WASHINGTON (Sep. 19)
The senior Soviet official dealing with human rights questions maintained Tuesday that the United Nations General Assembly’s 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism was neither an anti-Zionist nor anti-Semitic act.
“I cannot believe that the majority of states” that voted for the 1975 resolution “condemned Zionism,” said Dr. Yuri Reshetov, chief of the Soviet Foreign Ministry’s Department of Humanitarian and Cultural Relations.
Speaking to the 18th annual leadership assembly of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, Reshetov said that the resolution “was mainly understood” as condemning “the practices of a certain state,” a reference to Israel.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, told Reshetov that his reply was “very disillusioning and disquieting.”
He said “Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people” and not tied to any government nor to the ideas of socialism or capitalism.
Reshetov, who was in Washington to prepare for Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze’s meeting with Secretary of States James Baker in Jackson Hole, Wyo., this week, is the first ranking Soviet official to address an NCSJ convention.
Asked about rising grass-roots anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Reshetov said that if anyone violates the criminal law, “he should be called to order, he should be punished.”
SPEAKS OF EMIGRATION REFORMS
He said that representatives of one group, apparently Pamyat, had been called in and warned about this.
For most of his talk, Reshetov stressed the improvements made in human rights in the Soviet union, including increased emigration. He said Jews are now free to study their cultural heritage, including Hebrew and Yiddish.
Maintaining that the majority of Jews in the Soviet Union want to remain there, Reshetov said that a new law is being introduced guaranteeing “freedom of conscience” for all Soviet citizens.
He said new laws are being introduced to “civilize” the emigration laws. They would deal with the two major reasons for denying exit visas: possession of state secrets and financial obligations to relatives remaining in the Soviet Union — the “poor relatives” requirement.
Use of the secrecy reason will be limited to five years, instead of indefinitely as is now the case. The “poor relatives” clause will now apply only to alimony obligations, and dispute will be decided by a judge.