WASHINGTON (Mar. 20)
Congressional leaders demanding an easing of Soviet emigration policies reacted coldly today to a report from Moscow that Soviet authorities have waived the education tax for at least five Jewish scientists and technicians seeking to emigrate to Israel. Their initial concensus, gathered by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, was that selective waivers do not remove the obstacles to emigration sought by thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews.
Congressional spokesmen made it clear that Soviet authorities were mistaken if they believe that waivers in a few cases will lead to the abandonment to amendments to the U.S.-Soviet trade pact, signed last Oct., which command overwhelming support in both Houses. The amendments, introduced by Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.) in the Senate and by Reps. Wilbur Mills (D. Ark.) and Charles Vanik (D. Ohio) in the House, would withhold most favored nation trade status from the Soviet Union unless it eases its emigration policies.
According to the Moscow report, the five Jews summoned to the visa office yesterday and told they could leave without paying the exorbitant diploma tax were identified as Mr. and Mrs. Aleksandr Babchin; Mr. and Mrs. Anatoly Gokhshtein; and Valery Korenblit. The report said that other Jews were instructed to come to the visa office today and hinted that waivers may be granted in additional cases.
Babchin, described as a 34-year-old printing engineer, was exempted from paying a tax of 12,000 rubles, about $16,000 for himself and his wife. Gokhshtein, 40, a hydraulic engineer, was reported to have been subjected to a 10,000 ruble tax, about $13,300, and Korenblit to 4000 rubbles, about $5300, the report said. Sources said the salaries of the five ranged from $75-$200 a month.
LEGISLATION IS STILL NECESSARY
The waivers in their cases were announced just five days after U.S. Secretary of the Treasury George P. Shultz ended meetings with top Soviet leaders in Moscow during which he reportedly explained to them the mounting sentiment in Congress against Soviet emigration restrictions.
Mills was reported to be strongly negative. An aide told the JTA that Mills, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, felt that the problem had to be solved for everyone, not just a select few. Vanik said: “Exemptions mean that the despicable law still exists. It is the law which must be removed while emigration must continue in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Jackson said he was “encouraged” by the waivers but said they did not obviate the need for his proposed legislation. “These selective waivers cannot assure that the Soviets will grant exit visas to the many thousands of others who wish to emigrate,” Jackson said. He noted that “at least” 100,000 Jews in the Soviet Union have written to Israel for entry documents, primarily affidavits from relatives.
A Republican Party figure in the Senate drive for the Jackson amendment who asked not to be identified, said: “The Soviet government must have its thumb in its mouth if it thinks this (the waivers) is a major effort to convince us that it is relenting on its ransom taxes.” He asked “What is five or even a hundred or a thousand exemptions when there are hundreds of thousands involved in this emigration issue?”