Returning and Redemption
jackson-vanik-amendmentSen. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.) pledged today that despite efforts to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment which links United States most-favored-nation trade status to increased emigration from the Soviet Union and other Communist countries, the law will continue to remain enforced.

“We are determined to keep that law on the books,” he told the 65 Jewish leaders from 14 countries attending the final day of the semiannual meeting of the presidium of the World Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Jackson said that Rumania has been complying with the law for several years and Hungary now plans to do so. He said with these two Eastern bloc countries complying, “for the Soviet Union to say they can’t do it is embarrassing.”

The Senator stressed that to be effective with the Soviet Union it must be demonstrated with a determination to stay with the issue “for the long pull.” He said once the Soviet Union realizes this, “we make progress.”

Jackson stressed that following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then the situation in Poland, there seems to have been a lessening of action in support of Soviet Jewry. “Our job and our responsibility is to see to it that this issue is on the front burner at all times,” he declared.

Rep. Jack Kemp (R. N.Y.) told the Jewish leaders that this was an issue that was supported by Jews and Gentiles, Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives. “We could not live with ourselves if we did not raise this issue,” he said.

The support for Soviet Jewry in Congress was also stressed by three young Congressmen who made their first trip to the Soviet Union earlier this month along with Jerry Goodman, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. The three are- Rep. James Shannon (D. Mass.), now in his second term; and two freshmen, Reps. Christopher Smith (R. N.J.) and Samuel Gejdenson (D. Conn.).

Shannon said that on the issue of human rights, particularly the struggle of Soviet Jewry, Americans speak with one voice. He said that more Congressmen should visit the USSR in order to express to the Soviet government that “this issue will not die.” Shannon also said that if there was to be a summit between President Reagan and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev the issue of Soviet Jewry must be on the agenda.

Smith also declared that “this is a priority issue,” He said his meeting with refusenik families in Moscow and Leningrad, gave him a more personal understanding of the issue.

Gejden on, the only Jew of the three, was able to visit Vilna, where his mother was born, but was not allowed to see the “shtetel” where his father came from on the grounds that it was snowed in. Gejdenson, who was born in an American Displaced Persons camp in Germany, noted that if his parents did not leave Lithuania in 1945, he might now be a refusenik in the USSR.

The Connecticut Congressman blamed the lack of Jewish emigration from the USSR on the deterioration in U.S.-Soviet relations which followed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He said he saw little hope for an improvement in these relations because of what he said was “a rigid Administration in Washington” and an “even more rigid Administration in Moscow.”

Urges Widespread Support of Soviet Jewry

He particularly urged the presidium members from West Europe to convince their governments to actively support the cause of Soviet Jewry. He noted that the West Europeans are important because the Soviets are trying to wean them away from supporting U.S. sanction policies.

Gejdenson also urged the U.S. to oppose human rights violations wherever they occur. “Jewish organizations in the United States have to be consistent in their support of human rights,” he added, “whether it be Jews in the Soviet Union or Poles in Poland or the people of El Salvador or Argentina. Our arguments are diminished if we don’t hold human lives everywhere to be the same value.”

The three day conference ends today after the participants meet with Vice President George Bush.