NEW YORK (Jun. 9)
The imprisonment of Soviet-Jewish activist Anatoly Sharansky, on charges of treason, epitomizes the whole issue of Soviet Jewry, including the legalistic questions involved in the Helsinki accords, Prof. Howard Greenberger of the New York University Law School said at a press briefing today at the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry offices.
According to Greenberger, Article Three of the Helsinki accords, which states the concept of family reunion, is being circumvented by the Soviet Union when the Soviets claim a person is privy to state secrets and as a result may not emigrate. Sharansky’s wife has been in Israel since 1974.
By using questionable interpretations of vague internal laws, the Soviets are able to use a “catch-22” to claim they are not violating the Helsinki accords. As an example, he cited two provisions under the Soviet religious code: that there be no religious practices outside of a “house of worship” and that no funds for religious purposes may be collected outside of the house of worship. These provisions, while not explicitly in violation of the accords, have been detrimental to the Jewish community, Greenberger said.
According to Dr. Steven Cohen of the Conference, “This year has been one of the worst years for Soviet Jewry. There is no doubt about it.” There is uncertainty over what precipitated the apparent tougher attitude of the Soviets towards the activists, which Cohen said surfaced last October, eventually leading to the first treason charge against a Jewish activist since 1970.
An accelerated publicity campaign on behalf of Soviet Jews is being waged, with Sharansky as the focus, Cohen said, adding: “We have serious hopes that the Soviets will not want to pay the public relations price.”