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Sanctions May Harm Efforts to Aid Ethiopia’s Jews, Congressman Warns

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa has warned that proposed congressional sanctions against Ethiopia could hurt the ability of the United States to help Jews in Ethiopia.

Sanctions “if imposed, might very well jeopardize the access and network of support that have been created,” Rep. Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.) told the National Council of Jewish Women last week.

Wolpe received two awards from the NCJW, during its four-day Washington Institute, for his support of Ethiopian Jewry and opposition to apartheid in South Africa.

The 600 participants were briefed by Secretary of State George Shultz; Richard Murphy, assistant secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs; and Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs.

The sanctions bill, co-sponsored by Reps. William Gray III (D-Pa.) and Toby Roth (R-Wis.), would revoke most-favored-nation status for Ethiopia, bar new loans or investments, and ban coffee imports. The bill’s few dozen supporters include three Jewish members of Congress, Reps. Lawrence Smith (D-Fla.), Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) and John Miller (R-Wash.).

Wolpe said there has been “a fall-off” in relief funds from organizations seeking to aid the estimated 20,000 Ethiopian Jews.

PLIGHT GAINING PROMINENCE

He also noted that the plight of Ethiopian Jews wishing to emigrate and be reunited with families in Israel has gained significant political prominence over the past year.

Wolpe charged that between 13 and 37 Jews in Ethiopia have been arrested in 1987 for unspecified reasons, and may be brought to trial.

So far, the Ethiopian government has resisted diplomatic efforts aimed at reunifying Ethiopian families. Of the 8,000 Ethiopian Jews who have been relocated to Israel, there are 1,500 children who left parents behind, Wolpe said.

He said the Ethiopian government has argued that permitting Jews to leave “would establish a precedent that would lead to other ethnic groups pressing to depart.” He added that “this is a serious blockage that somehow must be resolved.”

Discussing the need to increase fund-raising for Ethiopian Jewry, he said that Ethiopia has estimated a shortfall of 1.5- million tons of grain this year, considerably more than the 1985 peak of 1.2 million tons. Wolpe noted that the Gondar province, where many Ethiopian Jews live, was not as hard hit as other major provinces such as Tigre or Eritrea.

Thus far, the United States has committed 115,000 tons of grain, Wolpe said. The State Department fiscal 1988 authorization bill, now in conference, would set aside $25 million for resettlement to Israel, primarily for Ethiopian Jews.

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