NEW YORK (May. 16)
Mayor John V. Lindsay presented today a detailed report on his visit to the Soviet Union May 3-9, more than half of the 15 closely typed pages of which were devoted to the problems of Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate. He stated in the report that while the Soviet regime was responsive to world opinion, “We should not be optimistic that all, or even most, of the disputed cases involving Jewish professionals and scientists can be satisfactorily resolved in the near future.”
At another point, the Mayor’s report stated: “The truth is, I believe, that no matter how far the Soviets may be willing to move, there still will be many difficult cases left to deal with. We must all be realistic about that prospect and not confuse any softening or accommodation on their part with their basic reluctance to face the fundamental issue of freedom to travel and emigrate.”
Lindsay’s less than optimistic assessment of the prospects of Jews and other Soviet nationalities gaining the basic right of free emigration in the near future was tempered by his finding that Soviet Jews were bearing up remarkably well under the tension and uncertainty of their daily existence and that “they frankly believe that the more public attention they receive, the more their chances for emigration increases and the less likely they are to suffer coercion.” He said that “support and encouragement of a serious and responsible nature from America is absolutely vital to their survival.”
During his stay in Moscow, Lindsay reported, he raised the Jewish-problem in his talks with Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin and also discussed it with Deputy Minister of Interior Boris T. Shumulin and other officials.
PROBLEM MORE BASIC THAN EDUCATION TAX
Reporting on his two lengthy meetings with leading Jewish activists in Moscow, Lindsay said those meetings “were not clandestine or secret.” They were held with the full knowledge of Soviet officials who in no way interfered. Lindsay was accompanied on his Soviet visit by Seymour Graubard, national chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, and Jay L. Kriegel. Special Counsel to the Mayor, who participated in his meetings with Soviet Jews.
Lindsay stressed that while he could not discuss the specifics of those meetings, his reports represent his overall findings. He said that after the suspension of the education tax “in response to American pressure” the focus of the emigration issue switched to the “more basic” problem of the “procedures and standards used by the Soviet government in reviewing requests to emigrate and the treatment of citizens who make such requests.”
The procedure is “complex” and “cumber-some” requiring the applicant to produce six major documents. The nub of the problem, however, Lindsay reported, is “a complete absence of any formal, written policy or guidelines in regard to emigration. Consequently,” his report continued, “there is no precise set of regulations against which one can evaluate the decision in particular cases. This, above all, is why the system seems capricious, arbitrary, and discriminatory–despite Soviet denials that discrimination is practiced,” the report said.
Lindsay noted that it was evident that Soviet policy attempts to restrict the departure of the better educated and skilled Jews who live in major cities while allowing increased departures by Jews who are elderly, non-professional and living away from the major urban centers.
TERMS FOR REFUSAL SUBJECT TO ABUSE
“I was advised that grounds for refusal (of a visa) are three fold 1) recent military service or anticipated service; 2) work in a research institute; and 3) knowledge of state secrets,” Lindsay said. Observing that the major difficulty and source of confusion is the third reason, Lindsay reported:
Since there are no formal, written guidelines, the terms are not precise and the concept is subject to grave discretionary abuse. ‘Not in State interest’ is the phrase most often used and obviously has the broadest potential scope. It could cover individuals of important or critical skill and training even if their work is not classified or related to national security.”
The Mayor’s report continued: “To the extent that the Soviets seek to limit the number of well educated and highly skilled Jewish professionals who emigrate, this ground for rejection is clearly the sharpest tool.” He also noted, “There are other cases where the grounds of rejection are considerably more tenuous, and some in the field of culture where there would seem to be no basts whatsoever regardless of how broad the standard of ‘State interest’ might be interpreted.”
Lindsay said that “Soviet officials tried to soften somewhat this policy by explaining that a denial because of ‘knowledge of State secrets’ or ‘national security’ could be changed ‘in a few years’” when the knowledge was no longer secret or critical.
“At another point,” Lindsay reported, “it was said that the whole problem of Jewish emigration is under ‘active study.’ All this tends to confirm some slight flexibility on this issue as well as some understanding of American interest–and it demonstrates that such interest has had some impact.”
JEWS HAVE NEW SENSE OF PRIDE
Lindsay said that the reasons Jews themselves gave for wanting to leave the Soviet Union included “a new sense of pride and identification resulting from israel’s triumph in the Six-Day War” and their response “to a new climate in the Soviet Union that has stimulated them to want to assert a desire for certain basic rights and individual freedoms.”
Underlying Soviet restrictions, Lindsay said, “Is a basic official hostility to Israel, the goal of almost all applicants, so that emigration is generally seen as a disgraceful act at best and, at worst, treason.” He added, “The Soviet Jewish citizens with whom we met showed great strength and patience despite the extraordinary strains and tension which are the condition of their lives.”
Zeidan Atashi, 33, a Druze serving as Consul for Information at the Israel Consulate in New York, says he is convinced that Jews and non-Jews can live together in Israel but he cautioned against ignoring the problems that exist. “There is still the remnant of mistrust between Jew and non-Jew in Israel,” Atashi told about 250 persons at a dinner meeting at the Washington Hebrew Congregation sponsored by the Youth Committee for Peace and Democracy in the Middle East, “It is a continual problem we must face and deal with,” he said. “Nevertheless, eighty percent of the non-Jews in Israel are completely loyal, and proud to be Israelis.”