U.S. Senators Speak out for Rights of Soviet Jews at Ncsj Conference
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U.S. Senators Speak out for Rights of Soviet Jews at Ncsj Conference

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Broad bipartisan support in the struggle of Soviet Jews to emigrate or live as Jews in the USSR was expressed by member of Congress today, one day before the 35 signatories to the Helsinki agreement were scheduled to meet in Belgrade. Sens. Henry Jackson (D.Wash.), Charles Mathias (R.Md.) and Charles Percy (R.III.) were among the members of Congress who vioced their support before some 2500 persons attending the National Conference on Soviet Jewry’s leadership conference here.

"The Jackson-Vanik Amendment tying trade concessions to freer emigration from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is no longer an island in the sea of indifference on human rights." Jackson declared. "I am proud that the Congress took the lead in enshrining as part of our public law this most fundamental human right. President Carter is committed to the implementation of the Jackson Vanik Amendment and together we will prevail."

Jackson said that by imprisoning dissidents the Soviet Union was testing Carter’s commitment to human rights. He said the defenders of human rights such as Alexander Ginzburg, Yuri Orlov and Anatoly Sharansky "have been exercising their internationally affirmed rights to freedom of expression, informing the government signatories to the Helsinki agreement, as well as the public at large of cases of flagrant violations of the human rights articles," Jackson said. "The Soviet authorities hear this criticism and comment, and they hope they have it silenced…"


Mathias noted that "we cannot impose our values on other people, but we can focus the spotlight of public scrutiny on those who assault basic human rights. We hear that the USSR is lightening its hold on its people…Let no one say 50 years from now that, at the critical moment, the conscience of the world was silent."

Percy said that the Soviets give the U.S. little choice but a confrontation at Belgrade tomorrow "when, on the eve of the conference, they take additional repressive measures against those Soviet citizens who speak freely, communicate with the West, or apply to emigrate."

At a discussion during the two-day assembly yesterday, Patt Derien, the State Department’s coordinator on human rights and humanitarian affairs, declared that "The commitment of the United States towards a human rights policy is a serious one. This message has been delivered time and time again through Presidential statements, a major address by the Secretary of State and through continuous representations at diplomatic levels and institutional actions."


Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D. Md.) declared that "Conditions which Soviet Jews have faced over the years dramatize the need for a renewed commitment to human rights and specifically to the right of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union to function freely as a viable religious and national group." Hedrick Smith, Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times and former chief of its Moscow bureau, told a panel discussion last night that "Carter’s principles are good. The draw respect from other countries, but he has not shown a clear strategy."

Brooklyn District Attorney Eugene Gold, who was re-elected chairman of the NCSJ, told the panel last night that "We have been able to put the plight of Soviet Jews on the world agenda through raising our voices. We cannot be silent." He said there "will be no termination date" on the human rights provisions of the Helsinki agreement. In an earlier address, Gold pledged he would "continue the struggle for which the NCSJ was founded, to help all Soviet Jews who wish to emigrate leave the Soviet Union and to help Soviet Jews live in the Soviet Union as Jews, with all rights, privileges, and freedoms accorded all other groups in the USSR." He said that during the past year "the Soviets have increasingly singled out Jewish activists and have put them under increased pressure to cease their activities, which are entirely legal under both Soviet and international law. We must strengthen our support as they continue their struggle."


In another review of the year, Jerry Goodman, the NCSJ’s executive director noted that the "situation these past few months deteriorated as Soviet Jewish activist Anatoly Sharansky is threatened with the charge of treason and both Amner Zavurov and Dr. losif Begun have recently been sentenced to prison terms." At an awards luncheon today, Rep. Dante Fascell (D.Fla.), chairman of the Commission on Security and Co-operation in Europe; former NCSJ chairman Stanley Lowell, now chairman of the NCSJ Helsinki Monitoring Committee and Lazar Liubarsky, a former Soviet Jewish Prisoner of Conscience representing all POCs, accepted awards for their activities in behalf of Soviet Jewry.

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