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May 01, 1987 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-05-01

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Special to The Jewish News

Israelis and American Jews disagree
on a policy to force Soviet Jewish
emigrants to go to Israel.

Fleeing the Soviet Union, Jews
disembark from a train in Orte,
Italy. Congressman Hamilton Fish,
Jr. (R-NY), center, helps the
emigres unload their luggage.


Friday, May 1, 1987

Religious News Service Photo


ompulsion or free choice for Soviet
Jews? The idea of compelling Soviet
Jewish emigrants to go to Israel,
rather than the U.S., repels most
American Jewish leaders, even
though many would probably prefer them
to try Israel first. Israel's failure to share
their concern for the hallowed liberal prin-
ciple of freedom of choice shocks and
puzzles all but the most ardent American
Zionists — and, ironically, anti-Zionists.
Israelis look at compulsion differently,
though. And more pragmatically.
"How many Jewish refugees from the
Holocaust would have come to Israel if the
gates of America had been thrown open to
them?" an Israeli official recently asked
some visiting American Jews. He made his
case more eloquently than some leaders of
his government.
Most Israelis believe that compulsion,
albeit by others, has worked to their advan-
tage before, and that, addressed different-
ly, it could work for them again.
Prime Minister Shamir's handling of the
issue has been particularly maladroit and
insensitive. One example: his failure even
to consult with American Jewish leaders
before approaching President Reagan with
a proposal to deny refugee status to Soviet
Jews with a visa for Israel. The President,
tellingly, responded that he would consult
American Jewish leaders.
Shamir argued that conferring refugee
status on people with Israeli visas insults
Israel. An oftheard claim that the USSR
drastically curtailed Soviet Jewish emigra-
tion because Jews used Israeli visas to go
to America was recently denied by a key
U.S. negotiator.
On the other hand, an Orthodox rabbi
with special ties to Soviet officials, Rabbi
Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal
of Conscience Foundation, says these
Soviet officals claim to have restricted
emigration because they suspect applica-
tions to go to Israel for family reunion were
not "genuine" but a ploy to get to America.
Shamir is not the only ■ Israeli official
who is willing to dodge flack from Ameri-
can Jews because he thinks some form of
compulsion can work to Israel's advantage.
Nor is the concept peculiar to his Likud
bloc: several highranking representatives
of the Labor alignment express similar
American Jews are loathe to insist on a
destination for Soviet Jews which they,
themselves, have not chosen and would not
wish to have thrust upon them. They are
reluctant to deny to brethren the benefits

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