SPECIAL REPORT: SOVIET JEWS PIN HOPES ON SUPER-POWER SUMMIT TO PAV WAY FOR LARGE-SCALE EMIGRATION
- Title: SPECIAL REPORT: SOVIET JEWS PIN HOPES ON SUPER-POWER SUMMIT TO PAV WAY FOR LARGE-SCALE EMIGRATION
- Date: 17th November 1985
- Summary: REUTERS (ELI FASTMAN) JERUSALEM, NOVEMBER, 1985: SVs Dr Yehuda Mendelson, on hunger strike in support of refusenik colleague Dr Seymon Glusman at Western Wall; Mendelson lifted into car. (4 SHOTS) 3.36
- Reuters ID: LVA9YN74X86SL6YFOIHSU09FB5CG
- Location: Jerusalem, Russian Federation
- Country: Russian Federation Jerusalem Jerusalem
- Duration: 00:00:22
- Topics: International Relations
- Story Text: VARIOUS LOCATIONS
The announcement on November 15 that at least a dozen Soviet citizens will be allowed to join their spouses and relatives in the United States has added fuel to the rumours that the Soviets may be ready to relax their emigration policies. The move has ensured that Soviet attitudes to emigration by its citizens and particularly, by Soviet Jews, will be prominent on the agenda at the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Geneva on November 19, despite Soviet reluctance to discuss it at a formal level. Early excitement, fired by rumours of an imminent change in Kremlin policy which could lead to an exodus of Soviet Jews, had given way to scepticism among many Jewish observers, particularly those Soviets already living abroad. Many believe the initial speculation was fired by a disinformation campaign, intended as a public relations exercise in the run-up to the summit. But the announcement that a group of Soviet citizens are free to leave for the US will have given some credence to the rumours that the Kremlin is at least re-examining its attitudes to emigration -- and how they are viewed in the West.
SYNOPSIS: The Soviets have named 13 people either married to or related to US citizens; among them one woman who has been separated from her husband for more than a decade. Another, a 16-year-old boy who will be reunited with his mother.
The release of the so-called divided spouses and relatives has been branded an obvious public relations ploy by some observers, but many will see it as a possible prelude to further relaxation of emigration. For many Soviet Jews, it may provide a sign that the Kremlin is eager to defuse issues such as emigration and the treatment of dissidents, many of whom are Jewish.
The Soviet Anti-Zionist Committee headquarters in Moscow -- its founder, Colonel David Jagounski is himself a Jew. Charges of anti-Semitism have dented the Soviet image abroad since the early 1970s but an increase in Jewish emigration would undoubtedly silence some critics.
International condemnation has been levelled at the Soviet Union for its treatment of dissidents. But on November 4, a phone cal from dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, brought a surge of optimism that Bonner at least would be released. Her daughter Tatyana Yankelevich, a few days before the call:
Sakharov has been on a hunger strike to protest at lack of treatment for his wife's eye complaint; she has previously been allowed to leave the country to seek medical treatment.
Allegations of human rights abuses have been levelled at the Soviet's for their treatment of the so-called refuseniks and dissidents. In the Jerusalem offices of the New Soviet Jewish Immigrants Association, portraits of dissidents like Sakharov and Anatoly Scharansky line the walls, as well as maintaining contact with potential emigrants within the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev seems to signal a new approach to relations with the West which have in the past been dented to change this image. He has already publicly denounced accusations of anti-Semitism, citing the number of Jews in top jobs as evidence.
Although the flow of emigrants is down to a trickle now, Israel has received some 165,000 Soviet Jews since 1968. For the new arrivals, life begins in absorption centres designed to bring a gradual introduction to what is still a different culture. Mark Nashpitz arrived recently with his family:
Despite the lure of Israel, the vast majority of Soviet Jews still choose other countries. More than 70 per cent go to North America, Europe, Australasia.
But for the Soviet Jews who do settle elsewhere, inevitably there are families and friends left behind. In Israel, several organisations are working for their release as well. Earlier this month Dr Yehuda Mendelson went on a hunger strike on behalf of a colleague still in the USSR. Mendelson left the Soviet Union a decade ago.
A Human Rights Day protest outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, to highlight the refunseniks' pleas to leave the USSR ... Soviet leaders may be wary that any concessions on emigration for the 1.8 million Jews in the USSR, may be seen as bowing to Western pressure. The Kremlin remains adamant it is a domestic issue -- not for international debate.
<strong>Source: NBC/REUTERS LIBRARY/REUTERS - ELI FASTMAN</strong>
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Embargoed:2nd December 1985 12:00
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None