NEW YORK (Apr. 29)
The thousands who jammed Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the United Nations for the eighth annual "Solidarity Sunday for Soviet Jewry, " today joyously welcomed two Soviet Jews who were released from a Siberian prison camp only two days ago and cheered as Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.) and New York’s two U.S. Senators declared that the Jackson-Vanik Amendment must not be repealed until the Soviet Union agrees to free emigration for all Jews and others who want to leave.
Eduard Kuznetsov and Mark Dymshits, who arrived in New York Friday along with three other Soviet dissidents, thanked American Jews for their efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry and urged continued support for 14 other Jews in Soviet prisons as well as all Jews who wish to emigrate from the USSR.
The two Jews, along with Aleksandra Ginzburg, a 42-year-old Soviet human rights activist; Georgi Vins, a Soviet Baptist leader; and Valentin Moroz, a leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement, were exchanged for two Soviet former employes of the UN who had been sentenced to 50-year terms by the U.S. for espionage. The two spies, Valdik Enger and Rudolf Chernyayev, were swapped for the five Soviet dissidents at Kennedy Airport. The exchange, which was announced by the White House Friday, was so sudden that banners for Kuznetsov and Dymshits were still hanging in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza along with those of such other prisoners as Anatoly Shcharansky, Ida Nudel and losif Begun.
Kuznetsov and Dymshits, who still bore their short prison haircuts, responded to the cheers of the crowd with their hands clasped over their heads in a fighter’s victory sign. They were joined on the platform by Kuznetsov’s wife, Silva Zalmanson, who has lived in Israel since being freed from prison several years ago and who flew here from London when she heard of her husband’s release. All three were convicted in the 1970 Leningrad hijack trial.
When New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, former chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ), the organization which sponsors the annual event, introduced the three to the crowd, many began singing "Havenu Shalom Aleichem, " the traditional Hebrew song of welcome. It was then picked up by the band on the platform and the entire audience began singing the song.
The rally at the plaza followed a parade nine blocks down Fifth Avenue and then six blocks eastward to the plaza which included groups from Jewish organizations and synagogues, Christian ministers and labor officials. Among the many banners that were carried today was one that said, "Don’t let the Soviets be the masters in charge, give us our visas."
Marvin Riseman, chairman of the GNYCSJ, said that the rally today not only supported freedom for Soviet Jewry but also for Jews in Syria and Ethiopia. Some 1000 Syrian Jews, representing the Committee to Save Syrian Jewry, marched in today’s parade. Riseman thanked President Carter for his efforts in freeing the five Soviet dissidents and said he was "heartened" by Carter’s promise to Israeli Premier Menachem Begin that he would not "cease working" until all Soviet prisoners were free.
CARTER ADMINISTRATION PLEDGE
The Carter Administration was represented by Patricia Harris, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who said as a Black American she knows the meaning of the words, "Let my people go." She praised the determination of the Soviet Jewry movement in the U.S. and said the Carter Administration will do all it can to help bring Soviet Jewish refugees to the U.S., such as the 613 who arrived from Rome last week. She called on the public to help the new immigrants settle in this country. Mrs. Harris said Carter will continue his efforts in the pursuit of freedom.
Dymshits and Kuznetsov, speaking in Russian expressed their joy at being freed and especially that they would be in Israel tomorrow. "I am very happy to know that tomorrow I will be finally in my historic homeland, Israel," Dymshits said, where he would rejoin his wife and two children. "I hope to meet all of you in the Land of Israel."
Kuznetsov said that during his nine years of prison he said many times, the words, "Next year in Jerusalem. Now it is not next year, but the next day."
In thanking American Jews for their aid, Kuznetsov declared that " your devotion and energy not only shortened my prison term by six years — 2040 unbearable days — but also saved my life. Had it not been for your powerful and mighty voice protest, Soviet authorities would not have hesitated to carry out their original verdict — shooting me and Mark Dymshits to death." Kuznetsov and Dymshits had originally been sentenced to death but after an international outcry their sentences were reduced to 15 years.
Kuznetsov said that despite the severity of his imprisonment he and other Soviet Jews were luckier than non-Jewish prisoners because they knew of the efforts in their behalf outside of the Soviet Union. He said, some of the letters mailed to him from the U.S. reached him but they were all confiscated by the KGB when he was released.
All the speakers expressed their joy at the releases. Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-American Section who represented the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, called the release by the Soviet government of the five POCs "a major triumph" for Carter’s human rights policy. She emphasized, however, that there must be no let-up in efforts on behalf of all those still languishing in Soviet prisons.
Jackson noted that the fact that the five dissidents were exchanged for two spies is "a terrible judgement on the Soviet system that this grotesque expedient was necessary. It is a reminder to the world that the struggle for free emigration continues." Jackson said part of this struggle was "the effort the Soviet Union and its business partners here are making to wiggle out from under the conditions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. These conditions are simple: no credits and no most-favored-nation treatment to countries that deny their citizens the right and the opportunity to emigrate."
The Senator, who was given a plaque by the GNYCSJ for his efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry, stressed that the President has "promised us, in writing" to uphold the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and "I intend to hold him to that promise."
Jackson pointed out "There are those who believe that because of the number of people leaving the Soviet Union has increased we ought to repeal the Jackson Amendment. I want you to know that many of those who are now urging repeal because the numbers have been going up, were urging repeal last year because they said the numbers were going down."
But Jackson warned that the Soviets are interested only in getting U.S. dollars so that they can buy U.S. products. "They are not interested in visas, they’re interested in bills of ladings." He said the current situation in which increased emigration has been allowed is not good enough "as long as the prisoners remain in jail. . .when one is punished for asking to emigrate" and as long as "one has to wait, two, three, four even six or seven years for a visa."
STRUGGLE MUST CONTINUE
Jackson’s sentiments were echoed by Sens. Jacob Javits (R.NY) and Daniel Moynihan (D.NY). Javits, who declared that "if there is a hero in this movement in the United States it is Henry Jackson," stressed that "fidelity to Jackson-Vanik will be tested this year." But he said the amendment must remain law until there is a "permanent solution" in which "the doors of the Soviet Union are open" for all who want to leave. Moynihan said the Jackson-Vanik Amendment is the only reason why the Soviets are willing to make concessions and must not be abandoned.
Another participant, Sen. John Heinz (R. Pa.), also called for the continuation of the struggle until "every Jew is free to leave." He said that "ultimately we will win this battle for freedom and the human spirit. . . because the Soviets have failed to learn from the history of the Jewish people the lesson that 2000 years of persecution could never destroy the spirit of the people. How can the Russians?"
Mayor Edward Koch noted that he has participated in all eight rallies, in which the banners for many of the prisoners now freed, were carried. "It makes every one of us feel as though we participated in a modern day miracle," he said.
Among the posters urging support for individual Jews were many for Marina Tiemkin, the 20-year-old Soviet woman who has been denied permission for seven years to join her father in Israel. A Committee to Free Marina Tiemkin has been formed and its campaign was officially launched today. Seven years ago Tiemkin was kidnapped by the KGB shortly after she and her father came to pick up their visas for Israel. She was sent to a Young Communist camp located over 1000 miles from her Moscow home. All forms of communication between her and the outside world have been blacked by the USSR.