By: Joseph Stechler  | 

Jackson Addresses Conclave; Praises Soviet Jew Efforts (Vol. 37, Issue 2)

Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson was the main speaker at a “Jewish Community Leadership Conference” held on September 26, the thirtieth anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre. Dr. Mikhhail Zand, a Jewish scholar who had recently been released from the USSR, also addressed the audience of Jewish communal leaders and students.

Senator Jackson, a likely candidate for the Presidency of the United States, emphasized in his remarks that the persecuted Jews of the Soviet Union “are the genuine heroes of our time” due to their unrelenting struggles for freedom of emigration. He called on President Nixon and the State Department to “utilize all available channels, formal and informal” to end the maltreatment of Russian Jewry, and to allow unrestricted emigration. Turning to the situation in the Middle East, Jackson denounced the Administration's equivocal policies towards Israel. Noting the growing Russian presence in the Arab world, the Senator declared that the military balance must be re-established.

In his remarks, Dr. Zand pointed out that the Jews of Russia “are not heroes [but] men of flesh and blood who are fighting to overcome their slavery.” He called on American Jewry to bring continuous pressure to bear on the Soviet authorities in order to alleviate the Russian government's persecution.

Babi Yar

In his address, which was repeatedly interrupted by the audience’s applause, Senator Jackson spoke of the tragedy at Babi Yar, a steep ravine outside of Kiev, where 100,000 or more Jews were machine-gunned by Nazi commandos. “So today, as we remember the victims of Babi Yar, let us stand in solidarity with the children of Babi Yar,” he stated. Reasoning that “the Soviet government will not grant its citizens their rights until it realizes that the issue is important to us,” Jackson called for the passage of the Brock-Jackson Resolution on Soviet Jewry. This measure directs the President to demand that the Soviet Union abide by its constitution and by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which holds that the right of emigration shall not be abridged. The Senator denounced those Americans “who would have us turn inward, to withdraw from the problems of the international community and forget our moral obligations to so much of humanity. The brave protests of Soviet Jews should awaken these new isolationists.”

At this point, Senator Jackson departed from his prepared remarks and spoke on the situation in the Middle East. He criticized the unsteady nature of American policy, past and present, in that corner of the world. In his opinion, the United States government should have allowed the Israel army “to finish the job in the Sinai campaign” of 1956. Insisting that “we must make it unequivocal where we stand in the fight for freedom,” Jackson declared that “the United States must look the Russians straight in the eye and say, if you will move, we will move.”

In a curbside interview with The Commentator, Senator Jackson emphasized that the United States must not pressure the Israelis into pulling back their forces from the Suez Canal as a precondition for peace negotiations. Rather, he held, such withdrawal should be used as a “trump card” at the bargaining table. Jackson further stated that the phased withdrawal of all Russian personnel from the area must be a part of any peace treaty. 

Dr. Zand

Dr. Mikhail Zand then addressed the audience after a short memorial service for those who had died at Babi Yar. He continually explained that the Jews in the Soviet Union were “slaves . . . [victims] of national and cultural genocide.” He told the audience to use the phrase “Let my people go” at their rallies, and to avoid using the slogan “Let my people live,” because “Jewish life is impossible in the Soviet Union.”

In an interview with The Commentator, Dr. Zand, when asked what he would say to those American Jews who are not sure whether demonstrating publicly was the most proper and effective means of helping Russian Jewry, stated flatly, “demonstrate, only to demonstrate.” He felt public action had “great impact” on the Sovjet government. “Silence is only useful to the Soviet forces,” he concluded.