Australia Plans to Hold Hearings on the Status of Soviet Jewry

An Australian parliamentary committee’s plan to hold hearings on the status of Soviet Jewry has drawn accusations from the Soviet Union of interference in its domestic affairs. The Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee announced yesterday it would start its inquiry in Canberra on Oct. 7 with evidence from emigre Soviet physicist Prof. Alexander Voronel, who will come to Australia from Israel for the hearings.

The committee’s terms of reference have been drawn up to investigate “whether or not Jews in the Soviet Union are the victims of adverse discrimination in citizenship, in rights to religious practice, in rights to publicize, communicate, travel, emigrate and organize….”

The Parliamentary committee is proceeding with the hearings, the first such human rights inquiry in Australia, following an instruction last November from the House of Representatives. The House referred the subject to the committee for study in an all-party motion submitted by William Wentworth, a former Liberal Minister.

Wentworth had presented a petition to Parliament carrying more than 20,000 signatures which urged the Australian government to call on the Soviet Union to end discrimination against Jews. The petition had been organized by Jewish community groups and had been brought to Canberra from Melbourne on a “Soviet Jewry Freedom Bus” which attracted widespread publicity.

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