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Jews Converge in Madrid to Support Rights of Soviet Jews

November 13, 1980
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Soviet Jewish activists and Jewish Circles working in conjunction with the Presidium of the Brussels Conference plan to launch an intensive campaign on behalf of Soviet Jewry this week. They have held back for several weeks while the United States delegation and other Western representative tried to save the European Conference for Security and Cooperation.

This morning, as it became clear that the Soviet delegation will not accept any agenda ensuring a thorough discussion of the human rights violations despite the Helsinki Agreement, the Jewish groups decided to launch their campaign.

Jewish sources in Madrid told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency “we waited till the last minute to try and have our issue debated on the conference floor. Now, as it seems evident that the Soviets will not agree to any conceivable solution, we plan to go ahead with our plans.”

The Conference for European Security and Cooperation is attended by delegations from 33 European countries plus the United States and Canada. It was convened to study the applications and implication of the agreement signed in Helsinki. For the last six weeks, while the delegates he a preparatory talks, the Soviet delegation and representatives of other East European countries tried to block any serious discussion of these issues.


The Jewish groups now plan several spectacular actions to help to focus world public opinion on the plight of Soviet Jewry. Next month, the chief rabbis of most West European countries will demonstrate outside the meeting all and later call a press conference to air the issue. The chief rabbis of France, Britain, Italy, West Germany and Denmark are due to attend and others might join them.

The titular heads of Western Europe’s two largest Jewish communities, Baron Alain de Rothschild, President of the Representative Council of French Jews (CRIF) and Labor MP Greville Janner, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, are also due to arrive in Madrid next month. Parliamentarians from 14 West European countries are also due in the Spanish capital next month and will ask to be heard by the Conference’s presidium to officially raise the question of Soviet violations of Jewish rights in spite of the Helsinki agreement and concrete Russian pledges.

Three Russian Jewish women whose husbands and sons have been unable to leave the Soviet Union, plan to start a hunger strike tomorrow in front of the conference hall. A spokesman for the women said that they will keep their silent vigil outside the hall in spite of the cold and rain until they feel that their problem is likely to be examined by the conference.

The hall where the delegates meet and have been haggling for the last few months is like a fortress cut off from the rest of the world and, some say, reality. Spanish policemen with a long experience in wielding batons are keeping the area clear of all demonstrators and Jewish activists have been unable until now to enter the meeting hall building to meet delegates or present their cases. Even newsmen have a hard time gaining admittance to the building. The Spanish authorities apparently are trying to give the conference as low a profile as possible.

Several organizations not connected with the Brussels Conference on Soviet Jewry, such as the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry, are also active in the Spanish capital. They had planned a major press conference earlier this week with Ida Nudel’s sister, Ilana Friedman. It was cancelled at the request of the American delegation which hoped at the time to reach a compromise agreement on the agenda with the Soviet Bloc.


All of the Jewish activists in Madrid pay tribute to the role played by the head of the American delegation during the preliminary talks, Washington attorney, Max Kampelman. They say that Kampelman’s request to postpone major action on behalf of Soviet Jewry was not motivated by a desire to push the matter into a corner but to have a valid platform for a long and thorough discussion of the subject.

The Socialist international which is also meeting in Madrid, though not connected with the Security and Cooperation Conference, is expected to examine the situation of Soviet Jewry at the request of the Israeli delegation led by Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres.

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