Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Koch: Policy, Not Technical Problem, Blocks Yiddish Broadcasts to USSR

August 9, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rep. Edward I. Koch, Democrat of New York, has charged that “policy” and not “a technical problem” is the issue in the objections raised by the State Department and the United States Information Agency against Yiddish broadcasts by the Voice of America to Jews in the Soviet Union. Koch made his assertion in an Aug. 3 letter to Martin J. Hillenbrand, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, based on a July 14 meeting with him. The Congressman made the letter available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this weekend. The State Department had no comment on it, Koch wrote that the July meeting “established that there is a time between 7 and 8 p.m. Moscow time when the VOA transmitters are idle.” He continued: “Thus, should the VOA want to broadcast in Yiddish during that time, we are not confronted with a technical problem or the question of whether a segment of hours allotted to broadcasts in Russian would have to be deleted. Thus, the issue really is one of policy.” Pointing out that Soviet Jews are “basically cut off from cultural discussions in Yiddish,” Koch said that the “empty, presently available hour could be filled with a Yiddish cultural program.” Koch added that “This matter becomes even more urgent by reason of the latest news, which is that the Soviet Union is attempting to cut off the tiny trickle of emigration which it has permitted to Israel.” The New York legislator advised Hillenbrand that “There are those in your department, I am sure, who have opposed VOA broadcasts in Yiddish because they are reluctant to unduly antagonize the Soviet government.” But he stressed that “I think it is fair to say that the very existence of the VOA is in itself a source of antagonism for the Russians, and certainly we all agree that its programs should not be discontinued.” The VOA and “members” of the State Department “have engaged in dilatory tactics because they refuse to face this issue squarely,” Koch charged. A Senate resolution urging such broadcasts has been in the hands of the Foreign Relations Committee since it was introduced July 7 by Sens. John V. Tunney, California Democrat, and Clifford P. Case, New Jersey Republican, with 22 other Senators cosponsoring. It has since been endorsed by seven more Senators, for a total of 31. No date has been set for its consideration by the Committee, headed by J. W. Fulbright, Arkansas Democrat.

Recommended from JTA