Russian Jews Try to Defend Soviet Regime but Meet with Hostility
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Russian Jews Try to Defend Soviet Regime but Meet with Hostility

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A capacity audience jammed the Shell Building auditorium and over flowed into the street last night to hear three prominent Russian Jews defend the Soviet regime and its treatment of three million Soviet Jews. The occasion was a meeting organized by the Belgian-Soviet Friendship Society to counter the world conference on Soviet Jewry sponsored by Jewish organizations which opens here tonight. Observers said that about a third of the audience consisted of Soviet sympathizers but the rest were either merely curious or bitterly hostile. The speakers were repeatedly interrupted by hecklers. One member of the audience was ejected when he shouted “Judas” after a speaker noted that many members of the friendship society were Jews. The principal speaker was Col. Gen. David Dragunsky, the highest ranking Jew in the Soviet Army, who insisted that three million Soviet Jews “live in freedom” and are “perturbed” by the anti-Soviet campaign conducted by Jews abroad “What right have others to defend Soviet Jews? Do Soviet Jews need defending? Soviet Jews have defended the revolution and are now defending the Soviet Union against attack. We protest the anti-Soviet campaign in Brussels. We hope people will understand this,” Dragunsky declared.

He shared the platform with Samuel Zivs, vice chairman of the Soviet Bar Association and Vladimir Peller, chairman of a “kolhoz” (collective farm), both Jews. Heckling erupted when the speakers tried to explain a viciously anti-Semitic book by the Ukrainian author, Troyfim Kitchko, as merely an anti-religious tract by one man. Members of the audience shouted, “anti-Semitism is rampant in Russia.” “Let the Jews go to Israel.” “You do not speak for them.” Dragunsky retorted that “Russia has let Feigin go to Israel but he turned up in Brussels to agitate against the Soviet Union.” He was referring to Maj. Grischa Feigin, a former Soviet Air Force officer who had been campaigning for Jewish emigration rights and was granted an exit visa last month. He arrived in Israel only two weeks ago and is presently in Brussels as a member of the Israeli delegation to the conference on Soviet Jewry. Zivs contended that the majority of Soviet Jews “are satisfied with the existence they lead.” He said 3000 Jews emigrated in 1969 and 1970 but added that of the three million Jews in Russia, only “a few thousand” want to leave. He said the procedure for issuing exit permits was complicated by the fact that there are no diplomatic relations between Israel and the Soviet Union.

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