NEW YORK (Aug. 16)
Protests mounted steadily today in the United States and Israel over a confirmed new policy of the Soviet Union to charge Jewish scientists exit fees at such high levels as to make it virtually impossible for them to seek to emigrate from Russia.
Israel’s leading scientists quickly announced plans to rally scientists throughout the world on behalf of the Soviet scientists. Among the organizations demanding cancellation of the new high exit costs were the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, Hadassah, the American Zionist Federation and others.
Jewish sources in Moscow confirmed by telephone to Tel Aviv today that Jews leaving the Soviet Union must refund the cost of their education to the Soviet government. The sources said that the new ruling, reported to have been approved Aug. 3, imposed “special taxes” also known as “education refunds.”
For a graduate of a “humanistic institution,” the exit charge will be 4500 rubles ($4995); for a graduate of a polytechnium, 7700 rubles ($8547); for a graduate of a high school of arts and music, 9600 rubles ($10,656); for a university graduate, 12,200 rubles ($13,542) plus another 5400 rubles ($5994) if the individual is a graduate of an institute of science, for a total of 17,600 rubles ($19,536); and for a professor, 19,400 rubles ($21,534). The Moscow sources stressed that such sums are beyond the resources or even dreams of Soviet academicians or technicians, whose salaries range from 200 to 300 rubles ($222 to $333) a month.
ISRAEL SCIENTISTS MOBILIZE
Officials of the Hebrew, Tel Aviv and Bar-Ilan Universities met with the Public Committee for Russian Jewry and agreed to revive the dormant Special Scientists Committee in Israel for Russian Scientists with Prof. Yuval Neeman, Tel Aviv University president, as its chairman. Prof. Neeman said he would leave soon for the United States to seek to rally public opinion on behalf of the victimized Jewish scientists.
HADASSAH APPEALS TO NIXON
Hadassah announced it had sent an appeal to President Nixon to intervene for the Russian Jewish scientists. Mrs. Faye Schenck, Hadassah president, said the Soviet Union had started on “new forms of blackmail and extortion.” The effect of the new exit charge policy, she said, was that Jews applying for exit visas could neither practice their professions in Russia nor leave to practice in Israel.
She declared that “to penalize the educated was one of the abuses of a slave system” and called the new Soviet policy “a uniquely abhorrent violation of human rights, making a mockery of Soviet protestations that there is no anti-Jewish policy in the USSR.” She said the message to President Nixon had asked him “to exert every possible protest at his command to influence the Russian government to rescind this move.” She said it placed “an insuperable obstacle” to emigration from Russia.
‘BLACKMAIL AND RANSOM’
Sharp criticism of the new Soviet policy was issued by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. Calling the ruling “blackmail and ransom,” Richard Maass. NCSJ chairman, denounced its “callousness” and said it proved the Soviet Union was “determined to break the spirit of Jews who wish to emigrate to escape discrimination.” He said the civilized world “must unequivocably condemn the selling of Jewish bodies and brains by Soviet authorities.”
Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, chairman of the Greater New York Conference, and Stanley Lowell, chairman-elect, said it would take many years “for all but a few Jews to accumulate the kind of money” now needed for an exit visa. Maass urged President Nixon to name immediately a committee to investigate the “discrimination and plight” of Soviet Jewry. The two officials asked the United States government, the United Nations and other international agencies to join in demanding “an end to these violations of human rights and decency.”
AZF DENOUNCES NEW HARASSMENT
Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the American Zionist Federation, condemned the “continuous harassment” of Jews in Russia and called the exit fee increases a further indication of efforts by the Soviet government to deter the free emigration of Jews. Declaring that the new policy “particularly attacks Jewish intellectuals,” Rabbi Miller appealed to the Soviet government to end “these new measures immediately.”
AJ COMMITTEE EXPRESSES ‘OUTRAGE’
Bertram H. Gold, executive vice-president of the American Jewish Committee, said the new policy was one of “holding people for ransom” and a “new and cynical form of harassment.” He said the AJ Committee had called on President Nixon “to convey” to Soviet leaders “the outrage of the American people at this violation of fundamental human rights.” He said the Committee hoped that the Soviet leaders would reconsider “their tactics of harassment and extortion” as “incompatible with the mutually-desired aims of political detente and expanding commercial and cultural relations.”
AJ CONGRESS BLASTS ‘IMPOSSIBLE DEMANDS’
The American Jewish Congress said Russia was “holding Russian Jews for ransom” and demanded that Soviet Jews be allowed to leave “without tricks. impediments, obstructions or clearly impossible dollar demands.” Hester Beckman of Philadelphia, co-chairman of the AJ Congress Committee on Soviet Jewry, said “the more talented the visa applicant, the higher the price–exactly the method used in every instance of extortion.”
Mrs. Beckman added that “this placing of dollar price on the right to leave” was another illustration of “the continuing precariousness of Russian Jewry’s existence.” She added the world was “appalled at the effort of Soviet leaders to make a profit from the yearning of a people to what they consider their national homeland.”
The Academic Committee on Soviet Jewry said the reports on the new exit fees indicated “an inhumane disregard for the distress caused to distinguished colleagues, who would not want to leave in the first place if they were not aware of a whole range of discriminations against Jews.” As a result, the committee said, such Jewish scientists “feel a basic human need to identify with their fellow Jews in Israel.” The committee called the Soviet ruling “piratical behavior” to its “educated Jewish citizens.” To hold educated Jews “as hostages or to treat them as indentured servants is a palpable transgression” against “the fundamental right of any scientist to conduct his research in the land of his choice.”
MCGOVERN ‘DEEPLY DISTURBED’
Sen. George McGovern said in Washington he was “deeply disturbed” by the news and he called it a case of Russia holding Jews “as hostages of the state.” He dismissed the Soviet argument that the higher exit fees were to “repay” the government for the cost of educating such Russian Jews. He said “it is clear that the Soviet Union has been more than adequately recompensed for the costs of their education.” He said if the Soviet Union was “genuinely interested” in better relations with the United States, it would end the restrictions “imposed against all Soviet Jews who wish to emigrate.”