WASHINGTON (Jun. 9)
“I tell Yuri Andropov to open the gates and let the world see whether emigration from the Soviet Union has stopped because the Russian government stopped it or because Soviet Jews no longer wish to leave Andropov’s empire,” Rep. Tom Lantos (D. Calif.) said yesterday.
In a brief speech on the House floor, Lantos said, “The Soviet Union has now concocted a phony front organization with the dual goal of disgracefully falsifying the past and deceitfully denying the present.”
Lantos’ call on the Soviet leader was a response to the newly established Soviet-government sponsored “Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public,” which held a press conference in Moscow last week asserting that all Soviet Jews who wanted to leave the Soviet Union have already done so and that Zionist groups are “juggling figures” to show that large numbers of Jews still wish to emigrate.
Earlier, Lantos, at a joint press conference with Reps. John Porter (R. III.) and Benjamin Gilman (R. N. Y.), termed the remarks by the anti-Zionist committee leader on Soviet Jewish emigration “outright lies.” He said the comments made a “mockery of the hardships and suffering experienced by thousands upon thousands of Soviet Jews who have made known their desire to leave.”
“I saw with my own eyes the harrassment, indignities, and economic penalties suffered by people whose only crime was a desire to leave the land of their oppressors,” said Porter, who met with some 40 family members of Soviet refuseniks when he visited the Soviet Union last September.
Gilman, who is a member of the Congressional Rights Caucus, of which Porter and Lantos are co-chairman, termed as “ridiculous” the allegations of the anti-Zionist committee. As a member of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, Gilman spoke of his investigations of Soviet interference with U.S. mail addressed to Soviet citizens.
“We have now received a great number of documents attesting to the fact that there has been a concerted effort to interrupt the mail, ” he said. Gilman added that the U.S. Post Master General has taken up the issue of Soviet interference with the mail with Soviet officials in a recent visit to the Soviet Union.
“We hope that we are going to have this issue straightened out so that minority groups will no longer be isolated from outside communication, from the only life-line that they have — written communication and the opportunity to start with an emigration,” Gilman asserted.