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Jewish Spokesmen Charge Soviet Threat Ploy to Divert-attention from Internal Policies

Jewish spokesmen charged today that the Soviet note warning that it can no longer guarantee the safety of American citizens visiting in the Soviet Union was a political ploy to divert attention away from their anti-Semitic policies and secret trials. Edward D. Moldover, president of the New York City Chapter of the American Jewish Committee told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “the statement is an obvious smokescreen to try to obscure Russian action against Jews and intellectuals which has already been strongly condemned by world opinion.” This latest action, he added, “can only heighten the mood of repression in the USSR and the isolation of its people, and have a most serious effect on the attempts to improve the cultural, economic and travel relationships between the United States and the USSR.” Phil Baum, assistant executive director of the American Jewish Congress, also vigorously condemned this “blatant attempt of intimidation.” He declared, “The Soviet Union is obviously willing to use any means, no matter how outrageous, to frighten those in this country or in the USSR itself who dare to criticize its anti-Jewish policies.” Baum added: “We know of not one Soviet citizen in the U.S. who has been injured or even endangered by anti-Soviet protests in this country. For our part, we will not for one instance be deterred by this brandishing of force from continuing our campaign of lawful protest and denunciation against the persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union.”

Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, chairman of the New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, told the JTA that “there has been no threat against Russians in the U.S. and to say that there will be threats against Americans in Russia is completely unrelated to the facts.” He claimed that there was no relationship between the Zionist movement and demonstrations against the Leningrad trial which was “a reaction by humane and compassionate people throughout the world against Russian repression.” The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith declared that the Soviet note is a “political ploy to cover their embarrassment rather than their fears for Russians in America.” The embarrassment stems, according to Seymour Graubard, national chairman of the League, from the U.S. invitation to a group of Soviet scientists to attend the trial of Angela Davis and not from the widespread protests against the conviction of the Leningrad 11. “The difference between our two countries,” he said, “is so evident. The United States holds public and open trials. The Soviets conduct their trials behind locked doors and in secret. There is no question of a threat to the safety of any visitor in the U.S.”

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, of the Park East Synagogue in New York who is president of the Appeal for Conscience Foundation, told the JTA that the Soviet note “must be construed as a deliberate attempt to reduce the influx of Americans” who have been visiting the Soviet Union in rising numbers in the last few years, “among them many Jews.” American residents in Moscow are estimated at several hundred businessmen, students and cultural exchange personnel in addition to the U.S. diplomatic mission. Glenn Richter, national coordinator for the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, told the JTA that Moscow’s note was “a typical Soviet over-reaction, using threats instead of dealing with the problem.” He claimed that it was evidence of “Soviet sensitivity to protests on Soviet Jewry.” Bertram Zweibon, general counsel of the Jewish Defense League, said this was the latest example of “Soviet disregard of minimal human standards of conduct.” He noted that “any attacks upon American citizens in the Soviet Union can and will be considered acts sanctioned and directed by the Soviet government itself, while any possible ‘attacks’ that have been launched against Russian officials in the U.S. were carried out on the initiative of individuals, and certainly not under the supervision and urging of the American government.”

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