Government Policy, Not Written Law, Most Important for Soviet Jewish Emigration; State Dept
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Government Policy, Not Written Law, Most Important for Soviet Jewish Emigration; State Dept

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The State Department believes that Soviet Jewish emigration depends more on Soviet government policy than on the wording of the regulations adopted this year.

“It appears that political guidance from above will determine future long-term emigration trends and how existing procedures are interpreted and implemented, more than the specifies of the regulations,” according to the Department.

This assessment was contained in the Reagan Administration’s 22nd semi-annual report on the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act, released Monday. The report, which covers the period, Oct 1, 1986- April 1, 1987, was submitted to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Soviet Jewry activists in the United States and elsewhere have criticized the new emigration law, because it limits emigration to Soviet citizens who have close relatives abroad.

The State Department report takes note of this restriction, but says the regulations have “escape clauses” that will allow a more elastic interpretation of the term “close relatives abroad.”


“It is too early to make a final assessment of the new law’s impact on Soviet emigration,” the report concludes. “It is clear that since the resolution’s passage, Soviet officials have reconsidered, and continue to reconsider, individual emigration requests, in a tangible effort to resolve family reunification cases.

“However, it is also true that many objectionable and obstructionist practices continue at lower levels.”

The report notes that during the last three months of 1986, Jewish emigration was low, with only 282 Soviet Jews arriving in Vienna. The figure “increased significantly” during the first three months of 1987, with 714 Jews leaving by the end of March. However, “many more” Soviet Jews are waiting to emigrate, the report stressed.

“Soviet emigration polices remained restrictive, and in some instances were applied callously,” the report points out. “Moscow Helsinki monitor Naum Meiman was not allowed to join his wife (Inna) in the U.S. where she had gone for medical treatment; when she died there he was not permitted to leave the USSR to attend her funeral.”

The report also notes that in February and March, six Hebrew teachers were released from prison before their term was up. A seventh, Zakhar Zunshain, was allowed to emigrate with his wife after completing a three-year sentence for anti-Soviet slander. Three other Hebrew teachers, Aleksei Magarik, Iosif Zisels and Leonid Shrayer, were still in labor camps at the end of March.

The State Department report also says that “Rumania’s small remaining Jewish community has encountered no major new difficulties in the past six months.” The report notes Jewish concern about anti-Semitic articles in two Rumanian periodicals during this period.

Concern is also expressed about a fire which damaged a synagogue in Buhusi, in northeastern Rumania, last October. “However, the government quickly denounced the act and within several days arrested four suspects who were later convicted on charges of robbery and arson,” according to the report.

The State Department report also notes that the Rumanian government has “honored” its “formal assurances that no further Jewish facilities in Bucharest would be demolished in urban renewal projects.” Earlier in 1986, Bucharest’s old Sephardic synagogue had been demolished despite efforts to save it.

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