NEW YORK (Jun. 10)
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, told a press conference here today that protests against Moscow’s discrimination against Soviet Jews were necessary, but he warned that “too often the problem is being distorted in its character, with the result that accusations are being made against Russia which are not Justified, and which can only delay the solution of the problem, and even harm Soviet Jewry.”
“The problem,” Dr. Golmann said, “is not one of persecution in the usual meaning of the word, although there is anti-Semitism in many parts of Russia, and the Government must be criticized for not acting more vigorously against anti-Semitic incidents, especially since anti-Semitism is a crime under the Criminal Code of the USSR. But to compare in any way the policy of the Soviet Government with the Nazis is not only a hideous distortion, but highly unfair to Soviet Russia, which saved hundreds of thousands of Jews when they escaped from the Nazis at the start of the Second World War.”
He said the issue was that the Soviets denied Jews “facilities to maintain their Jewish identity and to develop their existence as a distinct religious and national minority recognized as such under the law.” For this reason, he added, world Jewry has to continue to arouse public opinion in support of the demand for equal treatment of the Jewish minority, as a minority.
“But,” he stressed, “we must not expect to force the Soviet Union to change its policy by extreme attacks and methods to which a great power is not likely to yield. Our only hope is to arouse support through personalities and groups whose opinion is very highly respected by the Soviet Government and by establishing contacts with the Soviet Government in an effort to persuade it that it is against their own interest to pursue this policy and thereby antagonize millions of Jews and non-Jews who feel that it is the sacred right of the Soviet Jewry to safeguard its specific character, maintain its contact with the Jewish people as a whole and to allow those who want to be reunited with their families in Israel and elsewhere.”
Dr. Goldmann said that the issue was not the form of protests, such as the rallies which are being frequently staged in American cities, but what was said at the rallies. He pointed out that Soviet officials called comparisons between Nazi and Soviet policy on Jews “impudence” and that attitudes of such officials had been hardening on the issue in recent months.
He declared that the there had been small signs of improvement in the situation, noting that the number of Jews leaving Russia, though still very small–”only in hundreds”–had doubled in the past year. This year, in the widening cultural exchanges between Russia and Israel, the Russians are sending top-ranking artists, compared with second ranking ones of previous years, he noted.
URGES TO CREATE ATMOSPHERE FOR ARAB-ISRAEL TALKS; LAUDS BOURGUIBA
Discussing a recent appeal to Arab rulers to accept Israel’s existence and to seek peace negotiations made by Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, Dr. Goldmann lauded the Tunisian leader’s “courageous stand.” He suggested that “many Arab leaders in their hearts think in a similar vein, although they may not have the courage displayed by Mr. Bourguiba to state it publicly.
He said that the time had come to seek to create the atmosphere “for Arab-Israel talks” which may follow later. He said he had urged Israeli leaders to seek to interest Jewish communities outside of Israel in such problem, especially in countries where there is “a large Arab diaspora which for many years lived in good relations with the Jewish communities, primarily in South America.”
Dr. Goldmann said it would be a tragedy if the Arab League succeeded in its present effort to widen the Arab-Israel conflict into an Arab-Jewish conflict. He asserted it “would be a denial of the past and a violation of the tradition of Arab-Jewish relations for many centuries, if a violent conflict were to develop between the Arabs and the Jewish people, with the Arabs becoming the forefront of neo-Nazi movements.”
He held that it was urgent to seek to create dialogues between Jews and Arabs and he revealed that several Arab intellectuals had been invited to participate in a meeting in Strasbourg, scheduled for July 11-16, of the executive of the World Jewish Congress, and that he expected at least one of the Arabs to attend. He said a leading West German intellectual also had been invited, explaining that “both the problems of Arab-Jewish relations and German-Jewish relations on a high level of historical approach” would be on the agenda.
With regard to the German-Jewish problem, Dr. Goldmann said: “The specific issues are for the time being solved. Germany is normalizing its relations with Israel, the Statute of Limitations is prolonged for four and a half years, which although not fully satisfactory has eliminated the problem for the time being; with regard to the legislation on indemnification, the final bill was adopted only a week ago and although it does not satisfy all demands of the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, it does provide enough funds (another amount of more than a billion dollars) to satisfy the most necessary demands of these victims.
“But the solution of these concrete problems has not yet solved the great historical problem of the relation between Germany and the Jewish people after the unique crime committee against millions of Jews by the Nazi regime. This problem will require a long period to be solved,” he declared.
OPPOSES PROPOSAL OF CONSERVATIVE RABBIS ON JEWISH REPRESENTATION
In reply to a question, Dr. Goldmann said it was “naive” for the American Conservative rabbinate to expect that it could create a new international Jewish body. This was a reference to report by a committee at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly of America last month, calling the World Zionist Organization outmoded and proposing establishment of a new world organization under rabbinical auspices. Dr. Goldmann said that the rabbinical proposal involved a distortion of the character of the Jewish people, which he said was more than religious.
He also repeated his frequently stated proposal for a representative central body for American Jewry to replace “the present chaos.” He suggested that a start be made with an informal consultative Jewish body for international questions and then an effort might be made for a similar group on domestic issues.