WASHINGTON (Jan. 24)
Optimism was expressed here yesterday that despite the almost total shutoff of Soviet Jewish emigration and the officially-sanctioned anti-Semitism in the USSR, including physical violence against Jews, the renewal of United States-Soviet arms talks could lead to increased emigration and less repression for Soviet Jews.
This feeling as well as the need to continue the struggle here was expressed to the more than 150 aides of U.S. Representatives and Senators who attended the biennial Congressional briefing of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews on Capitol Hill. Many Congressmen and Senators also made appearances.
Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, stressed that the issue of Soviet Jewry has been raised by the Reagan Administration at every high level meeting with the Soviet Union, including the meeting in Geneva earlier this month between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. He said the issue will be raised at the forthcoming nuclear arms talks.
ISSUE IS NOT A PRO FORMA MATTER
Abrams said the issue, which was also recently stressed by the U.S. at the bilateral trade talks in Moscow, is raised “not as a pro forma matter, not as something which you tag on at the end, but as something that you put in at the beginning so that they know you care.”
For this reason, Abrams said he was pleased that President Reagan had named Max Kampelman as the head of the U.S. negotiating team for the upcoming arms talks with the Soviet Union since, as head of the U.S. delegation to the Madrid talks reviewing the Helsinki agreements, Kampelman had been outspoken in his criticism of Soviet human rights violations including those against Soviet Jewry. “He (Kampelman) does not put human rights to the side, the cause of Soviet Jews to the side,” Abrams said.
Sen. John Heinz (R. Pa.) also stressed that he hoped the appointment of Kampelman “will send a signal to the Soviet Union” that they will not be “let off the hook” when it comes to Prisoners of Conscience, refuseniks, and Soviet Jews. Rep. Jack Kemp (R. NY) said the appointment was “not only propitious but providential” since “there is no stronger voice on behalf of human rights” than Kampelman.
1985 MAY BE A BETTER YEAR
Avital Shcharansky, wife of imprisoned Soviet Jew Anatoly Shcharansky, noted that on the second day of the Shultz-Gromyko talks, the Soviet government announced that Shcharansky’s mother and brother could visit him for two days in his prison camp, something they have not allowed in the eight years he had been imprisoned. She said he also now began receiving the medical treatment and medicine he has needed.
Avital Shcharansky added that she believes that 1985 will see an improvement in conditions for Soviet Jewry as the USSR seeks to renew relations with the United States. Stuart Eizenstat, the UCSJ’s legal council, and a former assistant to President Carter, also said that 1985 was a “time of hope” because “emigration has so directly related over the years to the state of U.S.-Soviet relations.” He said the arms talks could result in greater Jewish emigration.
But Morey Schapira, president of the UCSJ, said 1984 saw the “ghost of Stalin walking again” in the Soviet Union with new cultural pogroms, especially against teachers of Hebrew; trumped up charges against Jews, and physical violence. Abrams said that the threat of violence has become so serious that Jews seeking to emigrate now face not only the loss of jobs or education opportunities but the loss of a limb or an eye or even their lives.
URGE CONTINUATION OF EFFORT FOR SOVIET JEWRY
Speaker after speaker urged a continuation of the effort for Soviet Jewry. Rep. Dante Fascell, (D.Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stressed that as Soviet Jews face increased anti-Semitism “their only hope is that you have not forgotten them. “Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R. NY), who recently returned from a visit to the USSR, said Jewish activists told the visiting Congressmen that the more Americans speak up the better it is for Soviet Jews.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D.NY), one of the leading Blacks in Congress, said all issues of human rights are connected. Jews and Blacks “can’t enjoy the luxury of being angry with each other for too long, as long as we know that our people have felt the same type of persecution and we don’t see any immediate future where this going to go away.”
Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R.Minn) and Rep. Sander Levin (D.Mich.) are co-chairman of the UCSJ’s Congressional Call to Conscience during the present Congress. In existence since 1976, the Call to Conscience provides a means for members of Congress to speak weekly on specific cases of Soviet Jews.