A vague substitute, offered by Sen. Fulbright to block the specific action designed to alleviate anti-Jewish pressures in the USSR, was inserted in the conference report. Sen. Fulbright had opposed specific pro-Jewish action, stating that “I do not know why we should be so exclusive as to restrict the condemnation only to the persecution of the Jews.” The substitute language inserted was merely a general condemnation of “the persecution of any persons because of their religion” anywhere in the world.

The State Department opposed the Ribicoff measure on grounds that it might offend the Kremlin and do the Russian Jews more harm than good.

Sen. Ribicoff originally offered the proposed legislative move as a resolution. But it was bottled up in the Foreign Relations Committee because the chairman, Mr. Fulbright, sought to block the measure from reaching the Senate floor. To get around this, Sen. Ribicoff submitted the same wording in the form of an amendment to the foreign aid bill on September 24. During the debate, Sen. Ribicoff charged that Mr. Fulbright sought to “completely undercut the original resolution and take the Soviet Union ‘off the hook.’”

In confidential briefings, State Department officials have charged that the Jewish situation in the Soviet Union has been exaggerated by Jewish leaders and organizations in an alleged quest of sensational publicity for themselves and their groups.

Three Senators joined on the Senate floor, shortly before adjournment, to deplore the elimination of the Ribicoff amendment by the Senate-House conference.

Sen. Fulbright was questioned by Sen. Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, Sen. Fulbright said a provision favoring the Russian Jewish community was considered by the House of Representatives as “inappropriate in this bill.”

Sen. Javits replied that, if the House had been provided an opportunity to vote the amendment, it would have been decisively adopted. He said the action of the conference committee, in which Sen. Fulbright influenced the decision on the scrapping of the Ribicoff amendment, was “shameful and unfortunate.”

Agreement with Sen. Javits was voiced by Senators Wayne Morse, Oregon Democrat, and Milward Simpson, Wyoming Republican.

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