NEW YORK (Jan. 15)
Jewish communal leaders reacted today with dismay over the cancellation of the trade pact. A joint meeting was held for almost three hours at 515 Park Avenue where leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry assessed the latest development. At the end of the meeting, Rabbi Israel Miller, Conference chairman, and Stanley Lowell, NCSJ chairman, issued a joint statement. It said:
“The action of the Soviet Union in repudiating its 1972 trade agreement with the United States is a regrettable development. The limitation of the amount of American credits in the Export-Import Bank authorization, the shorter duration of the 1974 Trade Act and possible political considerations inside the Kremlin may be significant factors in this reversal of Soviet policy.
“Whatever the reasons, we share the sentiment of the great majority of Americans in supporting improved relations and an easing of tensions between our country and the Soviet Union. One measure of that sentiment is the expression by the Congress, as contained in the trade bill signed by the President, of our nation’s commitment toward the extension of human rights among countries with which our country trades. We reiterate our support of that commitment.
“Finally, and most importantly, we express and reaffirm our pledge of support to our fellow Jews in the Soviet Union in their heroic struggle to be free. Their courage has inspired our efforts in their behalf. Those efforts will now be intensified. We continue to call on the Soviet Union to abide by its own constitutional provisions, international treaty obligations and public pronouncements, end the harassment of its Jewish citizens and permit the emigration of all who seek to leave.”
PERSECUTION OF JEWS SEEN
The Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry said that the USSR would have had only to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and live up to its own constitution, in accepting the Trade Reform Act. However, said Malcolm Hoenlein, conference executive director, “even this was apparently too high a price to pay, since it would have meant the removal of barriers to free emigration and an end to the oppressive treatment of Jews seeking exit visas.” He said that by the abrogation action, the Soviet Union had indicated its determination to persist in a policy of persecution of Jews in the USSR.
He added that the nullification was “further proof of the moral insensitivity of the Soviet Union.” He added that “we must be alert to the possibility of a wave of repression” against Soviet Jews.
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, called the nullification the “latest example of Soviet insensitivity to human rights and disregard of world opinion.” He said he remained hopeful that the Ford Administration and Congress would continue the search for dealing with the issue in ways “appropriate to American national interests and the cause of world peace and human freedom.”
Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, president of the (Reform) Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said the abrogation could point to a hardening of Soviet policies both toward Jews in Russia and the achievement of a settlement in the Middle East. He said that U.S.-Soviet detente, however desirable, must never be at the expense of human rights or the right of Israel to survive. He said he felt the Jewish issue was being used by the Kremlin leaders as a “red herring” and that at stake was the Soviet “refusal to consider human rights for its own citizens.”
CHANGES IN KREMLIN LEADERSHIP SEEN
In a report from Vienna, Simon Wiesenthal, head of the Jewish Documentation Center, called the abrogation an indication of impending major changes in the Soviet leadership. The Nazi hunter said the indicated change in Soviet policy would lead to a return to the cold war.
Declaring there were “strong forces within the Soviet leadership opposed to the detente policy of Soviet Communist Party head Leonid I. Brezhnev,” Wiesenthal said Brezhnev’s illness “seems to have strengthened their position. The trade agreement cancellation can be considered an open affront to Brezhnev.” He suggested also that Arab pressures and Soviet efforts to regain positions the USSR previously held in the Middle East might also have induced the Soviet Union to cancel the 1972 agreement.
Meanwhile, the Soviet government, according to reports from Moscow, expressed hope that normal commercial ties could still be established between the United States and Russia. Acknowledgement of the nullification of the 1972 trade agreement and the hope for normal commercial ties was reported today by the Soviet news agency Tass, hours after Kissinger issued his statement in Washington last night.