Leading British Intellectuals Protest Soviet Action on Jews

Thirty-two of the leading intellectuals in Britain sent a protest which appeared today in a letter to the editor of The Times of London, objecting to the Soviet Embassy’s rejection of a petition on behalf of greater religious and cultural freedoms for Russian Jewry. The petition, presented to the USSR embassy here a month ago by 5,000 British university students, had been rejected on the grounds that “there is no Jewish problem” in Russia.

At the same time, 127 members of Parliament, representing all political parties, filed a motion in the House of Commons today, calling upon the British Government to secure for the Jews in the Soviet Union “the basic human rights afforded to all other citizens of the USSR.” The motion deplored “the continuing difficulties confronting the Jews in the USSR.”

Today’s joint letter to The Times was signed by some of the country’s leading authors, playwrights, critics, university professors and political personalities. The letter declared:

“It has been recognized for some years, even by good friends of the USSR in the West, that the survival of Soviet Jews as an historic nationality is threatened by practices which deny them cultural and religious rights equal to those given other Soviet national and ethnic minorities. It is also known that the Soviet Union has lagged behind other East European countries which allow Jews victimized by the Nazis to reunite with relatives abroad.

“The world is beset by many serious problems that press for solution, and injustices can be found in many places. But it would be indefensible to remain indifferent to the plight of those Russian Jews who escaped annihilation in the last war and are now hindered from the perpetuation of their national existence by denial of Jewish literature, theater, schools and communal institutions.

“We are aware that the Soviet authorities regard this as a purely internal affair. But, surely, it would require only the application of Soviet laws and the Soviet Constitution to alleviate the difficulties of Soviet Jewry.” Among the signatories are Kingsley Amis, David Astor, Lord Boothby, Brigid Brophy, Lawrence Durrell, Max Hayward, Iris Murdoch, Perbert Read, Leonard Schapiro, Sybil Thorndike, Kenneth Tynan and Angus Wilson.

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