Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

STATEMENT OF Hox. ROBERT N. GIAIMO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS

FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT Mr. Chairman and members of this subcommittee, on this third and final day of hearings dealing with the Soviet Union's treatment of its Jewish citizens, allow me to commend each of you for the service you have done by focusing congressional and public attention in this problem.

Previous speakers have detailed many of the ways in which persons of the Jewish faith living in the U.S.S.R. have been prevented from expressing and enjoying the full development of Jewish culture and education. This discrimination has been accompanied by rigid restriction of the right of Jews to emigrate from Russia to other countries, as well as by dramatic trials of Jews who attempted to protest, both the daily discrimination and the limitations on their right to live in the country of their choice.

During my trip to the Soviet Union in January of this year, I talked with several Jews whose personal experiences confirm reported state oppression and restriction. These Jews told me that they look to the United States to lead in generating a force of world opinion which would hasten change in the Soviet Union and which would at least loosen the bars of the Iron Curtain, allowing those who could to leave.

WHAT HAS UNITED STATES DONE? Now, however, some 10 months after those discussions, and several years after many members of this subcommittee as well as other Congressmen, including myself, began to hear about and protest the Soviet treatment of Jews, I have asked myself what the United States has done to justify the hopes of Soviet Jews. The answer, aside from the individual efforts to generate some publicity and scattered protests against the more outlandish Soviets “trials of Jews, is that we have done discouragingly little.

The resolutions being considered by your subcommittee, therefore, are a necessary stimulant to the President and the executive branch to place a higher priority on the consideration of this problem. The President and his appointees conduct the Nation's foreign policy, but the important role of Congress in influencing that policy must include specific recommendations whenever possible and appropriate. The task of witnesses before your subcommittee, therefore, is to offer specific recommendations for your consideration-recommendations which are practicable and which are made within the context of this country's place in the community of nations.

Mr. Chairman, we have found recently—and may be reminded again in the future—that while we are a leader in the world, while we may even be the most important Nation in the world, we cannot go it alone. We have found that our money, our military might and our corporate muscle will not buy us the respect of other nations, and will not by themselves guarantee peace. That is the context of this country's place in the world, and that is why unilateral actions against the Soviet Union-for example, trade restrictions or other economic threats, or U.S.-engineered political power plays using one Communist nation against another-will not be successful in altering domestic policies of the Soviet Union.

70--614-72— 12

WORLD OPINION EFFECTIVE

Because we cannot influence the Soviet Union by ourselves, however, does not mean that we cannot lead an expression of world opinion which would influence that nation. Now, in fact, is the time to reassert this Nation's historic role as the defender of human freedom and individual dignity, and, despite our recent rebuff in that body, the United Nations is the place where that coalition of world opinion should be fashioned.

Now is the time to show that this Nation's concerns are not parochial, however, and extend to the benefit of oppressed men and women in many other lands, and particularly to those whose religious and personal freedoms are compromised by state purposes. I predict that if, through Presidential directive, our United Nations representatives made this noble purpose their highest priority, our respect among other nations would rise and the Soviet Union which so often uses the smaller and less developed nations for its anti-U.S. moves in the U.N.—would be forced to listen and to change its policies toward history's most oppressed race.

Thank you very much.

STATEMENT OF Hon. SEYMOUR HALPERN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN

CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK

THE PLIGHT OF SOVIET JEWS

Mr. Chairman, during the past year we have all become increasingly aware of the plight of Soviet Jewry. The degradation, shame and fear suffered by the Soviet Jewish minority can no longer be ignored by people who believe in freedom, equality, and human dignity. It is indeed fitting, Mr. Chairman, that the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe is presently considering this problem, for it is a situation which must remain within the realm of public concern.

Despite official Soviet denial, Jewish citizens in the Soviet Union are being denied cultural-religious rights generally accorded to other Soviet ethnic minorities. Synagogues have systematically been closed down and those which still remain open cannot be attended without fear. The informal but rigorously imposed ban on the importation or manufacture of Jewish religious objects such as prayer shawls, prayer books, and Hebrew Bibles further stifles and restricts the freedom of Jewish worship. Yet Soviet officials persistently maintain that the Soviet State allows the freedom of worship, regardless of the religion.

Furthermore, Soviet authorities consistently and forcibly discourage the organization of Hebrew schools and restrict Yiddish secular organizations. The once thriving Yiddish press and theater, as well as the once impressive network of Yiddish speaking schools, are virtually nonexistent. In contrast, other Soviet minorities enjoy the right to cultural facilities, schools, radio broadcasts, books, and theaters in their own language. This policy of discrimination, promoted and manipulated by the Soviet authorities is not only in violation of a number of international agreements to which the Soviet Union is a signatory, but also directly violates provisions of the Soviet Union's own Constitution.

