Eshkol Condemns Soviet’s ‘inhuman’ Stoppage of Jewish Emigration Since June War

The situation of Jews in the Soviet Union has “grown worse” since the USSR broke diplomatic relations with Israel during last June’s Six-Day War. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol announced, with the Moscow authorities going so far as to halt the emigration of Jews who had previously been promised exit visas.

While the emigration of Russian Jews to Israel, for purposes of family reunion had amounted over a two year period to only “a thin trickle,” Mr. Eshkol told the Knesset (Parliament), the Krelim’s complete stoppage of this emigration since June was “an inhuman measure, devoid of moral, political or practical justification.”

The subject came before the Knesset yesterday when H. Landau, a member representing Gahal, called for open debate of the topic, objecting to what he called the Government’s “silence” on the issue. The Premier, denying the charge, replied that, prior to last June’s war, the Government had informed the USSR it would never be silent about the denial to Russian Jewry of its full rights as a Soviet minority group. “The plight of Soviet Jewry,” he said, “is the most painful and the most burning question for Israel and for all of world Jewry.”

While some of the facts regarding Russian Jewry’s fate cannot as yet be made public, Mr. Eshkol said, he could reveal that Israel knows now that the number of Russian Jews applying for exit visas “was far greater than those actually permitted to leave.” The meager emigration permitted prior to last June, he added, had “increased, rather than decreased,” this desire. Many Russian Jews who wanted to apply for emigration were not even permitted to file applications, he declared, and that number “was many times greater than the quota for last year, which was the best year” for Russian Jewish emigration.

“We are well aware,” the Prime Minister said, “that Russian Jewry is in ever-increasing revolt against the criminal attempt to force it into complete assimilation.”

At the suggestion of Mr. Eshkol, discussion on the subject was terminated in the Knesset and the subject was referred to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.

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