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STATEMENT OF HON. JOSEPH E. KARTA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. Chairman and distinguished colleagues. As a cosponsor of two of the key resolutions concerning the suppression of Soviet Jewry, I welcome the opportunity to place my views before this subcommittee. This is an issue of international importance that needs to be directly addressed by concurrent resolution. I urge this Subcommittee on Europe to present to the full Foreign Affairs Committee a resolution such as House Congressional Resolution 391, or House Congressional Resolution 421 for consideration by the House.
In my remarks today I would like to briefly discuss the historical background of Russian antisemitism as an aid to understanding the situation we face today and to directly address myself to five reasons why this Congress must go on record in support of the rights of Soviet Jews.
While I would hardly qualify as an expert on Russian history, I, like many of my colleagues, have found it valuable to research the historical background leading up to the present day. I have found the work done on this subject by Rabbi Eugene Lipman to be a very useful resource in my analysis of this subject. Such a historical background is of great help in placing this issue in the proper perspective.
While Russia came to Christianity rather late in Christian history, events over several centuries resulted in Russia's capital of Moscow becoming a "third Rome.” The historical “second Rome” of Constantinople fell to the Moslem Turks in 1453 and with this loss Russia began to think of Moscow as the "third Rome” with the czar thought of as a Pope.
IN CZARIST RUSSIA From an analysis of the history of the czars we see that Ivan the Terrible (1533–84) was the first to issue a decree that forbid entry of Jews into Russia—this policy was continued by Peter the Great (16821725). While this reveals an example of religious exclusivity, religious persecution had not yet entered into the picture since Russia proper was not inhabited by Jews.
The problem, however, became more complex under Catherine the Great with the partition of Poland in 1722. With this she inherited over 200,000 Jews of White Russia. The problem from a religious exclusivity standpoint became even greater for Catherine with the second and third partitions of Poland. Catherine the Great found herself having the largest single concentration of Jews in the world within the boundaries of the country that considered its capital itself the “third Rome.” Holy Russia managed to retain its sacred status by the Pale of Settlement which confined the Jew to his areas in Poland.
With its background of religious bigotry it is of little surprise that several different attempts were made to solve the Jewish problem.
Alexander I (1801-25) attempted conversion to Christianity, offer. ing a carrot rather than a stick, by opening a few schools for Jews and allowing the graduates to leave the Pale of Settlement. Nicholas I (1825-55) tried the stick rather than the carrot form of conversion by closing the schools and decreeing 25 years of military service for all Jewish boys beginning at the age of 12.
This at least partially met with some success in Nicholas' eyes as the closely knit Jewish community was fragmentized when the Government handsomely paid some Jews to become "grabbers” of reluctant draftees.
Further fragmentization and economic chaos resulted from increased official repression that prohibited Jews from nearly every means of making a living.
A new era began with the crowning of Alexander II (1855–81) who emerged at the beginning of his reign as something of a social reformer. He freed the serfs and took to undertake the industrialization of Russia. He proclaimed compulsory education and allowed certain categories of Jews to leave the Pale of Settlement. As a result thousands of Jews flocked to the universities.
The assassination of Alexander II brought in Alexander III (188194) and complete about-face of czarist policy. By 1881 pogroms had broken out all over Russia and in May of 1882 the May laws returned the Jews to the days of the Pale of Settlement.
REACTIONS TO REPRESSION
Faced with this renewed repression the Jews had three alternatives. One was to leave, and some 3 million did to the United States, Western Europe, and Palestine. Second, they could retreat and live all the details of Jewish law and wait for the better promise that death offered in comparison with life. Third, they could revolt—and thousands did, becoming the backbone of the revolutionary movement.
At the beginning of the successful revolution the Soviet Government treated Jews as a nationality equal with other nationalities. As a result Jews moved into the professions, into government, into the military, and into positions of leadership.
However, repression returned when the Russian nationalism of Stalin defeated the internationalism of Trotzky. Once again Russia assumed the role of a "third Rome.” This time not of Christianity, but the "Rome" of communism.
Stalin's terroristic reign of antisemitism is well recorded by both his biographers and was officially recognized during the anti-Stalinistic thaw under Nikita Khrushchev.
Today it is significant-in the light of this historical backgroundthat three generations of Jews live in the Soviet Union today. The over-60 generation remembers the czar, the revolution, and remembers Judaism. They sit and wait for a few more prayer books and ritual objects. They hope for quiet.
Their children are the tragic generation that came to believe in Soviet communism, rejected their religion and were clobbered by Stalinism.
The third generation is now entering adulthood knowing not of pre-Stalinish czarist Russia, nothing of the expectation of building a new society, and not having real memories of Stalinistic terror. They are the theoretically mechanized Soviet citizens. But they know that they are Jews—know it the hard way. Know it from discrimination : religious discrimination, educational discrimination, employment discrimination, and social discrimination.
And of nationality discrimination. Jews are recognized officially as a nationality in the Soviet Union--the ninth largest among 142—-yet, they do not have the same rights as have been granted to other nationalities.
Today, we see in Russia, the demonstration of what happens when a strong-willed and dedicated people are repressed: a rededicated pride in their life and religion.
