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Soviet Anti-semitism in Violation of Own Laws, Commission of Inquiry Told

Anti-Semitic stereotyping as Soviet policy and the Soviet’s violation of their own laws in the prosecution of Jews seeking to emigrate to Israel were charged by witnesses testifying today before a Commission of Inquiry of the Rights of Soviet Jews, which met at the Carnegie Endowment International Center. Prof, John A. Armstrong of the University of Wisconsin, one of the country’s leading Sovietologists and a past president of the American Association of Slavic Studies, who was unable to attend, submitted a report stating that “a very thin line divides present Soviet anti-Israel propaganda from the ‘naive’ anti-Semitism of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Also testifying were District Attorneys Eugene Gold of Brooklyn and Robert F. Leonard of Genesee County, Michigan, recent visitors to the Soviet Union, who said that the USSR’s own laws of criminal procedure had been “flagrantly violated” in the trials of Jews seeking to emigrate to Israel. Ephraim Margolin, a San Francisco lawyer who returned last month from a two-week study mission of the Soviet judicial system, presented to the Commission a letter by 10 young Jewish professionals of Kishinev to Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev demanding the release of nine Kishinev Jews held without trial for nearly a year. The nine went on trial yesterday. The letter had been smuggled out of the USSR by Margolin. Armstrong reported that Judaism was the target of a “deliberately scurrilous attack” reinforcing “strong traditions of anti-Semitism” in the USSR.

While all religious groups suffered from officially sponsored attacks, his report stated, “the peculiarly invidious aspect of propaganda which claims that Judaism has always been a treacherous, reactionary superstition is that it reinforces strong traditions of anti-Semitism. Thus, every evidence of Jewish religious practice tends to jeopardize the position of all Soviet Jews.” Armstrong added that the Soviet Union’s hostility to Jews existed long before its current Middle East policies and reached extreme proportions in early 1948, when the USSR was actively supporting the creation of the Israeli state in Palestine and had virtually no ties to the Arab states.” Gold told the Commission of meeting with Nikola Tsibulnik, an assistant to Soviet Prosecutor General Roman Rudenko. When asked for a definition of “anti-Soviet activity” under which Jews have been tried in Leningrad and Riga, Tsibulnik replied: “Any publication or news about Israel by an unofficial or unauthorized scarce is regarded as anti-Soviet activity.” Gold said Soviet officials had confirmed “in private” that Jews tried in Leningrad, Riga and Kishinev “were charged with anti-Soviet activity based on teaching Hebrew, publishing Hebrew and Jewish journals and promoting Jewish culture and history–none of which violates any Soviet law.” Leonard said “there are three points the Soviets are trying to get across in the trials First, they know the world is repulsed by the word ‘hijacking,’ so they charge Jews with this crime. Second, they imply that the prisoners confessed, when they did not. Third, they are saying that Israel is involved. If they can successfully convey these ideas to the Soviet people and to the world, they have won their propaganda battle.”

Margolin, who is chairman of the legal committee of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco, and a past president of the Northern California Division of the American Jewish Congress, said the secret nature of the current trials of Jews means that the world learns only what the Russians choose to disclose. The Commission conducting the hearing included Bayard Rustin, executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute; former Sen. Charles Goodell; Prof. Hans J. Morgenthau of City University; Rt. Rev. J. Brooke Mosley, president of Union Theological Seminary; Prof. George Wald of Harvard University, Nobel Prize laureate; and Brig. Gen. Telford Taylor, former chief Allied prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, now professor of law at Columbia University. Dr. Abraham J. Heschel, professor of Jewish ethics and mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Commission member, was ill and unable to attend. Joel J. Sprayregen of Chicago, general counsel of the Illinois Branch, American Civil Liberties Union, served as counsel to the Commission. William Korey, director of the UN office of B’nai B’rith International, a former teacher at the Russian Institute of Columbia University, was academic counsel to the Commission.

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