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Ex-refusenik Opposes Ucsj Plan to Expedite Immigration to U.S.

February 27, 1991
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A proposal to increase the number of Soviet Jews allowed to enter the United States is dangerous and counterproductive, according to a former longtime Soviet Jewish refusenik now living in Israel.

Yuli Kosharovsky, who was often jailed and harassed during the 18 years he waited to emigrate, warned the plan would leave Soviet Jews “sitting on their suitcases and waiting,” instead of boarding planes to go to Israel.

“I think it’s counterproductive and shortsighted, and I don’t understand how it can help Soviet Jews,” he said in an interview Monday, during a three-day visit to the United States.

The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews proposed last week that the U.S. government should, in effect, waive its Soviet refugee quota and allow all Soviet Jews who have already applied to immigrate here to do so this year.

Some 40,000 Soviet Jews will be allowed to enter the United States as refugees this year. But more than 100,000 others have applied to immigrate here.

The Union of Councils says the proposal is necessary because of the shifting conditions in the Soviet Union, the threat of violence against Jews living there and the danger that emigration might be halted at any moment.

Kosharovsky, who arrived in Israel in March 1989, said the plan was unlikely to be accepted by U.S. officials, but that in the meantime, Soviet Jews would postpone their departures to Israel in the hope of getting a place in the United States.


“At this very time when Soviet propaganda is portraying Israel as hell on earth, at this very time when Jews are again being brainwashed, they suggest a proposal” that feeds into this propaganda, said Kosharovsky, who arrived here after an extended visit to the Soviet Union.

He was extremely dismissive of the plan and charged it would accomplish what the Iraqi Scud missile attacks were unable to do: halt Soviet immigration to Israel.

“They somehow are acting in the same direction as Saddam Hussein,” said Kosharovsky. “They don’t understand what they are doing.”

But an official from the Union of Councils said Kosharovsky misunderstood the proposal and was incorrect to think it would harm Soviet Jewish emigration.

Micah Naftalin, the group’s national director, said the proposal would apply only to those people who had already applied to enter the United States under the restrictive refugee resettlement and family reunification program.

“When things are getting so dangerous in the Soviet Union, can we afford to let them sit there and wait to be reunited with their families?” asked Naftalin.

“This would open no new avenue for Soviet Jews planning to go to Israel,” he said.

Nevertheless, the plan has already been rejected by most other U.S. groups working on behalf of Soviet Jews. Some Jewish officials expressed worry that the plan would take muchcoveted refugee slots away from other people in danger of persecution throughout the world.

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