WASHINGTON (Jul. 14)
Charging that Rumania has “made no concessions or even gestures of goodwill” in its Jewish emigration policy, the national director of the Center for Russian and East European Jewry urged the United States to suspend Rumania’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, during hearings of a House Trade Subcommittee Monday.
In testimony which challenged the position by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the same hearings, Jacob Bimbaum said he “reluctantly felt there was no way but to impose a one-year suspension of MFN status to Rumania, until Bucharest responds with compliance with the Jackson Amendment. ” This legislation links loans and trade concessions to Communist nations considered to have a more liberal emigration policy.
Jack Spitzer, president of B’nai B’rith International, who testified Monday on behalf of the Presidents Conference, advised that Rumania’s MFN status be extended for another year, despite the concerns of the Conference over delays in processing Jewish emigration from that country.
Noting that the rate of passport approvals by the Rumanian government was “comparatively high” in May and June, Spitzer maintained that MFN “has proven to be beneficial to the Rumanian Jewish community and to the United States,” and that the Rumanians “can expedite (their) procedures when motivated to do so.”
SAYS EMIGRATION ROLE HAS PLUMMETED
But Bimbaum told the committee members that “emigration obstacles have increased, and the annual rate has plummeted from 4,000 to 1,000.” He vehemently condemned the “complacent tone” of the hearings which he said “contrasted starkly with the daily experience” of himself and his colleagues.
In a separate message to the Committee, Sen. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.), author of the amendment, declared that “the Rumanian emigration to Israel has not met the expectations some of us expressed last year.”
At the hearings, Rep. Robert Dornan (R. Calif.) announced he had initiated a Resolution of Disapproval which would cut off MFN trade status and loans to Rumania. One of the Trade Committee members, Richard Schulze (R. Pa.), said that he would co-sponsor the resolution. Democratic members of the panel discussed an alternative of a one-year suspension, rather than a complete cutoff of MFN status.
Timed to the hearings of the committee, a 12-year refusenik couple in Bucharest, Sergiu and Ruxandra Ratescu, began a hunger strike for exit visas to Israel. Bimbaum revealed that several members of Congress were planning to phone and cable the Ratescus to express support for their fast.
Meanwhile, at a press conference co-sponsored by the Center for Russian and East European Jewry and the East-West News Service of California held prior to the hearings, Birnbaum announced the formation of the North American Coalition for Human Rights in Rumania, which he said includes Christian groups “outraged by the increased persecution of religious Christians in Rumania.”