On Eve of the Helsinki Accords Review Meeting: Soviet Union Indicted for Harsh Treatment of Its Jewi
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On Eve of the Helsinki Accords Review Meeting: Soviet Union Indicted for Harsh Treatment of Its Jewi

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A severe indictment of the Soviet Union for harsh treatment of its Jewish citizens, particularly these seeking to emigrate, was lodged here Tuesday on the eve of the East-West follow-up conference on implementation of the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki accords.

The conference, attended by delegations from 35 countries and hundreds of observers, opens Wednesday.

On Monday, Abraham Harman, president of the Israeli Public Council for Soviet Jewry, told the media that implementation of the Helsinki accords in relation to Soviet Jews is a clear test of the integrity of the Helsinki Final Act.

The Committee for Jews in the Soviet Union, meanwhile, presented a detailed report on the situation of Jews in the USSR which showed it to have deteriorated sharply despite the strengthening of the Helsinki human rights provisions at the Madrid follow-up conference in 1983. The Committee consists of representatives from Austria, Canada, France, Israel, Switzerland, Britain and the U.S.

The Committee’s charges were supported by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, a Vienna-based non-governmental organization, and by the personal testimony of five prominent former Soviet Jewish refuseniks. Although they were allowed to emigrate after prolonged ordeals, their presence here is to appeal before an international forum for the release of next of kin still in the USSR.


The report by the Committee for Jews in the Soviet Union, presented at a heavily attended press conference, noted first of all that the emigration of Jews has been virtually halted by the Soviet authorities even though nearly 400000 have expressed their wish to leave for Israel.

The sharp decrease in emigration was documented by the number of arrivals in Vienna, the way-station where Soviet Jews continue on to Israel or to Western countries. While in 1980 the average monthly arrivals were well above 1,700, only an average of 64 a month passed through Vienna during the first six months of 1986.

According to the report, 11,000 Jews are known to have been refused permission to leave. Thousands more have been denied even the right to apply for exit permits. These refuseniks live as outcasts from Soviet society. They have no legal redress against harassment and victimization, the report said.

In some cases, it noted, refuseniks have been subjected to long prison terms on false charges. The real reason for their incarceration is their demand for civil rights and the right to uphold their Jewish identity, the report said.

The report noted that Jews are the only recognized nationality among the hundreds of nationalities in the USSR that is not allowed to study its language, Hebrew, or to transmit its cultural heritage and tradition to its children. Soviet Jews are the only religious denomination that has no central organization, no theological seminary and no facilities for regular contacts with co-religionists elsewhere in the world, the report stated.


It charged further that anti-Semitic discrimination and propaganda continues to be part of everyday life in the Soviet Union.

The press conference, held at the Jewish Community Center here, took note of the occasional releases of prominent Soviet Jews to go to Israel or Western countries. While these are welcome, the Committee said, the Soviet Union must not be allowed to confuse world opinion by such gestures.

“We are here to draw public attention to the overall condition of Jews in the USSR to which the Vienna Conference must address itself in its efforts to restore the integrity of the Helsinki accords in all their aspects and assure their effective implementation,” a Committee statement said.

The Committee’s charges against the Soviet regime were confirmed by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights at a separate press conference. Its report said that the Hebrew language has been rendered virtually inaccessible to Soviet Jews. There are no Jewish schools in the USSR, not even in the erstwhile Jewish autonomous region of Birobidjan, in eastern Siberia, where only one half of one percent of the present population is Jewish.


Refuseniks at the press conference of the Committee for Jews in the Soviet Union offered personal accounts of their ordeals. Vladimir Brodsky, a medical doctor released from prison only two weeks ago and allowed to emigrate, said he endured repeated beatings, harsh forced labor, hunger and disease. He saw his release as a positive sign, however, because it came about without any trade for a Soviet spy in the West.

Brodsky attributed his freedom to the pressure of Western public opinion, not the intervention by any head of state. “I hope that mine will not remain a singular case,” he said.

Alexander Gonorusky, who now lives in Israel, pleaded for the release of his crippled father who has tried in vain to obtain an exit permit for 13 years.

Vladimir Magarik, also an Israeli citizen, begged for the release of his son, Aleksei, a Hebrew teacher who has been indicted for illegal possession of drugs and put in a cell with murderers who beat and harass him.

Ilana Fridman called attention to her sister, Ida Nudel, who after imprisonment and exile has once more been exiled to Bendery in Moravia.

Alexander Slepak reminded the world media that his parents, Vladimir and Maria, have been trying for 16 years to obtain permission to leave the USSR, without success.

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