Soviet Jewry Conference Assessments: ‘cruel Hoax,’ Beneficial for Russian Jews
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Soviet Jewry Conference Assessments: ‘cruel Hoax,’ Beneficial for Russian Jews

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Differing assessments of the achievements and the conduct of the world conference on Soviet Jews which closed in Brussels Thursday emerged today from various Jewish sources. Zev Yaroslavsky of Los Angeles, chairman of the California Students for Soviet Jewry, called the conference a “cruel hoax on the Jewish community” because it allegedly barred in advance any delegate likely to make “any concrete proposal for action.” But David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s former Premier who was a delegate to the conference, but due to illness was unable to attend any but the final session, said in Tel Aviv that as a result of the gathering, “more Jews will be able to leave Russia now than before.” Yaroslavsky referred specifically to the conference action in barring Rabbi Meir Kahane, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League, who was arrested and expelled from Belgium after he turned up at the conference and demanded the right to speak. Yaroslavsky, himself an activist though he has not supported JDL tactics in the past, said the barring of Rabbi Kahane was of “the same type of dictatorial character for which the conference supposedly was called to condemn the Soviet Union.” He said it “clearly indicated” that the 800 delegates in Brussels represented “a very small cross-section” of world Jewry. Ben-Gurion himself conceded that no mass migration of Jews from Russia could be expected from the conference results.

In Jerusalem, the youth section of the National Religious Party adopted a resolution protesting Rabbi Kahane’s exclusion from the Brussels conference. Another delegate to the conference, film producer and director Otto Preminger who arrived in Tel Aviv from Brussels on a business trip, reiterated his objections to the ban on the JDL leader. Preminger said that while he did not endorse Kahane’s tactics, the latter’s aims were the same as the conference’s. “How could one not let this Jew attend the conference?” Preminger asked. The film-maker who produced the movie version of “Exodus” aroused a storm at one conference session when he likened the refusal to permit Kahane to speak to the repression of free speech by the Nazis and Communists. he told newsmen in Tel Aviv that at a recent visit to Moscow he was asked by Russians to exert influence on Kahane to “soften his tactics.” One of the major criticisms of the conference was that it took no specific actions to implement its stated aim to end the repression of Jewish cultural and religious life in the USSR and to persuade the Kremlin to grant emigration rights to all Jews who wish to leave. There was no decision to constitute the conference as a permanent body to follow through on its aims. A conference spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the closing in Brussels on Thursday was merely an adjournment and that the conference would be kept in session even though the participants have dispersed. The spokesman said a proposal for a month long vigil on behalf of Soviet Jews had been left pending for further consideration.


The conference’s political committee adopted a suggestion by Mrs. Raya Yaglom, president of the world Wizo, to appoint a delegation to visit Russia for discussions with Kremlin leaders and Soviet Jews. The committee was said to be giving “careful consideration” to the timing and implementation of the proposal. The vagueness on this and other proposals led to disappointment by many delegates and observers. New York Times correspondent Henry Giniger who covered the Brussels conference from its outset, remarked in his round-up story published today that “the conference ended with more of a whimper than a bang.” Conference charges of Soviet mistreatment of Jews were echoed in Geneva on Friday when the U.S. delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Rita Hauser, declared that the Soviet Union practiced widespread discrimination against Jews. She urged the Soviet government to allow them to leave if they wished. Mrs. Hauser spoke at a meeting of the Commission dealing with racialism and racial discrimination. She said it was “disturbing that any interest shown by a (Russian) Jew in Israel makes him suspect in the eyes of the Soviet authorities.” Mrs. Hauser’s remarks angered the Soviet delegate, Nikolai Terassov who accused the U.S. of discriminating against “Mexicans, Indians and Jews” and of “practicing genocide” against blacks and in Vietnam.

A five-member delegation from the Brussels conference was denied permission by the Human Rights Commission to read the conference’s appeal to the Soviet Union to grant Jews cultural and religious rights and the right to emigrate. Dr. Andres Aguilar, of Venezuela, president of the Commission, explained that only non-governmental organizations accredited to the Human Rights Commission had the right to take the floor. But he promised to submit the appeal to Secretary General U Thant for circulation as a UN document. Two delegates to the Brussels conference representing the Assirei Zion (Prisoners of Zion) charged yesterday that Israel was not doing enough for Jews who suffered exile or imprisonment in the Soviet Union for their Zionist beliefs and who eventually managed to reach Israel. Yehezkel Pularevitz and Abraham Stukarevitz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent at the conference that little interest is being shown in the problem in Israel. They said that even allowing for the tensions and pre-occupation with Israel’s conflict with the Arabs, it was disturbing that the Assirei Zion had been almost forgotten. They said that some of them lost their health and capacity to work as a result of imprisonment in Soviet labor camps and some have died, leaving their widows and children in Israel. They said everybody was making speeches but proposals from various quarters to give the Assirei Zion the status and support that Israel gives to its war veterans and war invalids were not being acted upon.

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