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June 05, 1981 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-06-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, June 5, 1901 11

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

The Reagan Administration's Policies on Human Rights

By VICTOR BIENSTOCK

Vice President George
Bush, who is considered one
of the more credible ex-
positors of the policies of the
Reagan Administration, de-
livered the commencement
address at the University of
[ 'Virginia and pledged that
1 the Administration "will
work to effect changes to
help improve human rights,
but we're going to do it
quietly. We will not be
selective in our indigna-
ion."
Bush undoubtedly
what he said about a
no ective policy, but he
was either fed the wrong
line by the White House
staff and the State Depart-
ment or he was heralding a
thange in Administration
policy of which all other
signs and portents are still
missing.
There have been no indi-
4.ations that the Reagan
Administration has moved
a single inch from its policy
of condemning the violation
of human rights by Com-
munist "totalitarian" re-
gimes while soft-pedalling
criticism of "authoritarian"
rightwing dictatorships.
It has mounted a
rapid-fire battery against
the ruthless violation of
human and civil rights by
the Soviet Union but has
remained strangely silent
about the torture cham-
bers and the disappear-
ance of men and women
under the Argentine mili-
tary regime. Washington
has given us no signs that
attempts have been made
in Buenos Aires and
elsewhere to "exert our
influence in the area of
z human rights by quiet
diplomacy and persua-
sion" as the vice
president promised.
• , 'Results are what count,
not rhetorical confronta-
tion," he asserted, but, re-
grettably, there have been
no results to count and no
evidence even that the Ad-
ministration has employed
quiet diplomacy in the
cause of human rights. We
do not know that it has
made any serious attempts
to improve conditions in the
Argentine, for example,
where the military regime's
brutal assault on human
- and
. civil rights is heavily
tinged by anti-Semitism,
and we have seen no relaxa-
• tion of the terrorism im-
posed on the people of El
Salvador by the rightwing
national guard.
In fact, there have been
no indications of any change
ir he Administration's
a. ,ciation of the nature of
the human rights issue
since the pre-election cam-
paign rhetoric assailing
President Carter for meddl-
• ing in the-internal affairs of
other countries.
The Administration's
human rights stance was
crystallized with President
Reagan's nomination for
the post of assistant secre-
tary of state for human
rights and humanitarian af-
fairs of Ernest W. Lefever, a
man who has repeatedly
stated that the rights of men

and women in other coun-
tries are no concern of ours
— except, of course, in
Communist countries —
and who argued two years
ago that Congress should
repeal all laws establishing
a "human rights standard
or condition" to govern our
relations with other coun-
tries.
In making observance
of human rights a crite-
rion for aid and special
relations with other
countries, the Congress
said its purpose was to
promote increased ob-
servance of inter-
nationally-recognized
human rights by all coun-
tries." Lefever told a Se-
nate committee that he
had "goofed" in calling
for repeal of the law but
he stood firm in his objec-
tions to a frontal attack
on human rights viola-
tions by "friendly" coun-
tries or those it was in our
interest to court.
He assured the committee
that he would not play "a Sir
Galahad role going around
the world on personal mis-
sions." This was an obvious
thrust at Patt M. Dorian,
who held the human rights
job in the Carter Adminis-
tration and went to Buenos
Aires to fight, on the spot,
for release of political pris-
oners, to Bangladesh,
Pakistan and other places
where she also succeeded in
winning freedom for pris-
oners.
Jacobo Timerman, the
Argentine Jewish editor,
credited Dorian's tactics
with securing his release
and that of thousands of
political prisoners around
the world.
Lefever is the head of an
obscure think tank, the
financing of which has been
under some question. His
appearance before the Se-
nate Foreign Relations
Committee and the tes-
timony given the committee
by a procession of witnesses
resulted in leading Republi-
can senators advising the
White House to withdraw
the Lefever nomination.
But President Reagan is
standing by his choice.
The President wants
his nominee," said a
White House spokesman.
"He is entitled to a phi-
losophically-compatible
appointment in his Ad-
ministration." Mr. Re-
agan, consequently,
could not be more closely
idnetified with the policy
of winking at human
rights violations by coun-
tries we consider allies or
are courting, like Argen-
tina, to which the Ad-
ministration wants to
send arms and equip-
ment.
For a few hours one
spring day, it seemed that
Mr. Reagan had indeed
changed his stance on
human rights. That was
when the President's Com-
mittee on the Holocaust met
at the White House. Mr. Re-
agan, obviously moved by
what he had heard and seen,
denounced violence, ter-
rorism and religious perse-
cution.

