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March 16, 1990 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-16

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

I LOCAL NEWS I

Gitelman Envisions
A Soviet Revolution

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Dr. Zvi Gitelman, professor
of political science at the
University of Michigan and a
consultant to the federal
government, recently ad-
dressed an Allied Jewish
Campaign progress report
meeting on "A New Exodus:
Soviet Jews in the Age of
Perestroika."
Gitelman called the now-
open expressions of anti-
Semitism "a grass-roots
phenomenon, rather than a
government-sponsored one."
Considering the long
history of government repres-
sion, "the irony is, today,
Soviet Jews are frightened by
the weakness of the govern-
ment and its inability to stop
the killings of 600 people in
ethnic violence" since
February 1988. The Arme-
nian-Azerbaijani fighting is
one of the most widely
reported examples, he said.
"I think the Soviet Union
today is on the brink of a
revolutionary situation," he
said. The telltale signs? A
divided elite, a deteriorating
economy, a frustrated popula-
tion, an empire that's crumbl-
ed and ethnic tensions rising
to the surface.
Until the United States put
new restrictions on their im-
migration here, Soviet Jews
considered Israel a distant se-
cond on their most-wanted
list. Now, out of fear, they're
opting for Israel by the hun-
dreds of thousands. "Where
they go is a less dominant fac-
tor than should they go."
Gitelman expressed par-
ticular concern about the
Soviet government's refusal
to implement direct flights to
Israel in response to the
pressure of Arab govern-
ments. This issue is "much
more important than the
restoration of full diplomatic
relations" and could cripple
Soviet Jewish immigration,
he said.
"It's not that there's a
growth in anti-Semitism,"
said Gitelman, "but anti-
Semitism is more visible."
Gitelman said that when
Alexei Kosygin was in power,
he declared there is no anti-
Semitism in the Soviet
Union, and there can be none.
"One didn't discuss it. lbday,
it's out in the open."
Why doesn't Gorbachev try
harder to stop it? "Gorbachev
is a politician. He knows a
condemnation of anti-
Semitism will win 1.45
million friends (Jews), but
make many more enemies."
In the Soviet Union a few
months ago, Gitelman saw

Zvi

Gitelman

the emergence of Jewish
cultural groups, yeshivot and
publications, making Jewish
life "more interesting,
pluralistic, exciting and con-
tentious." Separated from the
mainstream of Jewish life for
three or four generations,
"they are doing what their
parents and grandparents did
a century ago."
There is less criticism of the
state of Israel in the media,
and there are a growing
number of exchanges through
tourism and culture.
But a Jewish population of
1.5 million can get lost in the
enormity of the USSR, with
its 110 nationalities and 15
republics.
They're scattered through-
out the country. They have
no communal structure .. .
or political influence. There
is no defense organization,
like the many such Jewish
organizations in, the United
States, and no political clout
to protect the Jews from
undemocratic forces.
He related how a member of
the Soviet parliament took
the unusual step last fall of
addressing his fellow Jews in
a Lithuanian Communist
newspaper: "What's all this
talk about, 'Should I leave or
should I stay?' We have to go."
"In the Soviet Union," said
Gitelman, "Jews know anti-
Semitism as memory, not
history .. . When I see panic
and hysteria among Soviet
Jews . . . when I think about
it and the differences between
their situation and ours, if I
were in their shoes, I'd be run-
ning as well .. .
"We have to make it possi-
ble for them to go; we have to
make it possible for them,
leaving without money or
possessions, running, to reset-
tle in the United States and
Israel."

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