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Members of Congress Ask Gorbachev to Investigate Latest Anti-semitism

August 10, 1988
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One hundred and seventy members of Congress are asking Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to formally investigate the activities of new anti-Semitic nationalistic groups that have recently surfaced under “glasnost.”

In an Aug. 8 letter, the lawmakers said that in the new ear of openness, “anti-Semitic acts are currently being organized against Jews in Moscow and other cities in the Soviet Union.”

They praised Gorbachev for recent human rights advances but asked him to officially condemn anti-Semitism and to halt further incidents against Jews.

None of the estimated 2.5 million Jews in the USSR have been killed or injured in any of the incidents, but the lawmakers told Gorbachev that Jewish property, including 60 tombstones in Moscow, had been desecrated by vandals.

A year-old Soviet nationalistic group called Pamyat (Remembrance), has been accused of being at the forefront of the anti-Semitic activity.

The lawmakers told Gorbachev that “your own press has described Pamyat leader Dmitri Vasiliev as a fanatic, and Pamyat as a dangerous organization.”

At a news conference at the Capitol sponsored Tuesday by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Rep. James Scheuer (D-N.Y.) said that “formed to preserve Russian culture, Pamyat has since poisoned its message with virulent anti-Semitism including age-old lies from the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ “

Judy Balint, a member of the executive committee of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, said that “Jews have always been the scapegoats of Russians.”

She said that Soviet nationalists such as Pamyat accuse Jews of murdering Czar Nicholas II during the 1917 Revolution, and for being the cause of Soviet economic woes.

In addition, Balint said Pamyat considers Jews less than totally committed to Soviet culture because of their Jewish heritage and desire to emigrate.


This “pogrom atmosphere,” Balint claimed, has led to a surge in visa applications and requests for letters of invitation by Soviet Jews in recent months.

Recent Soviet anti-Semitic incidents cited in the letter include a Jewish cultural group that was prevented from renting a meeting hall in Moscow. In that incident, a “handwritten leaflet urging ‘Death to the Jews’ was plastered to the door.”

Other incidents not cited in the letter include reported threats of violence in May and June during the celebration commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian churches; desecration of synagogues; and anti-Jewish demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad.

The lawmakers also complained to Gorbachev about anti-Semitic speeches and articles in the Soviet Union. But Rep. Jack Buechner (R-Mo.) asserted at the news conference that publications should not be censored for anti-Semitic content, but that the government should not encourage or advocate such writings.

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), who co-chairs the congressional caucus, said Gorbachev should not “move back on glasnost” but should recognize that “openness is not a license to perpetrate racial and religious persecution, possibly leading to pogroms.” Lantos said the caucus plans to meet later this month with Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, to discuss the issue.

Myrna Shinbaum, acting director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, and Jess Hordes, associate director of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, both called on Gorbachev to invoke for the first time Article 74 of the Russian republic’s Criminal, which makes ethnic and racial incitement a criminal offense.

In Moscow Monday, about seven Jews were arrested for apparently violating a new law that requires demonstrators to give 10 days notice to Soviet authorities before staging a protest, UCSJ spokeswoman Jennifer Kane said.

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