Soviet Restrictions Against Jews Discussed in British Parliament

A spokesman for the Labor Government rejected today in the House of Commons an appeal for direct representations by the Government to the Soviet Union on the plight of Russian Jewry.

The appeal was made by Sir John Foster, a Conservative Member of Parliament, who said that Soviet persecution of Jews had led to the closing of Jewish schools and of most of the synagogues in the Soviet Union. He said the British Government should make representations to Soviet authorities over these actions and also to urge unification of Jewish families in the USSR with their relatives in Israel and elsewhere.

Replying for the Government, Mrs. Irene White, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said that the Government had made clear Britain’s opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, at the United Nations and that the Soviet Union was aware of British views on the issue.

She said that the Government had “every sympathy” for the problems of Soviet Jewry but that she hoped Sir John would appreciate the fact that it was “very difficult” to make official bilateral representations to another country on behalf of people for whom the Government could not claim a direct interest.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home, opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and former Prime Minister, told the House that the opposition wanted action on the issue by the Government. He said there were well-documented lists of restrictions against Soviet Jews and that this “quite clearly” offended against “every canon of human rights.” He said it was the duty of the Government, despite all conventions, to make representations to the Soviet Union.

Mrs. White replied that in the Government’s opinion, it was proper to raise the issue internationally, but that it was “not proper” to make direct bilateral representations.

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