Gorbachev, Visiting Paris, Proclaims There is No Jewish Problem in the USSR

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev believes that there is no Jewish problem in the Soviet Union and that “nowhere else in the entire world do Jews enjoy such extensive political and other rights as they do in the USSR.”

Gorbachev, who arrived in Paris this afternoon for a four-day visit, his first trip to a Western country since he rose to power, said in an interview with French television last night: “Nowhere do Jews have as many rights as they have here (in the Soviet Union).”

Gorbachev said, stressing every syllable as if he had well prepared the reply to this particular touchy question: “The Jewish population represents 0.69 percent of our total population but they represent 10 to 20 percent of those (playing an active role) in the political and cultural process.”

ISSUE OF FAMILY REUNIONS

The Soviet leader, who devoted some 10 minutes of his time to answering this particular question, added: “If there is a problem of (family) reunions, we accept this (problem) and we solve these problems (by granting permission for such reunions).” Gorbachev added:

“We refuse such permission only where state secrets are involved. Even these people (who know state secrets) are given the possibility to wait five or 10 years. If then they want to leave to rejoin their families (abroad), we grant them the necessary authorizations and the people leave.”

Gorbachev said: “We shall continue to calmly pursue this humane policy and we shall continue to solve these problems, as well as the problem of mixed marriages and that of family reunions.”

THE ISSUE OF IMPRISONED DISSIDENTS

Turning to the specific issue of imprisoned dissidents and refuseniks, Gorbachev said: “In such a vast country as the Soviet Union it is obvious that some people are in disagreement with the Soviet regime and with Socialism. This is their business. Trouble starts when they try to present the facts in a way liable to hurt the Soviet Union, when they try to undermine its authority or when they act contrary to our laws.”

With respect to Anatoly Shcharansky, who is serving a 13-year prison term on charges of espionage on behalf of the United States, Gorbachev said: “In his specific case, this is what we have in mind. He has acted against our laws. We don’t want to reveal certain things to the public but he has transgressed the (Soviet) Law.”

According to most experts on Soviet affairs, Gorbachev, who seemed relaxed and at ease throughout his 90-minute live interview, was tense when he had to answer questions dealing with human rights.

Gorbachev was welcomed at Paris Airport by President Francois Mitterrand, a guard of honor and hundreds of red flags which lined Paris’ main avenues and squares. The French government, which wants to improve relations with Moscow, banned public demonstrations for the duration of Gorbachev’s stay. In spite of this, the Soviet leader probably will be assailed with questions on this subject.

Intellectuals, university professors and the families of detained activists are holding indoor press conferences and meetings permitted by the police. They have taken large advertisements in the press calling for the release of the imprisoned dissidents and Jewish activists. Nobel Laureate in Mathematics Laurent Schwartz explained their position on television today, shortly before Gorbachev’s arrival.

“The Soviet Union must understand that it cannot have a policy of scientific or technical cooperation with the Western world unless it changes its policy of repression.” Schwartz, who heads a French committee for the liberation of Shcharansky, said, “Western intellectuals will refuse to cooperate with you, even if our own governments adopt a different decision, as long as people such as Sakharov and Shcharansky are still imprisoned.”

Gorbachev and his wife, Raissa, are staying at the Marigny Palace, a former home of the Rothschild family, which has served since 1974 as a government guest house for visiting Presidents and Prime Ministers.

NEXT STORY