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STATEMENT OF HON. THOMAS P. O'NEILL, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mr. Chairman, I am proud to speak in behalf of House Concurrent Resolution 390, to relieve the suppression of Soviet Jewry.
In America we often speak out against the tyranny and oppression which exists in other parts of the world. In one sense, it may be said that as a democracy it is our responsibility to make the world community aware of the injustices which are occurring on a daily basis. It is important that we continue to speak out and continue to inform, lest we in America take our own freedoms for granted.
But what is more imperative is that we match our words with action. House Concurrent Resolution 390 accomplishes that objective. Through the auspices of the President of the United States and the Soviet Government, House Concurrent Resolution 390 calls upon the Soviet Government, in its own words, "to permit the free expression of ideas and exercise of religion by all its citizens in accordance with the Soviet Constitution."
In addition it calls upon our State Department to bring up the issue in the General Assembly of the United Nations.
It is my sincere belief that the community of nations is well aware of the deplorable injustices with which the Jewish citizens of the Soviet Union must live. The universal human right to live where one wishes has been affirmed by the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights and by every free nation in the world. It is time for us now, under the banner of House Concurrent Resolution 390 to act to preserve and protect those sacred and cherished rights.
Many people may voice objections to House Concurrent Resolution 390 under the assumption that it is tantamount to interference in the sovereign affairs of another nation. That argument cannot be maintained because we are merely requesting that the Soviet Government enforce the guarantees which are contained in its own Constitution, and the charter of an organization of which it is a member. If America can be called on, as it so often is, to insure that the freedoms in the U.S. Constitution are preserved from attack, then we can certainly expect the same from other nations which assert that their citizens' freedoms are equally protected.
Mr. Chairman, I commend the committee on bringing House Concurrent Resolution 390 to the attention of the Members and for holding these hearings. To my mind this measure is of utmost importance, as it speaks to the very core of human existence: the desire to be free. I am looking forward to the speedy passage of the resolution in the hope that the Jewish citizens living in the Soviet Union be given the basic rights to live where they please and to enjoy their cultural heritage which they so richly deserve.
STATEMENT OF HON. PETER A. PEYSER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Jews today in the Soviet Union are denied the basic human rights that are accorded most people around the world. If the most basic of those rights is the freedom to worship, then the second most basic right is the freedom to leave. Perhaps the Soviet leaders feel that if they cannot control or erase the thoughts of the Jews, they can at least imprison them. The modern world has been witness to an earlier attempt by Nazi Germany, at imprisoning the thoughts of men, and it, too, failed. Upon that failure, the Nazis tried another method, that of erasure of the minds that harbored the thoughts. There are 6 million silent testimonies to the attempt at annihilation of Jewish minds. Are we to stand silent, as silent as those 6 million, to watch another annihilation? For it appears that if the first attempt by the Soviets to imprison the Jews within the Soviet Union fails, then the present-day decisionmakers of Russia may take another page from the Nazis and move to even harsher policies.
The Soviet leaders have tried isolation: the attempt in 1936 to create an autonomous Jewish republic in Siberia failed. The Soviet leaders have tried assimilation : but when confronted with the government's programed assimilation, the Jews in Russia become more aware of their heritage and therefore less attuned to assimilation. The Soviet leaders have tried to present legalistic facades that would separate the Jews from the rest of society as undesirables, as the most recent trials have done, but no one is fooled by the sham trials and the equally ridiculous charges. Perhaps the most unreasonable Soviet policy toward the Jews is the refusal to grant emigration visas to the 3 million Jews who want to leave. I fail to understand the logic of the Soviet Union on the emigration issue. If the Soviet Union does not want the Jews, and the Jews want to leave, why does Moscow refuse to allow the Jews to leave?
Many people believed that the Soviet Union had relaxed the ban on emigration when a few Jews were allowed to leave in early 1971. The total number of Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union is around 5,000 for the year. In previous years, the number of Jews allowed to leave the country was usually around 1,000 to 2,000. Clearly, the Soviet plan is to offer these increases in the number of emigrant visas as
proof that the Soviet leaders are giving the imprisoned Jews freedom of choice. But when the total number of emigrants is compared with the total number of Jews held prisoner behind the iron curtain, it is blatantly apparent that the Soviet policy is meant to appease the Jews and not to free them.
Another aspect of the farce of the Soviet emigration policy is the Soviet position on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since most of the Soviet Jews want to go to Israel, and since the Soviet Union supports Israel's enemies, to the extent that Soviet fighting men have recently appeared in Egypt, the Soviet Union will not allow the Jews to move to Israel. Soviet Jews are being used to further a Soviet policy in the ArabIsraeli conflict. It is bad enough that the Soviet leaders persecute and discriminate against their Jews, but they are carrying their antisemitism into their foreign policy and trying to use their captive Jews as a lever against the State of Israel. This is the same Soviet Government, which constantly accuses the United States and other free and democratic nations of exploiting people in the underdeveloped nations. The Soviets themselves are exploiting the Jews to push a policy of antisemitism.