Unless the human rights
issues were on the negotiat-
ing table, he exclaimed,
"the United States does not
belong at that table." His
shocked staff quickly con-
ferred and assured news-
men that Reagan had not
proclaimed a new policy but
had merely reaffirmed "a
basic and long-standing
tenet of U.S. foreign policy."
It is to be hoped that Mr.
Reagan does not go along
with Lefever in his snide al-
legations that all the or po-
sition to his appointment is
Communist-inspired or, at
least, Marxist. There is a
disturbing, Nixonian ten-
dency, already evident in
this Administration, to
smear critics and opponents
— as witness the recent at-
tack on the American Civil
Liberties Union by Ed
Meese, Reagan's chief of
staff.
Given the White House
frame of mind, if Mr. Re-
agan follows the course
of expediency and with-
draws the Lefever nomi-
nation, or if he stands by
Lefever and the Senate
rejects him, the new
nominee will almost cer-
tainly be out of the same
mold as Lefever and hold
pretty much the same
views.
The strategy of the Ad-
ministration is to appoint to
enforce laws with which it is
in disagreement, men who
are personally opposed to
them.
It might well be that quiet
diplomacy may work under
conditions where public ex-
coriation would fail. But one
cannot use pressure on a re-
gime in secret to force it to
restore human and civil
rights while its head, the
man responsible for the re-
pression, is being received
at the White House with full
pomp and panoply.
Mr. Reagan's embrace of
the Argentine dictator-
president Gen. Roberto
Viola would effectively
offset any quiet diplomacy
we may be practicing in
Bueno Aires.
To rely exclusively on
quiet diplomacy is to
deny the victims of per-
secution and repression
the knowledge that they
have not been aban-
doned and do not stand
alone. The worst feeling,
wrote Edward Kutznet-
sov, a Soviet Jew who fi-
nally managed to gain
freedom, was "to be alone
and forgotten." And he
explained, "the prisoner,
refusnik or dissident who
feels moral support is a

completely different per-
son." Jacobo Timerman,
the survivor of the
Argentine torutre
chamber, bears him out
in this.
Timerman was an in-
terested spectator at the
Lefever hearing although
he declined to testify, but he
responded to reporters'
questions, one of which was
what he thought of silent
diplomacy. "After our ex-
periences in Nazi Ger-
many," he replied, "we
shouldn't be silent any
more. Silent diplomacy is si-
lence. Quiet diplomacy is
surrender." Timerman is
suspicious of governmental
advocacy of human rights,
fearing their abandonment
for "reasons of state."
Soon after his release in
1979, he sounded the warn-
ing that "today, aggression
against humanity is wide-
spread" and said "fighters
for human rights should ad-
just themselves to this new
situation. What has been a
feeling of solidarity should
now be transformed into an
ideology."
And writing long before

Bible Project

JERUSALEM (JNI) — A
Lubavitch rabbi has
launched a campaign to
allow all Jewish children,
both in Israel and the Dias-
pora, to write a Bible. Each
child will be able to draw
one letter of the sacred writ-
ings on a scroll which will be
kept in Jerusalem.

Hold no man responsible
for what he says in his grief.

Mr. Reagan's egregious
nomination of Ernest
Lefever, Chairman Don
Bonker of the House
Foreign Affairs subcommit-
tee on international organ-
izations, which embraces
human rights issues, noted
that as the new President,
"Mr. Reagan is among the
few in history privileged to
promote justice through

human rights."
The unanswered question
is: will he take that oppor-
tunity?

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