Reagan Pledges to Push Moscow on Soviet Jews and Human Rights
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Reagan Pledges to Push Moscow on Soviet Jews and Human Rights

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President Reagan pledged to Jewish leaders from the United States and abroad Thursday that he will again press the issue of human rights, including those of Soviet Jewry, when he meets with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow May 29 to June 2, according to the participants.

“In no way are the Soviets going to get us to retreat from these principles and from the insistence on their adherence to their obligations,” Reagan was quoted as saying by Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

The 20-minute White House pre-summit meeting was attended by eight leaders of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and led by Abram and Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the World group and 3 former Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Abram, who is also chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, led a delegation from that umbrella group in a meeting with Secretary of State George Shultz Tuesday, at which Shultz reiterated that the issue of Jewish emigration would be high on the summit agenda.


Reagan also volunteered to the Jewish leaders that the United States will not change the Jackson-Vanik Amendment until the soviets allow the large number of Jewish emigrants required by the law, according to Abram.

Abram added the National Conference was pleased that Commerce Secretary C. William Verity also made this clear to Soviet officials when he led a delegation of American businessmen to the Soviet Union last month.

Dinitz, who is also chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, said that the Jewish leaders wanted to thank Reagan for his support of Soviet Jewry and his assurances of continued support.

He said he believes the president is personally committed to the struggle, noting that Reagan told the group that he had worn a bracelet in support of longtime refusenik Yosef Begun since before he was president. Reagan said that when begun, who recently was allowed to emigrate to Israel, was in the White House last week, he gave him the bracelet.

Abram said that the Soviets committed themselves to be questioned about human rights when they signed the Helsinki Accords, the International Declaration on Human Rights and other international agreements.

Some progress has been made, Abram said, which Jewish leaders welcome. Through the Reagan administration’s efforts, he said, the United States has “absolutely institutionalized the use of summits to advance the cause of human rights and Soviet Jewry in a way that can never be ignored by subsequent administrations.”

He also welcomed increases in Jewish emigration from the USSR in the last few months, but stressed the numbers were far less than in the 1970s.

As Abram discussed human rights, a reporter asked him if he thinks “Israel is observing human rights” on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“I certainly do,” Abram replied. He said Israel is under international obligation to restore order in the territories and if it did not, it would be in violation of international law.

Israel occupies those territories because there is no peace and “the reason there is no peace is because the Arabs have refused to make peace,” he stressed.

In addition to Abram and Dinitz, the White House conference was attended by Neil Bradman, chairman of the British National Council for Soviet Jewry; Claude Kelman, chairman of the French Committee for Soviet Jewry; Barbara Stern, chairperson of the Canadian Committee for Soviet Jewry; Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International; Jerry Goodman, the NCSJ’s executive director; and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents.

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