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Focus on Issues the Kremlin’s Perception of Jewish Power in the U.S.

March 15, 1983
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Nearly 50 of the most eminent Soviet specialists from the U.S., Canada and Europe reached a surprising consensus at a recent “Experts Conference on Soviet Jewry Today,” held in London.

While they differed on many aspects of the problem, all were of the firm opinion that the Kremlin’s attitude towards the emigration of Jew was rooted in a firmly-held conviction that the Jews in the United States wield great power and can lay down or influence American world policy and especially its policies towards the Soviet Union.

The London conference was organized by the recently-established Israel-Diaspora Institute based on the campus of Tel Aviv University and the London-based Institute of Jewish Affairs, with the support of the Theodor Herzl Institute of New York.

Its aim, according to Dr. Yoram Dinstein, rector of Tel Aviv University and dean of its law school, one of the founders of the Israel-Diaspora Institute, was to use the time before the convening of the Jerusalem Conference on Soviet Jewry this week, following the original Brussels conference, to prepare the academic and scientific basis for the latest conference.

This gathering will be more political and aimed at action, rather than the purely academic forum of the London expert’s discussions.


Dinstein, a leading expert on constitutional law who in the early 1970’s served for a time as an Israeli consul in New York handling Soviet Jewry issues and who has remained active in that area, referred to what he termed the “almost surrealistic view of Jewish power” on the part of the USSR.

He said this means that the Kremlin adopts a carrot and stick policy towards allowing its Jewish citizens to leave the country, turning the tap on and off according to its perception of the American President’s reaction to Soviet moves.

Soviet officials have told experts, including some of those who attended the London conference, that they were mistaken in claiming that because the U.S. President was not Jewish and only a minority of Senators were Jews, it was not the Jews who make policy. “You don’t read the situation properly,” they say.

“It’s not these leaders themselves you have to look at to know who wields power. Look at their aides and experts — nearly all of them are Jews; and it is they who draft policy,” the experts have been told.

Dinstein said: “The experts were all agreed that the Kremlin leaders seem to believe the great bluff of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They are convinced that it is Jewish power which runs the U.S., at least.”

The experts attending the London conference had gathered to try and establish “what went right and led the Kremlin to begin allowing Jews to emigrate, and then what went wrong and brought out the decline of emigration.”

The Kremlin decision to allow Jews to leave the Soviet Union to join relatives in Israel appears to have been taken some time between 1963 and 1965. but only “driplets” managed to get exit visas by 1967, when even that trickle was stopped in July 1967, at the outbreak of the six-day war.

Emigration started again in September, 1968, but it seems to have been the world outrage at the Leningrad trials and the publicity engendered by the First Brussels Conference in 1971 which brought about what became almost a mass movement of Jews from the Soviet Union.

By 1979 the exit figure peaked at over 50,000 but has since declined annually from 9.000 in 1980 to only 2,000 last year. Although a monthly figure is no absolute indicator, the January 1983 emigration figure was a bare 81, with only 19 of them coming to Israel. The others all went on to the U.S.

The Sovietologists tended to agree that the move to America rather than to Israel had little to do with the Kremlin decision to slow down emigration.


Since emigration restarted in the late 1960’s, about 260,000 Russian Jews have left the Soviet Union. According to the best estimates, another 380,000 Russian Jews have sent their personal details to Israel for the Israeli government to send on entrance visas for presentation to the Soviet authorities. This makes an astonishing 600,000 Soviet Jews who have left or have shown an active interest in leaving the Soviet Union.

And the figure will almost certainly increase. It is a known fact that the more exit visas granted at any time, the larger the number applying for exit permits.

At the same time,the number of refuseniks has remained constant, at about 3,000 a year — except for last year, when the number rose sharply to 8,000, A refusenik is described by the experts as a man who has received a formal written refusal to his application for an exit visa.

Many others are not officially refuseniks because they have not yet received the formal rejection. Hundreds, or even thousands of them, have been told to go back and bring further details — a delaying tactic which is a form of harassment and intimidation.

The very fact of starting the process which will hopefully eventually lead to an exit visa is already a commitment in itself. As applications must be sent by mail, and not hand-carried by visitors or messengers, they are an open and official announcement, because of censorship.

Citizens are frequently summoned to the visa office and queried about the contents of letters from abroad, even if the letter itself has not yet been delivered by the post office to the addressee.


Another point on which the Soviet experts were agreed was that the Kremlin was reverting to an old Leninist and Stalinist theory of the integration of national elements in the Soviet Union.

Reference to “a fusion of nationalities” by Soviet leader Yuri Andropov alarmed the experts, as a hint of a further crackdown on ethnic and national groups, including the Jews. But on the other hand, it is being made more difficult for Jews to “fuse” or integrate through marriages with non-Jews.

While the offspring of such integrated marriages can opt for which ethnic group they wish to embrace, “internal passports,” the identity cards all Soviet citizens must carry, now bear the nationality of both father and mother.

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