Congressional Body Starts Hearign on Soviet Treatment of Jews
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Congressional Body Starts Hearign on Soviet Treatment of Jews

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Hearings on discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union were started here today by a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while the State Department indicated today that it has abandoned its recently expressed policy of non-objection to a resolution by Congress condemning Soviet anti-Semitism.

The State Department, in a letter to Representative Leonard Farbstein, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that “formal government intervention” with the USSR was undesirable. The letter, dated May 5, was signed by Doeglas MacArthar 2nd, who is Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional relations. The State Department expression followed reports that the Soviet Union has filed strong diplomatic protests with the U.S. Government against the tacit support of the proposed Congressional resolution announced by the Department several weeks ago.

Mr. MacArthur did not openly refer to the pending resolution but reiterated the position held by the State Department prior to its recent approval of the measure. He said: “As regards a formal government intervention with the USSR, Soviet leaders have invariably in the past rejected as interference in Soviet internal affairs the most serious official representations which high-ranking officials of the United States Government have made to them. Moreover, Soviet officials have reacted unfavorably to criticism by foreign government organs or representations on matters which the Soviet Government considers to be Soviet internal affairs.”

“Therefore,” said Mr. MacArthur, “careful consideration must be given to possible Soviet reaction which could affect unfavorably the goal sought, improvement in the situation of Soviet Jewry.” He urged private and non-governmental protests as well as consideration by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He added that the Soviet Union has taken “a few limited steps to improve the situation of the Jews in response to the concern which has been expressed by individuals and organizations throughout the world.”


At the hearings today, a number of members of Congress strongly urged the adoption of the resolution, which is backed by 120 members of the House. Testifying today were Rep. Farbstein, New York Democrat; Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal, New York Democrat; Rep. William Fitts Ryan, New York Democrat, and Rep. Richard C. Schweiker, Pennsylvania Republican. Rep. Farbstein offered details of Soviet moves to suppress Jewish religious and cultural life. He linked this with attempts to infiltrate the Arab world.

Rep. Schweiker charged that “our government has not taken sufficient action recently to protest increasing Soviet discrimination against the Jews.” He stressed that “silence in the face of oppression only inspires increased oppression.”

According to Rep. Schweiker, “the only reaction by our government during the past six months has been silence.” He criticized President Lyndon B. Johnson for failing to speak out in his State of the Union message against Soviet anti-Semitism and said “I deeply regret his omission of attention to this grave problem.” Rep. Edna Kelly, New York Democrat who is subcommittee chairman, defended the President but agreed that strong action was needed in response to the plight of Russian Jewry.

A strong point was made by all witnesses that Soviet authorities should permit Jews to emigrate. A committee member, Rep. James G. Fulton, Pennsylvania Republican, asked that the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff document and report on efforts of Russian Jews to emigrate to Israel. Chairman Kelly agreed and said it was “a very pertinent request.” The staff was also instructed to document Soviet restrictions on Jews pertaining to educational and cultural opportunities.

Rep. Ryan stressed the need of an alternative of emigration by Russian Jews. Rep. Fulton agreed and said the United States should liberalize immigration laws to prove its willingness to accept those who might prefer to come here.


Rep. Rosenthal charged Russia with “cultural genocide” and urged ratification by the United States of the United Nations convention on the crime of genocide. He said the President and Secretary of State should communicate “again and again, this country’s outrage over the cultural genocide now being pursued against Russian Jews.” Stating that the proposed resolution is vital, Rep. Rosenthal insisted that “the outrage” of Congress must be formally voiced.

Many other Congressmen offered written testimony because they could not appear in person. Chairman Kelly said the hearings were called because of reports of “widespread anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.” She reported that over 100 resolutions related to this issue have been submitted.

Witnesses at tomorrow’s hearings will include Eric Goldhagen, director of the Institute on East European Jewry at Brandeis University; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry; Dr. Judd Teller, writer on Soviet affairs; Rabbi Meir Felman, of the Synagogue Council of America, and Dr. Joseph Schechtman, specialist on population movement. On Wednesday, witnesses will testify on Russian bias against other religions. Among witnesses will be Garip Sultan, president of the American Islamic Association.

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