WASHINGTON (Dec. 8)
The deputy chairman of the Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public refused Tuesday to confirm reports here that the Kremlin is planning to disband the anti-Israel propaganda organ.
When asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency if the reports were true, Samuil Zivs, in Washington for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s summit meeting with President Reagan, chuckled and refused to comment.
But on Monday, Zivs told The New York Times, “No public organization can last forever.” Reports of the Kremlin’s plans to disband the committee, attributed to an unidentified American official, first appeared in the newspaper Tuesday.
FORMED IN 1983
The committee was formed in April 1983 at a time when anti-Semitic propaganda was proliferating in Soviet books, media broadcasts and newspaper articles. It has been used by Soviet authorities to counter activism by Soviet Jewish refuseniks and their supporters in the West.
“The Anti-Zionist Committee was a blunder when it was created, and never accomplished what the pre-Gorbachev rulers wanted to accomplish,” Jerry Goodman, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Tuesday.
‘BECAME AN EMBARRASSMENT’
He said the committee became “an embarrassment” to the Kremlin, because of its “crude propaganda and heavy-handed approach. It did not deter Jews who wanted to leave for Israel and its propaganda was never bought in the West except by pro-Moscow apologists.”
Shortly after the committee was formed, Zivs announced that nearly all Jews who wished to leave the Soviet Union had done so, that there was no Jewish problem in the USSR and no anti-Semitism. He later retracted the statement on emigration.
Prior to the 1985 summit meeting in Geneva between Reagan and Gorbachev, Zivs told the news media they were victims of “false propaganda,” yet admitted that several thousands Jews still wanted to emigrate but could not be granted exit visas because of “state secrets.”
PERSONA NON GRATA
Zivs later became persona non grata in the United States, Goodman recalled, and was refused entry even though he had applied as a member of the Soviet Lawyers’ Association at the urging of the American Bar Association.
Because the committee members “caused an obvious embarrassment in the West, they were excluded whenever possible from participating in meetings, even if they came under other sponsors,” said Goodman. “It was obvious they were a liability in trying to project the new image of a new Gorbachev and a changing society.”
Goodman said he would welcome the dissolution of the committee, “because maybe there will be less anti-Semitic pollution in the Soviet Union.”
But he said its elimination would “not suggest, in and of itself, a real shift in terms of Jews living in the Soviet Union.”