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Special JTA Interview Rivlin; Cannot Ignore Education Visa Exemptions for Emigrants

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“There is no doubt” that a certain change has taken place with regard to the Soviet education ransom, Moshe Rivlin, director of the Jewish Agency, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We cannot ignore the exemptions in Moscow and the fact that the overall pace of Soviet aliya has not stopped accelerating while the anti-ransom campaign has been going on.” These facts proved two things, Rivlin continued: that those who had warned against the anti-ransom campaign or had been sceptical about it were wrong, and that the campaign must continue with redoubled zeal.

Was Rivlin satisfied with the campaign to date? “I could always say that I want to see more,” he replied, “but we must not make light of our achievements so far.” He listed some of these: dozens of Nobel Prize winners and thousands of professors around the world had signed protests and petitions, an estimated 700-800 articles had appeared on the ransom subject in the world press, there was hardly a noteworthy newspaper or broadcasting station in the western world that had not featured the issue, and diplomats, governments, Socialist and Liberal parties and churchmen had intervened with the Soviet Union and voiced their protest.

Of course, said Rivlin, the main effort is devoted to the United States because of its importance obviously, and because of the projected trade agreement with Russia which offered a concrete practical means of bringing pressure to bear on the Kremlin.

FIGHT FOR SOVIET JEWRY ON TWO FRONTS

Rivlin warned that the fight against the ransom and any successes in it must not blind us to the more generalized ongoing struggle for the right of Soviet Jewry to aliya. In effect, he said, there are two phenomena: the ongoing fight for Soviet aliya, and the various fights against various measures taken by the Soviet authorities to persecute the Jews of Russia.

A success in one of these fights of the second type does not mean that the basic problem is solved, Rivlin stated. The fight against the ransom had led to the wrong impression in some quarters, he observed, that the rescue of Soviet Jewry was merely a matter of money. But this was not the case: the ransom was only imposed on those fortunate few who succeeded against the odds in getting exit permits. The basic struggle was to get permits for every Jew who wanted them, and this aim is still a long way from fulfillment, Rivlin declared.

The struggle has been marked by zigzags, Rivlin said. More Jews were allowed out last year than ever before – but on the other hand, there had been the ransom decree and the persecution of both those who receive exit visas and those many others whose applications are refused, and the definitely worsening of the prison conditions of the “Assirei Zion” (prisoners of Zion) in the Soviet labor camps. “We are fighting all these things,” Rivlin stressed.

WILL TAKE YEARS TO ATTAIN SUCCESS

He asserted grimly that the struggle has been going on for years and it will take years more to attain success. The vital change came when the Soviet Jews began to fight too, “and we were then fighting with them, not just for them,” Rivlin said, adding: “So many unbelievable things have come true – who believed they (the Jews) would fight in so many towns inside Russia, or that so many Jews would come out…?”

Regarding the many unpleasant incidents involving Soviet immigrants in Israel; Rivlin said, “I learned in the hard school of immigrant absorption and I assure you that if 90 out of 100 are absorbed smoothly, 10 have problems – and it is those 10 that you hear about and read about. This minority of problematic Russian immigrants make a loud noise because of the feelings in Israeli society against them.”

Rivlin noted that the decision at the London Conference on Sept. 4 not to pay ransom money was taken unanimously and has been followed by virtually all the Jewish organizations working in the field. If an individual or family wants to pay money to help a relative get out he is not discouraged, Rivlin said. What is discouraged is raising money from others for this purpose.

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