Radio Liberty, one of three radio stations broadcasting programs into the Soviet Union, today dismissed as nonsense allegations that it broadcasts anti-Semitic material, including accusations that Jews were responsible for the murder of Christ.
“This is total nonsense,” said Steven Miller, a programming director with Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. In a telephone interview, he asserted, however, that similar charges have been raised in the past, but that Radio Liberty had been cleared of the allegations.
Nonetheless, the World Jewish Congress today urged Charles Wicks, director of the United States Information Agency, to begin a probe of the allegations, contained in an article published in the Winter issue of Foreign Policy, the quarterly published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“We are outraged to learn that Radio Liberty continues to air patently anti-Semitic material, typically authored by East European emigres,” wrote Frieda Lewis, chairman of the WJC’s American Section. She added that “it takes little imagination to predict the terrible consequences that such incitement to hatred may well have for Jews who remain trapped within Radio Liberty’s target area.”
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith is monitoring the situation, according to Steven Freeman of the ADL legal department. He indicated that the situation that has developed at the radio appears to focus on station management and not on broadcast content or discrimination.
ARTICLE POINTS TO RIGHTWING SOVIET EMIGRES
The article in Foreign Policy, “Anti-Semitism and the Airwaves,” is authored by Lars-Erik Nelson, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News and a former Reuters correspondent in Moscow. Radio Liberty, which broadcasts 24 hours a day, is a semiautonomous U.S. agency administered by the USIA.
The radio employs numerous Soviet emigres and, according to Nelson, “under the Reagan Administration, rightwing emigres have set the tone for many important broadcasts.” He said many employes are concerned with “fighting obscure ideological battles, promoting anti-democratic views, or vindicating themselves in the eyes of their former compatriots (rather) than in serving U.S. interests.”
He added: “The arcane ideological warfare and, on occasion, religious bigotry found on Radio Liberty undermine the very idea that an American-managed semi-independent station can serve both a Soviet audience. American foreign policy interest.” Nelson said there are three groups of Soviet emigres at Radio Liberty: those or their families who left at the time of the Bolshevik revolution, those who emigrated at the end of World War II, and others who were permitted to leave the Soviet Union in the 1970’s. The latter group includes numerous Jews.
“Russians and Ukrainians who left immediately after WW II have protested, sometimes in crude, hand distributed cartoons, that ‘non-Russians’–newly arrived Jews–have too big a role in determining the station’s content,” Nelson wrote. The emigres at the station also, according to Nelson, accuse the Soviet Jewish emigrants as being “down-right pro-Soviet.”
A FOCUS OF THE CONTROVERSY
One focus of controversy cited by Nelson involved a broadcast dealing with publication of the revised edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “August 1914” which was described in a General Accounting Office report as “anti-Semitic and the most offensive program aired by the Russian service in 10 years.”
Though the book has not been published in English, it has already generated considerable controversy over whether Solzhenitsyn was anti-Semitic. Elie Wiesel rejects the charges. “He is too intelligent, too honest, too courageous, too great a writer. For Solzhenitsyn to be an anti-Semite would be wholly out of character,” he said.
The controversy generated over the broadcast of the “August 1914” program resulted in the firing of a Jewish editor, Vadim Belotserkovsky, for protesting to James Buckley, then head of Radio Liberty, over the broadcast, which he said was in line with Soviet anti-Semitic propaganda.
Nelson noted other broadcasts, including an Easter message by Archbishop Anthony of Geneva in which he accused the Jews ” even after 2,000 years” of trying to steal the body of Christ. Buckley, attempting to defend the broadcast, denied that the word “iudei” the prelate used meant “Jews” But Nelson, in his article, said that it means “one who practices Judaism.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.