Academic Committee Urges Western Communist Parties to Intercede with Soviets for Jews

A conference of college faculty members today appealed “in the strongest possible terms” to the presidiums of Western Communist Parties, urging their intervention with the Soviet Union to end discrimination and restrictions imposed on the Soviet Jewish community. The conference, sponsored by the Academic Committee on Soviet Jewry, a group of some 3,000 American educators, asked that the Western Communist movements intercede with their “Soviet colleagues” when the groups gather June 5 in Moscow for the first international meeting of Communist Parties since 1960.

In their appeal, the U.S. academicians noted that “in the past two years, this (Soviet) policy of discriminatory deprivation has been pursued in an atmosphere poisoned by massive anti-Jewish propaganda. The Soviet Government,” the statement said, has become the world’s principal “source and sponsor of such propaganda.”

Calling on the Soviet Union to restore Jewish cultural and educational institutions and to allow Soviet Jews freedom to emigrate, the Academic Committee declared: “At a moment in history when East and West are seeking to achieve greater mutual understanding and when public opinion plays so crucial a role, a humane policy may also be the most practical politics.”

The appeal was adopted by the 89 college faculty members attending the parley for submission to the Soviet Communist Party, the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Government, and the president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

These actions followed two days of discussion during which a panel of academic specialists in Soviet affairs maintained that the USSR had invoked anti-Semitism to rationalize its invasion of Czechoslovakia last August, political penetrations in the Mideast, and similar foreign policy strategy. The panel, which included professors Hans J. Morgenthau of the University of Chicago, Alex Inkeles of Harvard, and John A. Armstrong of the University of Wisconsin, described the Soviet tactic as “a pragmatic approach compounded of fanciful myths about, and accusations against, Zionism and Zionists.” The attacks on Zionists were intended as a political strategem and a disclaimer of anti-Semitism, the panelists said.

A position paper prepared by the Academic Committee and circulated at the conferences suggested that in July, 1967 following the Arab-Israel war, “a high level decision was taken for a massive internal and external propaganda campaign depicting Zionism as a major threat to the Communist world.” The conclusion was supported by examples of a continuing and growing series of anti-Jewish themes that have, since the Six-Day War, appeared in Soviet newspapers, books and periodicals, and on Soviet broadcasts.

Dr. Armstrong, past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. also contended that the “official character” of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union went beyond foreign policy considerations and was rooted in “an inherent opposition of Communist totalitarianism to any group distinguishable from the masses.” Such groups as the Jews, “distinguishable by their ethnic solidarity, are anathema to the totalitarianism ethos,” he said.

Dr. Morgenthau declared that Soviet anti-Semitism was an inevitable development because “the moral and religious loyalties in Jewish tradition” are regarded by Soviet authorities “as a rival to the basic pretense of totalitarianism that it is the only source of truth and virtue.”

FRIEDBERG, DECTER SAY GROUP CONSCIOUSNESS, ETHNIC IDENTITY IS PRESERVED

Notwithstanding the almost total suppression of their Yiddish schools, newspapers and books, and Jewish cultural institutions, Soviet Jews are retaining their group consciousness and ethnic identity, two other specialists in Soviet affairs reported. Prof. Maurice Friedberg, director of the Russian and East European Institute at Indiana University, and Dr. Moshe Decter of New York, director of Jewish Minorities Research, which conducts ongoing studies on the status of Soviet Jewry, attributed this “profound development” to a series of historical events:

The Nazi Holocaust, which slaughtered some one million Russian Jews; the creation of Israel, “which even secularist Jewish Communists regarded as a messianic event”; and a “heightened Jewish awareness that was a residue of the Stalinist anti-Jewish purges of 1948-53 and “Soviet tactics of anti-Jewish discrimination in education and employment over the past 20 years which constantly remind the Soviet Jew who he is.”

More recent events, Dr. Decter added, were: the anti-religious campaign that swept through the Soviet Union in the early 1960s directed against all religious faiths and institutions but giving particular emphasis to Judaism; the “economic trials” of the same period in which Jews were specifically singled out for punishment; and the aftermath of the 1967 war “which produced the same feeling of Jewish kinship among Soviet Jews as it did among Western Jews.”

Dr. Friedberg reported that nationalist elements in non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union “appeared to be making a conscious effort to promote Jewish cultural causes” as a means of strengthening their own linguistic and cultural autonomy and “demonstratively declaring their opposition to the Russification which threatens their peoples. This development has been evident in the Ukraine and in Byelorussia.” he said. Dr. Friedberg also reported, as strong evidence of Jewish consciousness, the fact that “the Jewish people in the Soviet Union, a forbidden subject in official Soviet journals, has become one of the favorite themes of underground Soviet literature.”

Prof. Inkeles, a specialist in Soviet sociology, predicted an increase “in the number, form and intensity” of Soviet restrictions against its Jews. He suggested that “leverage” against such Soviet policy might be applied through Western Communist movements, non-aligned nations and Eastern European satellite states.” Prof. Morgenthau also described the Soviet Union as “defensive” about charges of anti-Semitism. He sail that “under certain conditions, American diplomacy could also have a positive effect in persuading the Soviets to ease their anti-Jewish policies.”

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