WASHINGTON (Dec. 6)
A number of Soviet Jews were beaten and arrested, and an American correspondent was detained, when some 200 burly men calling themselves “peace protestors” disrupted a “Freedom Sunday” rally in Moscow, according to news sources and reports reaching the Soviet Jewry groups demonstrating here Sunday.
The specifics about the protest in Moscow were still sketchy at press time, but it was known that two Jewish activists were arrested, several beaten and 27 “unaccounted for” following the protest in front of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, according to former refuseniks as well as the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.
The demonstrators not accounted for apparently “disappeared” en route to the demonstration on Smolensky Square and are presumed to have been detained by police or KGB, former prisoner of Zion Yuli Edelshtein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at Sunday’s rally.
Arrested by the KGB and detained for four hours was Cable News Network bureau chief Peter Arnett, an American citizen. Arnett and his camera crew were roughed up and their equipment damaged when they turned their cameras away from the “peace protesters” and on the handful of Jewish activists, according to CNN.
Arnett said his attackers were presumably plainclothes security police and “Muscovites holding peace signs.” CNN and the State Department lodged protests.
The attack was “a warning signal to Western news organizations” that the Soviets “will not tolerate political dissidents on the streets,” Arnett told CNN.
Asked about the arrests Sunday morning on NBC’s “Face the Nation” program, the Soviet Union’s foremost expert on America refused to provide details. But the expert, Georgi Arbatov, head of the USA-Canada Institute of the USSR, said the incident should not be used by Westerners to “throw sand in the face of the summit” meeting this week between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Edelshtein, 29, who arrived in Israel in July and is now working as a Hebrew teacher there, said the incident in Moscow “means that Gorbachev is testing us (to see) how far we can go without (making) real changes.
“It means a lot of people are not misled and not deceived. And our message to Gorbachev is that we won’t let him get his place in the community of free countries without solving the problem of Soviet Jews for real.”
Edelshtein said Soviet Jewry activists here who engage in peaceful protests “also help,” because “our struggle is not one-colored. It is multicolored.” He emphasized this was true “as long as the struggle stays nonviolent.”
“I appreciate all the efforts” made by Soviet Jewry activists in the United States, said Edelshtein, referring to passive arrests and demonstrations in front of cultural events, as well as organized and sanctioned demonstrations by mainstream groups. “We must remind them all the time that we are not content.”
(New York correspondent Andrew Silow Carroll contributed to this report.)