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May 08, 1987 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-05-08

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No Cause For Celebration,
Say Soviet Jewry Activists

A serious dispute appears to be brew-
ing between American Jewish leaders
Edgar Bronfman and Morris Abram
and veteran Soviet Jewish activists
both in the Soviet Union and the West.
Far from rejoicing at the reported deal
that will allow 12,000 long-term
refuseniks to emigrate and improve con-
ditions for Jewish life within the Soviet
Union for those who remain behind, the
activists are reacting with bitterness
and even a sense of betrayal.
Prominent refuseniks in the Soviet
Union — including Lev Elbert, Eleazer
Yusefovitch and Vladimir Slepak —have
roundly denounced the accord.
Their sentiments were echoed in
Jerusalem this week by Yuri Stern,
spokesman for the Soviet Jewry Infor-
mation and Education Centre, an
organization of prominent former
refuseniks and Prisoners of Zion.
"Of course, we are happy to hear that
perhaps 12,000 will be permitted to
leave," says Stern. "These people are not
only the heroes of the movement, they
are our friends.
"But when we rise above this per-
sonal, emotional level, we see no reason
to share in the general excitement. In-
stead, we feel that the actions of Bronf-
man and Abram nullify the chances for
real change.
"With their help, the Soviets have
already achieved a victory — they have
created a positive public image and a
wave of optimistic media reports that
something is really happening.
"We have seen this so often before —
the rumors, the expectations, the sense
of relief. Then nothing actually happens.
We allow the Soviets to play their game
with us."
Even if the 12,000 do arrive, says
Stern, it is not "a breakthrough for the
"Instead of demanding a general solu-
tion in which every Jew is allowed to
apply and leave for Israel, which would
leave room for compromise during nego-
tiations, the Jewish side began with ex-
tremely low requests.

"They presented a list of between
11,000 and 12,000 refuseniks, when we
know there are at least 50,000 in refusal
and many thousands more who would
apply to leave if they were allowed to."
Stern fears that the rest of Soviet
Jewry has now been sold out for a
kosher restaurant in Moscow and "direct"
flights between the Soviet Union and
Israel — concessions for which Moscow
will be rewarded handsomely by improved
trade conditions with the West and
enhanced involvement in Middle East
He insists angrily that neither Bronf-
man nor Abram bothered to analyze the
serious documentation prepared by the
refusenik community in the Soviet
"And they have always resisted any
real dialogue with us, even though they
know we represent a wide spectrum of
Soviet refusenik opinion," says Stern.
"Abram met with Sharansky, but did
not accept his criticisms. "Their at-
titude is paternalistic. There is an ex-
tremely wide gap between us and the
Jewish leaders."
The main message that Stern and his
colleagues want to get across as an an-
tidote' to the current optimism about
changes in the Soviet Union is that the
situation for Jews there is "extremely
bad — much, much worse than it was in
the Seventies when anyone could at
least apply to emigrate.
"The new regulations make it practical-
ly impossible to apply for exit visas, and
the Soviets are using security grounds so
widely that virtually everyone can be
In short, apart from the lucky 12,000
who might get out during the course of
the next year, Soviet Jews feel trapped
and abandoned by Diaspora Jewish
leaders who are, in the eyes of the Soviet
emigres, overanxious to get a slice of the
"glasnost pie" and for business with
"We see nothing to celebrate," says

Activist Josef Begun, here greeted
by friends after returning to
Moscow from three years in a
Soviet prison, is one of those Jews
who may be allowed to emigrate
under liberalized Russian policies.


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