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Senate Body Hears Testimony on Soviet Anti-semitism; Delays Action

August 11, 1964
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An attempt to water down the Ribicoff resolution condemning Soviet anti-Semitism by broadening it to include discrimination against Moslems and Christians was made today in testimony by a pro-Arab group before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and appeared to be well received by the acting chairman, Sen. Bourke B. Hickenlooper. Iowa Republican.

As hearings opened today on the Ribicoff measure, it was learned from well-informed Senate sources that the State Department has voiced reservations to Committee members and Chairman J.W. Fulbright on the wisdom of the Ribicoff Resolution. The Committee adjourned, after hearing testimony, because of the absence of a quorum. No final action was taken.

Senator Hickenlooper, ranking Republican who acted as chairman when Sen. Fulbright had to leave the meeting, voiced reservations about the limited scope of the resolution pertaining only to Jews. He said that Christians and Moslems were also “badly treated” in the USSR. The resolution, he felt, should be broadened to include other victimized groups as well as the Jews.

Senator Kenneth B. Keating, New York Republican, who was giving testimony favoring the Ribicoff resolution when Sen. Hickenlooper made his comments, said he had no objection to including other religions. But he pointed out that “most recently, persecution in the Soviet Union has turned mainly against the Jews” while there was some relaxation of pressures on others. Sen. Keating mentioned the ban on matzoh baking and other evidence of “concentration” on Jews.

Garland Evans Hopkins, testifying for the “Continuing Committee on Moslem-Christian Cooperation,” said the Ribicoff resolution might be “misunderstood in certain parts of the world” because it pertained only to the plight of one religious group. He said that a Christian sect was recently deported to Siberia and that millions of Moslems suffered “hardship and persecution” in the USSR. He said he did not know of any group that suffered as much as the Moslems” in the USSR. He hinted that millions of Soviet Moslems had “disappeared.”


Mr. Hopkins said that a resolution adopted by the Senate in 1953 condemning persecution by the USSR of all minorities, religious and racial, originally started as a move concerned only with the Jews. He said that the Senate then saw the wisdom of broadening it and should again do so. He urged the committee to strike out the following wording from the Ribicoff resolution:

“The Soviet Union is persecuting Jewish citizens by singling them out for extreme punishment for alleged economic offenses, by confiscating synagogues, by closing Jewish cemeteries, by arresting rabbis and lay religious leaders, by curtailing religious observances, by discriminating against Jews in cultural activities and access to higher education, by imposing restrictions that prevent the reuniting of Jews with their families in other lands, and by other acts that oppress Jews in the free exercise of their faith.”

Observers voiced belief that Hopkins’ pro-Arab group especially wanted to eliminate the reference to the reuniting of Jews with their families in other lands because of opposition to further Jewish immigration to Israel.

The alternative language proposed by Mr. Hopkins, and apparently favored by Sen. Hickenlooper, would state: “The Soviet Union is persecuting, in varying degrees of intensity, elements of its Christian, Moslem and Jewish citizens by singling them out for extreme punishment for alleged economic offenses; by confiscating churches, synagogues, and mosques; by closing cemeteries, by arresting religious leaders, by curtailing religious services, by discriminating against them in cultural activities and access to higher education, and by other acts that oppress them in the free exercise of their faith.” He would also eliminate the word “Jews” from the enacting clause of the resolution.


Previous to the Hopkins testimony, Gen. Abraham Ribicoff, Connecticut Democrat, had urged the Senate to speak out, through his resolution, against Soviet anti-Semitism. He testified on behalf of 24 Jewish organizations. Asking adoption of Senate Resolution 204, the resolution he introduced in the Senate last September, Sen. Ribicoff said the persecution of Jews had intensified. He recalled the failure to act early enough against Nazi anti-Semitism and felt that specific action might now stem the Soviet drive against Jews.

Sixty-three other Senators Joined with Sen. Ribicoff to co-sponsor the resolution. He said “they feel that the time has come for the U. S. Senate–speaking for the American people to take an official stand on the Soviet Government’s systematic policy of attrition against the 3,000,000 Jewish citizens of the USSR.” The Soviet anti–Jewish policy, he said, aims “to shatter, pulverize and gradually eliminate Jewish historical consciousness and Jewish identity.”

He enumerated in detail the deprivation of cultural and religious rights, the anti-Jewish propaganda abuses, the scapegoating of Jews, discrimination in education and employment, and refusal of the right to emigrate to rejoin their families.

Senator Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, testified in support of the Ribicoff resolution. He cautioned that early protests against Nazi anti-Semitism were “inadequate” and emphasized that the resolution was essential to focus world public opinion on the growing plight of Soviet Jewry. Testimony favoring the resolution was submitted in writing by Sen. Thomas J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Sen. Hugh Scott, Pennsylvania Republican. Material from the B’nai B’rith International Council and the American Jewish Committee was made part of the record.

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