JEWS NO LONGER SILENT

The Soviet Jewish minority was, not so long ago, referred to as the "Jews of Silence.” This, however, is no longer true. Many Soviet Jews who find this religious-cultural oppression intolerable have boldly challenged the system and its leaders which persistently discriminnates against them. The Soviet system, rather than using the many skills and talents which its Jewish minority can offer, has in the past and is currently attempting to eliminate the Jews as a cohesive element within Soviet society.

Officially promoted antisemitism, although not manifested in as crude and barbaric ways as during the tsarist or Stalinist periods, has within the last year centered around a series of trials which began with the December 1970, Leningrad trial. The trials were, of course, justified by Soviet officials as legitimate actions against individuals for attempted hijacking, for promoting anti-Soviet activities, and various other offenses included in the Soviet criminal code. These trials attracted a great deal of public attention which resulted in the commuting of two death sentences which were handed down. This, indeed, showed that Kremlin leaders were not totally insensitive to public opinion, but can we sit back and be satisfied with this one small victory? We cannot and we should not, for Soviet policy has changed very little. Though emigration figures have risen, the Jewish minority continues to be the scapegoat for domestic and foreign policy dilemmas.

However, despite these oppressive conditions and restrictive official policies, a large number of the Jewish minority have found a voice and have courageously demonstrated for full civil liberties, circulated numerous petitions to Soviet leaders and the United Nations, and have actively agitated for permission to emigrate.

The Soviet goal of silencing the Jewish voice has clearly become unattainable. The reawakening of Jewish pride and consciousness, against all odds, has in fact offered hope to the Jewish minority as well as to other minorities and political dissidents. The very plight of their position within the Soviet Union has only strengthened their courage, dedication, and determination.

I believe it is now our responsibility as members of a free society, in a country which has been the guardian of the traditions of liberty, justice, and the dignity of mankind, to use all means available to us to urge the Soviet Government to change its degrading, discriminatory policies. House Concurrent Resolution 211, of which I am a cosponsor, urges the President of the United States to persuade the Soviet leaders to allow Jews the freedom of worship, to grant the Jews the same rights accorded to other minority groups, and to allow those who wish, to emigrate. We have seen that public outrage and international public opinion does have an effect on Kremlin leaders. Rather than easing our efforts in response to token liberalization, we must continue to exert pressure, in the hope that justice can ultimately be achieved.

STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL J. HARRINGTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN

CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS I should like to reaffirm my support for House Concurrent Resolution 390 which I have cosponsored with Congressman Anderson and others. This resolution, directing the President and officials of the State Department to take immediate steps to express concern for Soviet Jews, clearly reflects the deep concern and sense of urgency that many of our citizens feel. The American Government must take action so that basic freedoms are restored to Soviet Jews; freedom to emigrate, freedom to practice religion, freedom from discrimination, and freedom to maintain their cultural identity.

"There are two kinds of Jews,” according to Rabbi Richard Hirsh, director of the National Religious Action Center, "There are those,” he said, “who wish to renounce their Jewish traditions and blend into Soviet society; there are others who wish to maintain their traditions but are prevented from doing so by the Russian Government.” It is of the second group of people that Rabbi Hirsh speaks of that I should like to direct my remarks.

BASIC FREEDOM TO EMIGRANTS

There are certain basic rights, certain basic values that upon which the United States has based its Constitution, that the Soviet Union expresses in its own written documents, and which the covenants of the United Nations attempt to guarantee. Two of those values are just application of the laws and respect for the rights of others. A straying from these principles by the Soviet Union has led to wrongs suffered by many Soviet Jews.

Many Soviet Jews wish to emigrate but are not permitted to do so by the Soviet Union. The number estimated has varied from 10,000 and 300,000 depending upon the source. The exact number is not critical here. What is significant is that there are a large number of people who are being denied a basic human freedom. The Soviet Union's rationalization for this denial of freedom is that certain administrative procedures must first be followed. This is absurd. The Soviet Union signed the United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which article 12/2 states the doctrine that "everyone shall be free to leave any country including his own.” Is this demonstration by Soviets of justice in application of laws?

Not only are many Soviet Jews prevented from emigrating, but, likewise, many Soviet Jews are denied the right to practice religious beliefs in their own country. There are few Jewish prayer books. No Hebrew Bibles have been printed since the revolution. The number of Russian synagogues has declined sharply in recent years. Thousands of synagogues have been closed. Yet Soviet delegates to the United Nations have stated that freedom of worship is protected by the state as a constitutional right of Soviet citizens.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »