Menu JTA Search

Ncsj Sets Minimum Conditions for Easing Jackson-vanik Strictures on U.S. – Soviet Trade

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) closed its annual policy conference yesterday with a statement of principles that did not suggest any serious departure from existing Conference policy on the U.S. outlook toward the Soviet Union and the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The statement which is subject to further scrutiny by the Conference’s executive committee, holds out the promise of support for a waiver of restrictions on U.S. trade benefits for the USSR, including most-favored-nation treatment and investment credits, provided certain minimal criteria on emigration are met by the Kremlin and if President Carter receives the assurances of continuing and future performance which meet the requirements of the U.S. Trade Reform Act of 1974.

The NCSJ’s position was taken only three days before President Carter and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev meet in Vienna this weekend for discussions which will include the questions of U.S. easing of the Jackson-Vanik provisions and the Soviet view of emigration. Emigration is now running at a rate of some 4000 Soviet Jews departing monthly, the highest on record.

The policy statement, which followed addresses today by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) John Heinz (R. Pa.), and Rep. Charles Vanik (D.O), took cognizance of the emigration flow, Jewish “Prisoners of Conscience,” the refusniks, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment itself, anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Jewish cultural and religious rights in the Soviet Union and the future of monitoring of Soviet human rights behavior.

The NCSJ, which embodies 38 American Jewish national groups, said it would closely monitor violations and will document them and present them to the Helsinki Commission in advance of the Helsinki conference in Madrid next year. The monitoring results also will be presented to the U.S. government and the American people. In addition, the statement said the NCSJ will expand efforts to “mobilize and involve every segment of this nation” in this campaign.

VISA REQUESTS EXCEED EXIT RATE

On emigration, the NCSJ said it recognizes the increased emigration and noted “we regard this as an important development which offers hope there may be a turning point in Soviet policy.” However, the NCSJ is “very concerned while Soviet Jews are being sent some 16,000 affidavits each month from Israel, the number permitted to leave does not correspond to the number wishing to leave.”

Regarding Jackson-Vanik, the policy statement said the NCSJ believes the legislation “provides an adequate framework for encouraging further Soviet performance in the area of emigration and should not be modified.” However, it said, “should the rate of emigration continue to improve, should the Soviet government now free the remaining ‘Prisoners of Conscience’ and allow the refusniks and their families to emigrate and should President Carter receive the assurances that meet the test of the exiting waiver provisions of the law — including implementation of emigration procedures free from harassment — the USSR may receive the trade benefits it seeks on an annual basis as permitted by the law.” The policy statement, according to Los Angeles attorney Burton S. Levinson, the new NCSJ chairman, will serve as a guideline for the Jewish community in the months ahead once it is approved by the executive committee.

VANIK; KENNEDY CITED

Vanik, in his remarks, noted that the Jackson-Vanik Amendment was not designed to withhold trade between the U.S. and USSR and that the amendment’s waiver provision was meant to make trade conditional on acceptable Soviet performance. He received a silver kiddush cup from the Conference for his devotion to Soviet Jewry. Kennedy, who received a plaque for his friendship and actions, cautioned the NCSJ that a move two weeks ago in the Senate to restrict legal and illegal immigration into the U.S. was designed to affect Mexican emigration, but, he said, it could affect emigration from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Heinz said that at the Vienna summit, Carter “must make it clear” to Brezhnev that “America stands fully behind its policy on human rights and specifically that Mr. Brezhnev allow a larger number of Jews to emigrate. For the President to do less would make a mockery of his human rights policy.”

NEXT STORY