I am firmly convinced that the U.S. Government, in order to reflect the beliefs and desires of the American people who find the whole episode of the treatment of the Soviet Jews to be abhorrent, must take a firm position on the Soviet policy of discrimination against the Jews. I believe that we should make known our feelings that the Jews in the Soviet Union should be allowed to emigrate to Israel, if they so desire.
STATEMENT OF Hon. BERTRAM L. PODELL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK Mr. Chairman, I welcome the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee on Europe this morning and testify concerning Soviet treatment of its Jewish citizens.
Earlier this year from May 21 through May 27, I visited Russia for the purpose of gaining a firsthand knowledge of the persecution suffered by the 3 million Jews who remain in the Soviet Union. I would like to recount to you this morning some of the harrowing, but informative, conversations I had with members of the Russian Jewish community and offer some observations on life as it exists today for the Jews of the U.S.S.R.
All of my attempts at communication with Soviet Jews involved surmounting harassment and surveillance by the Communist authorities. Every room that I entered contained electronic bugs. I discovered that if any of the people I spoke with were overheard expressing complaints about persecution, they would soon be arrested.
Speech was impossible and similarly, we could not use pencil or paper for fear the secret police would break in and confiscate our writing as evidence of anti-Soviet activities.
The problem was solved with the use of a simple child's toy—a magic erasable slate. The use of the slate enable us to communicate without leaving any traces that could be picked up either by hidden bugs or marauding Government agents.
Many of these talks occurred inside one of Moscow's few synagogues. During the course of one such discussion, I ask a man whether as a Jew he had experienced any persecution at the hands of the Soviet Government. He replied “no." Í then asked him if he wished to immigrate to Israel. Again he answered “no.” Throughout his negative replies, however, the man nodded his head affirmatively indicating he was being persecuted and he would be arrested if he showed his true sentiments.
I also spoke with another young man just before Mincha--afternoon prayers—was to begin. While we were speaking in low, hushed whispers, another man entered the building. My companion made a covert thumbs-down gesture signaling that the newcomer could not be trusted. Even among his fellow worshippers, he suspected spies and government agents.
Near the end of my journey, I met with a family that had made application to leave Russia and immigrate to Israel. The father was an electrical engineer and the mother a physicist. Both had been fired from their jobs immediately after their application was submitted. For more than 12 months, neither of them had been permitted to work and earn a single ruble. Their children had been denied entrance into a university. Their apartment was without furniture. Everything had been sold during the previous year to pay for food and rent. There was
nothing left to sell. My first instinct was to offer them any money I had with me just to help them to survive. They refused to accept anything.
“We are already dead,” they told me. They realized that their applications for visas would never be approved.
Nevertheless, their spirit was not broken. I remember vividly what they said:
We have only one thing to request of you. To tell the world what is happening here. Not to spend one day without telling someone about how the Jews of Russia are fighting for their freedom. So that someday our children, or perhaps even their children will be able to freely and proudly exhibit their Jewish faith.
As you can imagine, throughout my trip I did not see very many optimistic or encouraging sights. However, I am happy and especially proud to tell you that despite the trials, despite the jail sentences, despite the spying and bugs, the Jews I met in the Soviet Union are neither cowed nor intimidated. Rather, as has happened throughout the history of the Jewish people, the Russian perversion of justice has only strengthened their will. The Soviet Jews are reinforced in their determination to press on for their rights, no matter what the cost.
I returned from Russia with evidence of this determination. With me, I brought a petition signed by a dozen Jewish mothers from Moscow and Leningrad. The petition was addressed to the leaders of the Soviet Government. In it the mothers were requesting that their children be allowed to emigrate to Israel. In return, the mothers themselves would remain behind as hostages in Russia.
Anyone can appreciate the tremendous sacrifice involved in this brave act. These women stood prepared to send away their children probably never to see them again so that their children could live as free men and women—as Jews.
The Jewish community of the Soviet Union asks only the right to live in peace as Jews. The Russian Government has acted to deny them that right. Instead, the few remaining freedoms of the Russian Jews are being increasingly circumscribed. Soviet broadcasts and publications are filled with loudly proclaimed antisemitic policy statements.
Although the Soviet Union claims to be an egalitarian and atheistic society, the Jews are being singled out for special abuse. Here is the clearest display of Soviet hypocrisy. Numerous other cultural and religious groups have been permitted to retain their identity. They have been permitted to worship. Jews instead are being repressed.
The Soviet Government starts with the faulty premise that a person cannot be both a loyal citizen and a Jew. Therefore, synagogues and religious schools have been closed by the Government. Educational and cultural facilities have been dismantled. Each Jewish congregation must exist in isolation from other congregations although other religious groups are permitted some centralization and some central council. Jews are denied bibles and basic religious articles.
The Soviet Jew is attacked as pro-Zionist and is looked upon as an actual or potential Israeli spy making him a disloyal citizen. It is a short step from classification as a Jew to classification as a potential Israeli spy. Yet the step is a dangerous one. No defense is adequate when an individual is suspect because of his birthright. The argument becomes a reductionist one, and the consequences offend human dignity.