WASHINGTON (Aug. 11)
The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) has urged Israel not to negotiate any agreement with the Soviet Union that does not also provide for the freedom of Soviet Jewry.
“Obviously, the Soviets want to resume relations with Israel very badly so they can become involved in the Mideast peace process,” Morey Schapira, the UCSJ’s president, said. “But Israel should stand firm and require freedom for Soviet Jews as part of any agreement.”
Israel and the Soviet Union are scheduled to begin talks soon in Helsinki about the resumption of consular relations. The Soviets broke off all diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War.
The UCSJ statement called for the improved treatment of Jews in the USSR as well as increased emigration. It quoted a statement by Natan (Anatoly) Shcharansky in Jerusalem August 4 in which the former Prisoner of Conscience said “a demand of serious change” in the Soviet policy toward Jews must be a “precondition” for negotiations. “We must remember that when there were relations with the Soviet Union, it had no positive influence on emigration,” Shcharansky said.
The UCSJ stressed that neither the refuseniks nor the Prisoners of Conscience can be forgotten. “Israel’s negotiators have a heavy responsibility for the redemption of Soviet Jews, the third largest Jewish community in the world,” Schapira said. “We expect that they will be strong in their advocacy on behalf of Soviet Jews.”