What must be done in the face of this background and with fuli knowledge of today's situation?
We must continue our pressure to assure Soviet Jews of the same rights as other nationalities in the Soviet Union. There are Jews in Russia who simply seek the same rights as their fellow citizens—they consider themselves good Russians, good patriots, and they want to be good Jews. But the present system does not allow Russian Jews who love their country, the right to be equal citizens.
80,000 REGISTERED TO LEAVE
We must continue to pressure the Soviet Union to allow what other Communist countries do now: let Jews leave the country who wish to leave and who have a country to accept them. We know that there are Russian Jews who want to leave and we know that there is a country who will accept them-Israel. Over 80,000 Russian Jews have registered with the Israeli representative in the Soviet Unionthe Dutch Embassy-for permission to leave. They have done this at the risk of employment and safety. How many would without this risk?
But some ask why should we make this plea on behalf of the Soviet Jews—why not all citizens of Soviet Russia? The reason, I believe, is due to the unique nature of Soviet repression of Jews. We are all aware that the Soviet Union is hardly a free country-but with the exception of the Soviet Jews this lack of freedom is dispensed on a nondiscriminatory basis. It is only, however, the Jews whose religion and culture is still officially suppressed.
How are we as Members of Congress to further these goals?
Pressure. Plain and simple and civilized pressure. Not because it leaves some of us with a clear conscience, but because it works.
Mr. Chairman, I refer now to the Manchester Guardian Weekly which editorialized :
General Franco finally listened to the worldwide appeals for a reprieve of the six condemned Basques ... international protest worked this time. It was also effective in the other brutal casethe Leningrad “hijack” trial.
We know from experience that worldwide opinion can change the policy of government.
AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT
Second, the time appears to be pregnant for the Congress to officially spell out our country's policy in relationship to the suppression of Soviet Jews. There is a slight thaw among the leaders of
the worldwe must and should take advantage of this thaw.
Third, an example of this thaw is the President's upcoming tripsone in particular to Moscow. Now is the time to demonstrate that the Government recognizes the discriminatory policy of the Soviet Union and arm our President with the necessary backing of a concurrent resolution.
Fourth, we have a proud legacy to maintain. It is the United States which recognizes the needs of suppressed people everywhere. It is in our great tradition to offer what help we can to suppressed people.
Fifth, we must act as a Congress to stop the senseless violence by some segments of our society who seek to inflame passions against Soviets through misguided deeds of violence. Continued violence of this type against Soviet buildings and representatives is abhorrent to all of us and will only result in a freezing of the thaw we so earnestly seek.
Mr. Chairman, I am not so presumptuous to say that we should act because of these senseless acts, nor that our passing a concurrent resolution would stop these vandals from further stupidities, but a concurrent resolution would demonstrate to those who sympathize with this type of demonstration and who could be persuaded to take up such action exactly where this Government stands.
In summation, Mr. Chairman, it is incumbent upon this Congress to accept a resolution expressing our policy of persuading the Soviet Union to revise its official policies concerning the rights of Soviet Jewry.
STATEMENT OF Hon. CLARENCE D. LONG, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MARYLAND Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to have this opportunity to testify before your Subcommittee on Europe during your hearings on the treatment of Jews by the Soviet Government. I commend you for holding hearings on this issue, which is of vital concern to millions of people throughout the world.
I have introduced two resolutions, House Concurrent Resolution 333 and House Concurrent Resolution 390, which call upon the President to urge the Soviet Union to permit the free expression of ideas in accordance with the Soviet Constitution, utilize contacts with Soviet officials in an effort to secure an end to discrimination against religious minorities, and demand that the Soviet Government permit its citizens the right to emigrate.
The 3 million Soviet Jews are not allowed to worship according to their faith, and are not allowed to emigrate to countries which would allow them this right. Soviet Jews also suffer discrimination in access to education, the right to fair trial, and preservation of their cultural heritage. For example, in the Ukrainian SSR, three minority groups have their own schools in their native languages, but the Jews have none. The Soviet regime encourages national culture by creating and subsidizing theaters in national languages, except Yiddish. The gypsies, numbering only 132,000, have a theater.
USING THE UNITED NATIONS The United Nations is the best forum in which to put world pressure on the Soviet Government to grant human rights. The Soviet Union is likely to be responsive to a moral condemnation by a large number of countries.
A problem that arises in any attempt to work through the United Nations to bring pressure to bear on the Soviet Union in regard to its persecution of minorities is the U.N. Charter provision that "nothing contained in the present charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the members to submit such matters to settlement under the present charter."
However, the Soviet Union has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a pledge to guarantee to all inhabitants their inalienable human rights and freedoms. The United States should continue to publicize this pledge and the Soviet Union's continued violation of it. In this way, the United Nations can utilize moral suasion, without actually interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
The United States should also continue to work through the Economic and Social Council and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to urge the Soviet Union to grant its Jewish citizens their rights.
I hope that the Soviet Union will soon revise its policy of discrimination against Jews, and at the very least allow them to emigrate freely to countries where they would not suffer this discrimination.