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Involvement in the Soviet Jewry Movement — by Louis Rosenblum
The Government of Israel — The Elephant in the Room
The Why and Wherefore and the Woe

The Why and Wherefore and the Woe

From its origin the government of Israel balanced conflicting objectives connected with the Jews of the USSR: trying both to foster aliya and to retain good relations with the Soviets. But after 1955, when Soviet policy shifted to embrace a pro-Arab position, realpolitik dictated that political- relations with the Soviets be its dominant objective.

A March 2, 1973 editorial in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, by the editor Dr. Herzl Rozenblum (no relation to me), describes the government’s opposition to effective struggle for aliya from the USSR. Here is an excerpt:

“There is opposition unspoken but strong and stubborn in the government to everything that smells of an effective struggle for emigration from the Soviet Union. This is known to everyone who comes in contact with the government in this vital matter.… Our newspaper editors have learned this through their own experiences. Golda came to them a little over two years ago and asked them ‘to lower their tone’ in their publicizing of the small trickle of immigrants from Russia, which began then.

… However, only a short time passed and it became apparent that the Russian immigrants who arrived here were of the opposite opinion, demanding from their own personal knowledge of Russia “to raise the tone of Israel's fight for the aliya of the rest of their brothers. Another meeting was held with Golda to which, this time, she brought as supporting authority [Shaul Avigur], a friend, himself a Russian immigrant but from the second aliya, who left Russia during the time of the Tsars and knew only from reading what was happening now…  and this ‘expert’ said the following: “It does not matter what the new olim say. What matters is that publicity will endanger the present small trickle of aliya.” And Golda’s opinion was the same as his, and their opinion was acepted.

“But not by everybody. There were editors who revolted against this silencing of voices…And they made it clear: “We are not party to the agreement and we will write whatever, in our opinion, is necessary.” Golda had this to say: “You leave me no choice, my friends, but to impose censorship on you.” And censorship was imposed on us.”

Censorship and more: Click here to read the full editorial.

The effects of Israel’s policy of propitiation were especially devastating for certain refuseniks: those with connections to Soviet dissidents, families of defectors, or persons imprisoned for engaging in ‘illegal financial transactions.’ Such refuseniks were deemed personae non gratae. Anatoly Sharansky is a parade example. Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard University and Sharansky’s attorney, recalls:

“When Anatoly Sharansky was arrested, Irving Cotler of Canada and I were asked by Anatoly’s wife and mother to act on his behalf. We initially went to Israel and interviewed some people there who were involved in these events with Sharansky. And we were told in Israel by the people in the Prime Minister’s office dealing with Soviet Jewry to stay away from the case, that Sharansky was not a Jewish Zionist refusenik but instead a human rights activist and that it would be embarrassing to the State of Israel for people working on behalf of the State of Israel to get involved in his case.”

Click here to read the complete article

Herzl Rozenblum Alan Dershowitz Michael Sherbourne

In 1987 I interviewed my erudite, acerbic friend Michael Sherbourne on the restraint of the Soviet Jewry movement by the government of Israel. Near the end of our discussion he commented about the fate of the shunned refuseniks:

“It comes down to they decide, they know best, who is and who is not a genuine, what they call, “Prisoner of Zion.”

Gluzman, for example, they don’t recognize him.

There is a man named Kagan, whose family is in Israel and who begged us to do something for him. His father is a musician and composer in Leningrad and made quite a bit of money. When they left, he, another son, and his wife and I think a daughter, they couldn’t take money out with them. So they left a large sum of money with a son they left back there, Lazar. The family had no sooner gone than Lazar was arrested and charged with embezzlement and given a 12-year sentence and he’s serving it now.

There is a Dr. David Blatnoi, from Alma Alta whose family is in Israel and they begged us to do something for him. He was arrested on the false charge of bribery. They showed us the law, which says if a doctor is given gifts after he has completed his treatment, that it is not to be considered bribes in any way. I’ve seen that law myself; they sent me photocopies of it. But the Israelis don’t want to know. He’s doing a ten-year sentence ..…

There are very many like that. Ida Nudel used to spit blood on the telephone talking to me about this, because she would find out all sorts of such cases and the Israelis just did not want to know.”

To read the entire interview, click here.

next >  In Contrast: An American Strategy


© 2009 Louis Rosenblum

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