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March 25, 1987 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-03-25

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OPINION

Page 4

Wednesday, March 25, 1987

The Michigan Daily

Soviet

Jewry

debate

Jews

not

oppressed

Jews are oppressed

By Michael Edwards
It is necessary to explain the
facts about Soviet Jews and
emigration, and that it be
shown whose interests the
various anti-Soviet Zionist
organizations for ."saving
Soviet Jews" really serve.
The "issue" of an alleged
"plight of Soviet Jews" is a
phony issue. Soviet Jews
enjoy the right to a job,
housing, free education and
health care, and all the other
rights that all Soviet citizens
enjoy.
Soviet Jews have the right
to practice their religion. There
are about two million Jews in
the USSR, thus constitutiong
about 0.8 percent of the total
population. The number of
devout Jews in the USSR as a
whole is around 60,000, most
of whom are old-age
pensioners. There are few
believers among young and
even middle-aged people. There
are ninety-two synagogues
functioning in the USSR
today, eighty of which are in
premises which the state has
made available to believers free
of charge for an indefinite term,
the others occupying rented
buildings.
One of the favorite charges
of the Zionists is that Soviet
Jews are discriminated against
in education. But what are the
facts? Jews constitute less than
one percent of the Soviet
population, yet they constitute
two percent of the total student
population in the USSR. There
dw'rids is7ihe Chairman of
the Ann Arbor Club,
Communist Party USA

are about 350 students per
10,000 Jewish inhabitants in
the USSR. In this respect
Soviet Jews are ahead of the
Russians, Ukranians, and
Byelorussians. The average for
the USSR is about 210
students per 10,000
inhabitants. Also, the
proportion of the Jewish
population in the USSR with a
college education (over twenty-
five percent) is higher than in
any country in the world,
including the U.S. and Israel.
Why, then, do some Soviet
Jews choose to emigrate from
the USSR? Many emigrate
because they receive letters
from "relatives" abroad who
want to "reunite their family."
From 1945 to present, only
three percent of all Soviet Jews
who have applied to emigrate
have had their applications
denied, because their
occupations had given them
knowledge of military or other
security matters, they had not
settled their financial or other
legal obligations, or were
indicted or serving sentences
for criminal activity. This is in
complete accord with Article
17 of the Law on Citizenship
of the USSR and the
International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights
adopted in 1966 by the United
Nations General Assembly.
In the last few years Jewish
emigration from the USSR has
decreased markedly, down to a
few hundred a year. The is
mostly due to the fact that
most Jews who wanted to leave
have done so. Moreverover,
those who were influenced in
the past by the Voice of
America broadcasts- have had

the opportunity to hear from
emigre Jews who have returned
to the USSR after experiencing
life in the "free world" (like the
forty-five Jews who returned
last December). They heard
about the unemployment, lack
of affordable health care, high
rents, etc., in the U.S. -
conditions not discussed by the
Voice of America and which
Soviet citizens do not
experience.
In a Daily article, a member
of the "Chicago Action for
Soviet Jewry" said that there
about 500,000 "refuseniks" in
the USSR, "most"' of whom
are jews. The figure most often
cited by the Zionist groups is
400,000 Jewish "refuseniks."
When asked how they came up
with this fantastic figure, the
Zionist "plight" groups usually
change the subject. However,
one Zionist spokesman let the
cat out of the bag recently by
responding, "That's how many
invitations were sent abroad."
He was referring to the practice
of Israeli government agencies
of sending letters fron
nonexisting "relatives" to
Soviet Jews to encourage them
to emigrate, on the pretext of
"reuniting families."
The truth about Soviet Jews
raises questions about other
anti-Soviet lies, particularly
concerning alleged Soviet
"violations of human rights."
These lies are pushed hard by
the U.S. and Israeli
governments in order to divert
atttention from their violations
of the human rights of their
own and other peoples - from
the slums and ghettos in the
U.S. to Lebanon to Nicaragua.

By Jerold S. Wish
Currently, 300,000 Jewish
"refuseniks" live in the Soviet
Union. A refusenik is a person
who has applied for an exit
visa to leave the Soviet Union
and has been denied. In
addition, there are
approximately 8000 Jewish
"prisoners of conscience" jailed
for "crimes against the
government. In the past few
months, the Soviet Jewry
movement has received
considerable Ittention, mainly
as a result of government
reforms announced by General
Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.
In addition to instituting
policies intended to allow
Soviet citizens more individual
freedom and participation in the
governmental process,
Secretary Gorbachev claims
that he intends to liberalize
laws currently applied to
suppress "anti-government
action." The Soviet
government has utilized these
laws to jail hundreds of Soviet
Jews for "crimes" such as
demonstrating against religious
persecution, teaching Hebrew
School, and attending places of
worship.
Secretary Gorbachev has
claimed that the Soviet Union
will do everything in its power
to comply with the requests of
Jews that have been separated
from their families a (as a
result of Soviet emigration
policies) for reunification with
Wish is Co-chairman of the
U of M Student Struggle for
Soviet Jewry

