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December 11, 1987 - Image 66

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-11

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I ANALYSIS

New Soviet Jewry
Tactics May Be Needed

DAVID TWERSKY

N

ew York — The Dec. 6
demonstration for So-
viet Jewish rights in
Washington — one day before
Soviet leader Mikhail Gor-
bachev was to begin his sum-
mit with Ronald Reagan —
has side-stepped questions
raised by both the steady pace
of change in. Soviet policy on
matters of Jewish concern
and the new more accom-
modating mood in Washing-
ton on arms control.
These questions center on
Gorbachev's sincerity in pro-
posing economic reform,
democratization and open-
ness; on his ability to over-
come his bureaucracy; on
whether his program will
last; and on its relevance to
Soviet Jews. The answers to
these questions will shape the
long-term goals and short-
term tactics of the Soviet
Jewry movement.
The new atmosphere has
already helped introduce a
new, if hesitant, complexity
into the American Jewish
position and may create
strains in the broad-based
coalition of support in
evidence in Washington.
Over the past year, the
Soviet authorities have broad-
cast contradictory signals on
the Jewish question based in
equal measure on fresh
departures and stale
continuity.
On the positive side, the
Soviets have released all
prisoners of Zion and granted
exit visas to some of the most
well-known refuseniks —
many of whom are now on the
road warning Americans
against "falling" for what
they characterize as merely a
Soviet public relations cam-
paign. Nevertheless, emigra-
tion for 1987 is up, and should
exceed the level of the
preceding three years by 500
percent.
The Kremlin has also taken
the starch out of its position
on Jewish life within the
Soviet Union, exhibiting a
new flexibility on such mat-
ters as the opening of a
kosher take-out restaurant,
the training of new rabbis
and the study of Hebrew.
Finally, by accepting the in-
clusion of human rights on
the summit agenda, Moscow
agreed to enshrine the ques-
tion of Jewish emigration
from the Soviet Union as a
legitimate matter for interna-
tional attention and negotia-
tion. This marks a significant
change from the Kremlin's

traditionally defensive reac-
tion to any criticism.
On the other hand, there is
evidence of change-for-the-
worse in Soviet policy. Despite
the much-publicized release
of refuseniks, new regulations
in effect since last January
reaffirm the indiscriminately
applied "national security"
grounds for refusing a visa re-
quest, and further limit
emigration by narrowing the
application of the convention
on family reunification to
first-degree relation invita-
tions only.
Not surprisingly, emigra-
tion is still significantly
below the 50,000 per year
allowed out during the il-
liberal Brezhnev era.
These moves underscore
concern that Moscow is at-
tempting to get the issue off
the agenda "on the cheap" by
releasing 10,000 to 30,000
refuseniks whose visa re-

Overemphasis on
the role of ideas
can blind one to
an opportunity for
compromise.

quests are pending, with the
expectation that Washington
will then tire of the issue.
The issue is of necessity
linked to the larger and
equally fluid context of
Soviet-American relations.
Observers have been debating
the nature of the changes in
the Soviet Union and the ap-
propriate U.S. response.
Precisely because the cause
of Soviet Jewry has received
such widespread support
within the American political
community, these questions
will demand the close atten-
tion of Jewish policymakers.
Within the Jewish com-
munity, the debate has been
limited to the narrower ques-
tion of the extent to which
progress in arms control
should be linked to an in-
crease in the number of Jews
allowed to emigrate.
Calls from the small but
vocal left to decouple emigra-
tion and arms control have
found powerful echoes in the
general political culture that
favors a U.S.-Soviet accord.
With celebrated refuseniks
now free to live in Israel, and
concrete steps to cut back
nuclear weapons at stake,
erstwhile allies might balk at
a Jewish policy that refuses to
call off — or at least, scale

Continued on Page 76

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