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U.S. Rebuffs Soviet Demand to Remove Synagogue Plaque in New York

June 4, 1965
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The United States rebuffed today a demand by the Soviet Mission to the United Nations that the United States act to remove a plaque on a synagogue near the Mission building in New York City which accuses the Soviet Union of discriminations against Jews in the Soviet Union.

In the same exchange, the United States also rejected a protest by the Soviets against a protest march from the United Nations building to the Soviet Mission building organized by Jewish groups on January 17 to protest the Soviet denial of cultural and religious freedom to Russian Jewry.

The United States position was given in a statement released today by the U. S. Mission to the United Nations. It cited an earlier statement by the United States last February 24, which it said made it clear “that the erection of the plaque on Congregation Zichron Ephraim Synagogue in no way violates the privileges and immunities of the Soviet Mission to the United Nations” and that “the Government of the United States has nothing to add to that note.”

The Soviet Mission note declared that despite USSR Mission protests, “an anti-Soviet demonstration was organized” in front of the Mission building in which Mayor Robert Wagner “and other official persons took part. At the same time, a bronze plaque was installed opposite the Mission with an inscription which is slanderous and hostile to the Soviet Union.” The inscription, which the Soviets did not quote but which was quoted by the United States in its reply, is “Hear the cry of the oppressed–the Jewish community in the Soviet Union.”

SOVIET NOTE SAYS INSCRIPTION OF PLAQUE IS ‘SLANDEROUS’

The Soviet Mission charged that “such acts violate the normal conditions required by the USSR Mission for the performance of its functions” and that the acts were “an impermissible violation of the privileges and immunities of the Mission.” The note cited the agreement of June 26, 1946 between the United Nations and the United States Government on offices of the UN and the “universally recognized principles of international law on diplomatic relations.”

The Soviet note contended that the fact that the plaque was on private property did not change the situation, since international law “imposes on each state the obligation not to permit and to prevent the commission of unlawful acts in its territory against representatives of foreign countries by private persons.”

The Soviet note also held that the protest rally and the continued presence of the plaque ran counter to United States assurances last February 19 that measures were being taken to guard Soviet Embassy or UN mission buildings according to a rule banning demonstrations “at a distance of less than 500 feet from Embassy or Mission buildings.” The note finally protested the “negligence” of United States authorities and demanded “the immediate removal of the slanderous inscription.”

U. S. SAYS SOVIET IMMUNITIES NOT IMPAIRED BY JEWISH PLAQUE

The United States reply noted that all appropriate measures were taken to ensure that the protest meeting was “completely orderly, that no violence occurred and that there was no physical interference with entry or exit into the Soviet Mission or with its performance of its normal functions.”

The reply referred to the contrast between the orderly protest and the “organized mob violence recently directed against official United States Government buildings in the Soviet Union. The United States note also stressed that the placement of the plaque was a private action “with which the United States Government has had no association of any kind” and that its placement has not resulted “in violence against the Mission or in impediment in anyway to the fulfillment by the Soviet Mission of its functions.”

The note rejected the Soviet complaint of alleged violation of various agreements because “the privileges and immunities assured to the Soviet Mission” by those agreements “are not impaired by the plaque’s erection.”

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