relatives outside the Soviet
Union. This and other reforms
are supposedly intended to
improve the quality of life in
the Soviet Union and to grant
more rights and privileges to
all citizens regardless of
religious beliefs.
While Secretary
Gorbachev's intention to
reform the Soviet system
merits recognition, his newly
instituted policies fail to act on
the central problem of the
Soviet Jews: the denial of the
right to emigrate. Even with
the adoption of these policies,
Jewish emigration remains at a
pitifully low level of
approximately one thousand
per year. 1.8 million Jews live
in the Soviet Union under a
system of oppression and
discrimination. In addition,
they are not accorded the
freedom and privileges of
Soviet citizens.
For example, unlike other
ethnic and religious groups,
Jews are compelled to designate
their religion on their required
identification card. This leads
to considerable discrimination
from a government conditioned
anti-Jewish population. At the
Soviet Union's universities
there are quotas on Jewish
matriculation. Refuseniks'
children are restricted from
universities by discriminatory
actions such as falsification of
their required examination
scores and imposition of higher
entrance standards. Jews are not
free to practice their religion, a
natural right to which all
peoples are entitled. Most
importantly, they are not free
to emigrate and are forced to
live in a society from which

they are ostracized.
In order to gain even a
minimal chance of emigration,
the Soviet Jew must risk his
job and the safety of both
himself and his family. Very
frequently, those who apply for
visas lose their jobs and are
harassed by Soviet authorities.
Even if the Soviet Jew is
granted permission to emigrate,
he risks endangering remaining
family members as a result of
the threat of further
government oppression. This
coercive system dissuades
many Jews discontent with the
Soviet System from even
applying for visas.
Although the Soviet Union
has claimed that they intend to
release over 140 political
prisoners, only 59 have been
released to date. Also, the
number of Jews allowed to
emigrate has plummeted from
an acceptable high of over,
51,000 in 1958 to a deplorable
low of approximately one
thousand in each of the past
few years. Even with Secretary
Gorbachev's new reforms
supposedly directed at
improving the condition of
Soviet Jewry, there has been
no corresponding increase in
the number of Jews allowed to
emigrate. How can the Soviet
Union contend that they grant
human rights and individual
freedom to all citizens while
Jews are still persecuted for
taking pride in their religious
identity and desiring to
emigrate to their homeland? No,
government reforms can be
regarded as substantive while at
least 380,000 Jews are held
against their will in a society
in which they are not accepted.

W

it

14

I

LETTERS

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Students should take responsibility

Vol. XCVII, No. 119

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board
All other cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Daily.
A first step forwar-d

FROM THE ANNOUNCEMENT of
an Honorary Degree for Mandela to
the six major resolutions to bring
more Black students and faculty to
the University, President Shapiro
has taken commendable first steps
toward reducing racial inequalities
at theUniversity. Yet, as Barbara
Ransby stated at Hill Auditorium
Monday, "Please don't see this as a
culmination; this is only the
beginning."
President Shapiro deserves
praise for his action. Blacks and
other concerned students deserve
credit for pressuring him to act.
Shapiro will recommend to the
University Board of Regents the
establishment of a vice provost for
an Office of Minority Affairs, an
annual, autonomous $35,000
budget for the Black Student
Union, budgetary incentives to
attract and retain minority faculty
and administrators, an anti-racist
harass-ment policy, a grievance
mechanism for documenting racial
incidents on campus, and a Black
senior administrator in the Office of
Affirmative Action.
But, the University has made
promises before. The original

continue.
Shapiro has neglected, for
example, to implement a plan for
mandatory University courses or
workshops addressing racism and
bigotry in all its forms. Based on
placards opposing reforms held
near the stage at Hill, Auditorium
and recent letters submitted to the
Daily, it's obvious students' are
sorely in need of such courses. By
teaching students about the
importance of diversity and by
helping them accept the differences
among students at this University,
these courses could do much to
advance understanding and reduce
racism on this campus.
Particularly in need of this kind
of education are those students
who oppose the activities of any
group that designates itself as
"Black" or "minority." The
expression of a minority culture
should not be supressed by those
in the mainstream culture
demanding "integration.
Students, recently empowered
and mobilized, have translated
grassroots anger into positive

To the Daily:
I expect my wake-up call
from the U-M Classics
department any day now. Econ
majors, brace yourselves; my
largest class this semester of
twenty students seems
gargantuan. High quality
personal attention is alive and
well at this swollen university.
Unfortunately, it is reclusive
and demands a meticulous
search. Our inflated tuition
guarantees us neither a
thorough education nor the
meaning of life.
In a column of Feb. 11
("Focus on Teaching"), the
Daily editorial staff insisted
that the University
administration decrease class
sizes and hire more professors
with better qualifications.
After too many years of strife
with "the vengeful TA," far be
it from me to disagree with
such a plea. Yet is is
unrealistic to passively await
the advent of an infallible
educational system. The Daily
editorial failed to look one step
further and question what
produced this current state at
the University. The problem
is not particular to Michigan.
A mass produced education is
undeniably the norm of the
American university. Much of
our generation toddles off to
college in order to gain a
degree, not an education. One
Error:
"Lest we forget" (Daily
3/24/87) named Friday March

need not look any further than
a nation of plethoric business
schools to visualize this trend.
We can bleat at an
amorphous administration
relentlessly, but we can't run
from our generation. The
empowering energy of campus
activism here proves that
passive acceptance is not the
only option. Although I
support the Daily's statement
against overcrowding (special
commiserations to econ
majors), I believe that students

must take the initiative and
aggressively pursue the best
academic direction for
themselyes. If our very
government refuses to accept
liability for its actions, how
can we expect this version of
red tape bureaucracy;
diminutive is size, to do so?
At some point the individual
has to stop blaming a faceless
institution and accept
responsibility her or himself.
I can offer no remedies for
the society that produced our

current university system.
However, individual students
can and must actively attain the
best education possible. W
ought never to stop protesting
our acquiescent generation, at
any level. This entails
collectively insisting upon that
which is obliged to us. In
addition we have to
belligerently demand nothing
short of the best from the
University of Michigan.
-Kaywin Feldman.
February 1

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