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Soviet Jews and U.S. Hostages Seen As ‘chips’ in Bargaining

February 3, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

— Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who defended Anatoly Shcharansky at his trial as a Soviet Prisoner of Conscience, sees Soviet Jews and the Americans who had been held hostage in Iran as "chips in the international bargaining game."

Like the now freed Americans, the Soviet Jews are "anxious to breathe the air of freedom," Dershowitz told about 170 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate and their aides at a meeting on Soviet Jewry at the Capitol last week.

The meeting, a biennial gathering conducted by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, was sponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D. Mich.) and Pete Domenici (R. NM), and Representatives Michael Barnes (D.Md) and Jack Kemp (R. NY). Its purpose was to familiarize new members of Congress with the plight of Soviet Jewry.

Dmitri Simes, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and himself a Soviet Jewish immigrant, said that the effort to help Soviet Jews must be "realistic and persistent." Prof. Richard Pipes of Harvard, an advisor to President Reagan on Soviet affairs, had to cancel his appearance when he was called to the White House.

During the session, a phone call was placed to Dr. Alexander Lerner in Moscow but the connection could not be made. The Moscow operator said there was no answer from Lerner. Davida Manon, the Council’s executive director, discounted the operator’s statement, saying that the call had been arranged in advance and in person by a traveler to Moscow.

Dershowitz said negotiating with the Soviets was much like using a vending machine. He said one puts in a coin and if no candy comes out one can put in another coin or kick the machine but "you can’t talk to it." The Council, which was founded in 1970 with six groups and now has organizations in 28 cities, is headed by Robert Gordon, a Boston businessman.

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