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April 27, 1990 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-04-27

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

NEWS

Russian Writers'
Tour Angers Jews

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S

everal Jewish groups
have denounced a fed-
erally-sponsored, one-
month tour of the United
States by seven Soviet
writers acknowledged by the
State Department to be anti-
Semitic.
The $60,000 trip has al-
ready brought the writers to
Washington, D.C. They will
soon travel to such cities as
Pittsburgh, San Francisco,
New York, Iowa City, Ox-
ford, Miss., and Urbana, Ill.
The tour is being funded and
organized by the United
States Information Agency.
Frank Johnson, a spokes-
man for the agency, con-
tended that the trip was in-
tended to expose
"conservative Russian
writers to the depth and di-
versity of American culture
and to the principles and
practices of a pluralistic
society."
Although Johnson stated
that the agency "had no way
to know" whether any of its
guests were anti-Semitic,
Margaret Tutwiler, the
spokeswoman for the State
Department, said "some of
the people" in the Soviet
delegation held anti-Semitic
views. But she added that
"bringing them here does
not signal that we approve
or sanction their views."
At a panel discussion on
Tuesday at the Smithsonian
Institution's Kennan In-
stitute for Advanced Rus-
sian Studies, several of the
visiting Russians denied
they were anti-Semitic. But
the same writers defended
criticizing Zionism as an
understandable response to
the political and economic
turmoil in the Soviet Union.
Two of the Russians,
Stanislav Y. Kunyayev and
Oleg N. Mikhailov, ac-
knowledged they had signed
a letter asserting that Zi-
onists were responsible for
pogroms, bloody crimes and
acts of terror. The letter was
published last month in the
Soviet newspaper, Lit-
eraturnaya Rossiya, whose
editor, Ernst I. Safonov, is
also in the Soviet delegation.
Critics of the trip contend-
ed it would confer a
legitimacy upon the Russian
nationalistic movement.

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paper, the Baltimore Jewish
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David Harris:
Confer legitimacy?

"Its most lasting effect,"
said David Harris, Washing-
ton representative of the
American Jewish Com-
mittee, "will be legitimacy
back home. They can return
after being paraded by the
United States government
and say we're not just
leaders in our own country,
but we are recognized as
leaders abroad."
Harris dismissed as
"intellectually thin" the
USIA's assertion that expos-
ing these nationalists to
American values and
freedoms might temper their
anti-Semitism.
"It is naive to believe," he
said, "that these people who
are traveling through the
United States for a few
weeks would return to the
Soviet Union as born-again
pluralists."
Both Harris and Micah
Naftalin, national director of
the Union of Councils for
Soviet Jews, disputed the
selection of these seven
writers for the USIA's pro-
gram that brings about
1,000 foreign visitors to the
country each year.
"The only question," said
Harris, "is whether these
were appropriate selections
for this program."
In a reference to the title of
Tuesday's program at the
Smithsonian at which the
Soviet writers presided,
"Cultural and Ethnic Diver-
sity in the Soviet Union,"
Naftalin compared inviting
the seven Soviets to the
United States under
government auspices to
"inviting a group of Ku Klux
Klan leaders to talk about
ethnic diversity in the
southern United States."
Harris said the
"innocuous"-sounding title
of the Smithsonian meeting
was misleading. ❑

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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