MONTREAL (Feb. 5)
Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev told a group of Jewish demonstrators at the Gander, Newfoundland airport Saturday night that “as many Jews as want to go to Israel may go” and that “those who are forbidden to leave the Soviet Union are enemies of the State who want to give away State secrets.” The Soviet Ambassador to Canada, V. Miroshnicenko, who was with Brezhnev, told the demonstrators, in the presence of reporters and tv cameramen, “You are all a pack of fools and all misinformed.”
The encounter occurred when Brezhnev and his entourage landed at Gander enroute home to the Soviet Union after an official visit to Cuba. He was met at the airport by 10 Newfoundland Jews who carried signs reading “Let my people go.” The group was led by Dr. Avram Richler and his wife, Marsha, who is chairman of the Hadassah-Wizo public affairs committee in Newfoundland.
The Canadian Minister of Transport, Don Jamieson intervened on behalf of the demonstrators and Brezhnev came to the barrier to address them. He told them that “There is no such question as hundreds of thousands of Jews wanting to leave the Soviet Union. There are only 3000 of them waiting for permission to leave,” he said, adding, “But we are bothered with all the Russian Jews who want to come back from Israel.”
The Jewish delegation also asked Brezhnev to intercede on behalf of Silva Zalmanson, sentenced to 10years strict regime in the first Leningrad trial in 1970, now seriously ill. Brezhnev responded by calling her an enemy of the state who committed a criminal offense in trying to hijack an airliner and, therefore, intercession was impossible.