UNITED NATIONS, N. Y. (Oct. 12)
Israel appealed to the Soviet Union, in the General Assembly here today, to extend to the Jewish minority in the U.S.S.R. the religious and cultural rights enjoyed by the other Soviet nationalities. The statement was made in the Assembly’s 119-member Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee by Ambassador Gershon Avner, Israel’s envoy to Canada, who is a member of Israel’s delegation to the Assembly.
Unlike most Israeli statements in the United Nations in previous years, which attacked the Soviet Union for its anti-Jewish policy without mentioning that country by name, Mr. Avner’s remarks stressed the “tremendous efforts” made by the USSR in the encouragement of cultural and religious diversity of its more than 100 officially recognized nationalities, and called attention to the fact that the Jews were one of the recognized nationalities in the Soviet Union, because they were historically “an ethnic entity rather than purely or merely a religious group.” The he added: “We would here express the fervent hope that, in this age of toleration towards minority group rights, the Jewish communities in the Soviet Union may be enabled to pursue and develop their religious life and their religious institutions.”
Mr. Avner stressed that the Israel Government also hoped that Soviet Jewry will be “encouraged in the development of their press and literature and folklore in their own language,” an obvious reference to Yiddish and to Soviet Jewish youth, which, he hoped, “will have access to the teaching of the religious and cultural heritage of their forefathers.”
He appealed to the USSR to permit its Jewish citizens to maintain contact with Jewish communities elsewhere and to make possible the reunification of families “torn asunder” during the Nazi invasion of Europe. “All these measures would be in full accord with the trend towards coexistence and the removal of barriers between peoples,” he stated. He observed that “steady progress” in all parts of the world was being made in the field of human rights, as could be seen from the reports received by the Secretary General from 70 countries, on the situation in their nations as well as on the implementation of the declaration on the elimination of racial discrimination. He expressed the hope that 1968, the International Year for Human Rights, would be a “landmark of renewed progress” in this area.
USSR TOSSES ‘LIE’ AT ISRAELI; U.S.A. SUPPORTS HIM STAUNCHLY
Mr. Avner stated that it would be “factually wrong” to say that anti-Semitism has disappeared everywhere. He called attention to the fact that Jews faced prejudice and hostility in some countries, and employment problems in others, and to the existence of groups which “practice poisonous anti-Jewish agitation on racial grounds.” “There are still instances of Nazi criminals going free and unpunished for their genocidal atrocities” or being let off with minimal sentences, he said, and he appealed for decisive action in all these instances.
Exercising his “right of reply” in the committee, E.N. Nasinovsky, the USSR representative in the group, called Mr. Avner a liar, charging Israel has “slandered” the Soviet Union. He accused the Israeli Ambassador of “specious, mendacious assertions, blatant slander, in fact a lie,” and said the Israeli speech was an attempt “to lay down a smoke screen to cover the scandalous situation existing in Israel regarding the Arab population there.” He was supported in that view by the delegates from Syria and Ukrainian. However, the delegations representing Australia, Madagascar and Venezuela supported Israel’s stand in this issue wholeheartedly in addresses to the committee.
Finally, the most fort right and lengthy support of the Israeli appeal to the Soviet Union was voiced by the United States representative in the committee, Ambassador Patricia R. Harris. Quoting with approval and extensively from Mr. Avner’s address, she told the committee that the U.S.A. not only shares Mr. Avner’s hopes for improvements of the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union, in the religious and cultural fields, but hopes also that steps would be taken in all countries to end discriminations against all peoples everywhere.