WASHINGTON (Feb. 1)
The State Department has informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it continues to support a Congressional resolution to “help focus world attention on the plight of Soviet Jewry,” but opposes recommendations in it on what action the President should take. The Department’s position became known today when a letter dated Dec. 30 and sent to Committee chairman J. William Fulbright (D.,Ark.) was made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
In its letter, the Department observed that “through various means, action is being taken by the Executive Branch to persuade the Soviet Union to alter its policies toward Soviet Jewry and that the resolution, therefore, need not urge the President to take “immediate and determined steps.” Moreover, the letter to Fulbright continued, “the President should decide how and when approaches and appeals to the Soviet authorities on behalf of those Soviet citizens who are discriminated against or who are separated from their families can most usefully be made.”
The Department’s position regarding the President’s handling of the matter contrasts sharply with the Senate concurrent resolution introduced on the floor on July 12 by Sen. William E. Brock III (R., Tenn.) with the cosponsorship of Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D., Wash.). Since then, the resolution, JTA was informed, has gained the support of 50 additional Republicans and Democrats, among them virtually all the Senate Republican leaders and the Democratic presidential hopefuls.
Writing to Fulbright on Jan. 26, Jackson and Brock stated that their resolution “calls on President Nixon to raise the issue of the denial of religious freedom in Russia with the highest levels of the Soviet government” and also calls on the State Department to “present Soviet violations of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights before the General Assembly.”
VIEWS OF EXECUTIVE BRANCH AWAITED
The central point in the Brock-Jackson letter was a request to Fulbright to hold hearings on their resolution at the “earliest possible date.” Although the Committee has had the resolution for virtually six months, Fulbright thus far has given no indication when hearings would be scheduled. In its inquiries, the JTA was informed at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Committee had been awaiting the views of the Executive Branch on the resolution and that it was possible the Committee would discuss hearing dates at its next regular meeting Feb. 8.
In its letter to Fulbright, the State Department urged that the following language appear in the Congressional Resolution: “Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring) that it is the sense of Congress that persecution of any person because of their religion or nationality by the Soviet Union be condemned, and that the Soviet Union in the name of decency and humanity allow Jews, members of other religions, and minority groups, and all other Soviet citizens freedom to emigrate and to travel abroad, and allow the free exercise of religion and the pursuit of culture by Jews and all others within its borders.”
The Department’s letter pointed out that “through formal and informal contacts, the Department has attempted to impress on Soviet officials the adverse effect on Americans of Soviet discrimination against Jews and other minorities in the Soviet Union.” The letter added, “We intend to continue to do so.”