SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 19)
The Jewish community’s “posture of resisting the use” of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment — which gives the President the authority to renew or suspend the Soviet Union’s MFN status — may have “undermined what is in fact a very powerful weapon” in the struggle to increase Jewish emigration, Jacqueline Levine, chairperson of the National Community Relations Advisory Council, said here yesterday.
Levine made this point in an address to the NJCRAC’s plenary session, which is holding a fourday meeting here, in the context of her call for “a more flexible stance on strategy and tactics” to respond to the current “critical juncture” for Soviet Jewry.
She advanced the argument put forward by some Soviet Jewry experts that the failure to utilize the renewal of MFN status in 1979 “as an inducement” to the Soviets to assure the continuation of high emigration “has precluded our ability” to utilize more recently the suspension of MFN status — which “would have been a powerful response” to the closing off of emigration.
The Soviet Union, she explained, “may be more open to responding to the Soviet Jewry issue now “in the context of the U.S.-Soviet talks than at any time since the 1970’s,” Levine continued. It is therefore vital that the Jewish community “confront” the use of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, and generally be prepared to “seize opportunities” should they arise in the near future because of these negotiations.
POSSIBILITIES TO EXPLORE
Among the possibilities she urged the community to explore with the Administration was holding out the granting of credits to the Soviets as part of any understanding on emigration. The Administration, she acknowledged, appears to be generally opposed to using credits for this purpose.
Levine devoted a great part of her speech to transmitting to the 450 plenum delegates the views expressed by over 65 of the leaders of the Soviet Jewish movement, with whom the NJCRAC mission she led last December to the Soviet Union met for more than 60 hours of discussion.
Levine discussed the refusniks’ advocation of the use of the concept of “repatriation to Israel” which, they told her, “flows naturally out of Soviet experience and ideology.” She urged that this concept be explored with experts in international law.
The priorities these leaders cited were extraordinary efforts for the 19 Prisoners of Zion and working for former prisoners’ and long-time refusniks’ right to emigrate. She called for the initiation of a campaign for each prisoner, involving, among other tactics, their adoption by the 19 most influential members of Congress; increased visits to refusniks, especially by American Jewish leaders; a letter campaign; and public “manifestations” for Soviet Jews. The delegates opened the plenary session Sunday with a demonstration at the Soviet Consulate here on behalf of the Prisoners of Zion.