JERUSALEM (Jul. 10)
Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, says he has no objection to assistance being given Soviet Jewish emigrants who reach the United States but “there is no justification, moral or otherwise, to finance their travel, which indirectly encourages them not to go to Israel.”
Dulzin issued a statement this week which, he said, was necessary to clarify his position abroad regarding “neshira”–drop-outs — Soviet Jews who choose to settle in countries other than Israel after leaving the USSR. “A full distinction should be made between assistance to neshrim who arrive in the United States and assistance for them to go there,” Dulzin contended.
He said that “Soviet Jews who arrive in Vienna on Israeli visas are enabled to do so only thanks to the devotion, dedication and martyrdom of the Zionist activists in the USSR and the direct involvement of the Israeli authorities. Once they arrive in Vienna as free men, the Jewish people, as a whole, has only one commitment toward them–the commitment to get them safely to their homeland, Israel,” Dulzin stated.
On that basis he would have HIAS and the Joint Distribution Committee–the two major American Jewish agencies assisting Jewish immigrants — cease their aid to drop-outs in Vienna and Rome. That view was not widely accepted at the meeting here last month between American Jewish leaders and Israeli leaders, headed by Premier Menachem Begin. Begin proposed a compromise that would limit HIAS and JDC assistance only to those Soviet Jewish emigres who have close relatives in the U.S. The proposal is under study by the American Jewish leadership.
NOT FREE TO CHOOSE
According to Dulzin, the term “freedom of choice” with respect to where these emigres go has been misused. He observed that whereas Voice of America radio broadcasts are not interfered with by the Soviet authorities the Voice of Israel radio is jammed and there fore “they (Soviet Jews) are prevented from choosing freely” because they lack information about Israel.
Dulzin also expressed “concern about the loss of Jewish identity” among the drop-outs in the U.S. “It is now apparent that many of them drift away from the Jewish community,” he claimed. “Under these circumstances, we all have a moral obligation to do everything we can to bring Soviet Jews to Israel,” Dulzin insisted. “Time is running against us. If we miss this opportunity, history will never forgive us.”
Dulzin insisted that “We should also refrain from defining Soviet Jews as refugees. A refugee is a person who escapes from a country or is evicted from it with no country to go to. No Jew leaving the Soviet Union can be considered a refugee since Israel is ready to receive him with open arms.”
ISSUE OF REFUGEE STATUS
Relative to that argument, Eli Eyal, a member of the WZO-Jewish Agency Executive, disclosed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency a legal opinion prepared in 1973 by the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which held that Soviet Jewish emigrants who reach Vienna do not have “refugee,” status. Eyal told the JTA that he cited this document at the recent meeting in Rome of the Presidium of the Brussels Conference on Soviet Jewry.
The key passage reed. “Since Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union are Israeli-protected persons from the moment of their arrival in Austria, they can not be considered as refugees under the UN High Commissioner’s mandate. Jewish immigrants not wishing to proceed to Israel, in view of the availability of the protection and services of the Israel government through the Jewish Agency, cannot claim UN High Commissioner assistance as refugees unless they are able to fulfill the eligibility criteria, vis a vis the Soviet Union and Israel.”
Eyal used this opinion, which is presumably valid today, to dismiss any ideas that the Jewish emigrants could preserve their refugee status while they tried living in Israel for a year. He told the JTA that he personally was comfortable with Begin’s compromise proposal. But he said he did not favor the drastic measures, proposed by Dulzin, to stop all Jewish organizational aid to noshrim in Vienna and Rome.