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September 15, 1989 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-15

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

Eight year old Eliahu and three year old liana, now resettled in Jerusalem with their mother, Tami, have photographs to remember what life was like in the Soviet Union.

Eugeny Ionel, a graduate engineer from
Moscow, says it's impossible to find work
in Israel. There are nearly as many reasons
as there are Soviet Jews in Ladispoli, but
several common threads appear in all their
answers.
The constant bombardment , of official
anti-Israel propaganda in the Soviet Union
since 1967, combined with the unpleasant
reality of the Palestinian uprising has
soured many Jews on Israel. In addition,
to many who were deprived of religious
educations "Jewish" identity means only
the word stamped in their Soviet passports
under "Nationality" It is a burden that has
deprived them of top jobs and subjected
them to discrimination, and therefore they
prefer the American melting pot to the
Jewish homeland. ,
Since the flow of Soviet emigration
began, Israel has increased the pressure on
the United States to drop its slogan of
"freedom of choice" and help divert these
Jews to Israel. Last month, Simcha Dinitz,
chairman of the Jewish Agency, met with
Brent Scrowcroft, President Bush's na-
tional security adviser, and explained that
the United States and Israel have a com-
mon interest in seeing that the bulk of
Soviet Jewry goes to Israel. He said the
United States can help by continuing to
strengthen Israel's economy so it will be
a more attractive place to settle. Israeli .
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir raised the
same issues with Secretary of State James
Baker during his visit here last spring.
Dinitz also asked the United States to
encourage Moscow to permit direct flights
to Israel. Scowcroft's attitude toward these
suggestions was described as "sym-
pathetic."

Indeed, if the Soviet Union fulfills its
promises to liberalize its emigration laws
and protect the rights of Jews, the need to
swiftly "rescue" Jews from the Soviet
Union diminishes, some U.S. officials
assert. Thus, one official says, the United
States is preparing to process visas in
Moscow because it is easier and less expen-
sive than the Vienna-to-Italy route. The
Soviets have told American officials, in
turn, that they plan to eliminate their
"check out" rule under which Jews who re-
quested visas immediately had to give up
their jobs — and often were harassed —
while they waited to leave. Under the new
system, Moscow promises, Soviet Jews
would be able to continue leading normal
lives until they departed.
With momentum in the United States
shifting toward more emphasis on convin-
cing Soviet Jews to go to Israel, some
American Jewish leaders are talking about
striking a bargain with the administration.
For instance, some Jewish leaders want the
White House to provide additional reset-
tlement money to Israel to help it attract
more Soviet emigres. They argue that the
United States should boost its aid if the
new, limited refugee entry rules result in
an increase in immigration to Israel, and
if processing in Moscow saves money. The
United States currently provides about
$25 million in resettlement aid to Israel.
Such a trade-off might induce more U.S.
Jews to support the administration's new
system.
Other U.S. Jews say it is equally impor-
tant for Israel to "sell" itself to Soviet
Jews. Some small steps already have been
taken. In May, for instance, the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee,

along with the Jewish Agency, launched
several programs at the processing center
in Ladispoli, including sending teachers
from Israel to teach there and sending 16
counselors — themselves Russian-
speaking children of earlier Soviet emigres
— to operate a summer camp for children.
Meanwhile, the administration is prepar-
ing to offer its new refugee proposal to Con-
gress, which also is caught in the debate
over Soviet Jewry. Earlier this year, react-
ing to a policy change begun in the Reagan
administration under which many Soviet
Jewish emigres were rejected for refugee
status, Congress approved bills mandating
that all Soviet Jews automatically be con-
sidered victims of persecution and hence
declared refugees.
But lawmakers are keenly aware of fiscal
limitations and the issue of equity. Thus,
there is a growing likelihood that Congress
may agree to the administration's new for-
mulation — and that while all Soviet Jews
may be refugees, the United States alone
can't receive all of them. "It could be that
the difference between the administration's
proposal and Congress is that a lot of what
Congress would be prepared to consider in
a year, the administration wants to do
now," says Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif.,
who says he hasn't yet seen details.
And, Berman concludes, "If the Soviets
allow direct flights (to Israel), quit their
anti-Israel propaganda, and allow tourism
to Israel by Soviet Jews to grow, then
Israel could become an attractive alter- .
native. Then, as long as there still is a
significant flow of Jews to America, I think
the American Jewish community is
prepared to strike a balance and recognize
the existence of some limits."



THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

27

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