A Refusenik Vote for Jimmy Carter?

Soviet Jews have been watching the American Presidential election campaign with great interest. Though technically neutral, it is no secret that they do not view with great enthusiasm the efforts on their behalf of the present White House Administration.

This stems from what they consider to be the antagonistic attitude shown by Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger towards the efforts of Congress in 1973 and 1974 for Soviet Jews.

Moreover, there is great suspicion about Kissinger’s role in the Soviet rejection of the Trade Act at the beginning of 1975. Many facts remain unexplained.

It is also significant that the activists have addressed no major appeals to- President Ford since the Vladivostok summit nearly two years ago. Important letters now are addressed to Congress rather than the White House. Indeed, a few months ago, Ford was the target of forthright criticism in a letter from Academician Benjamin Levich, the most highly qualified Jewish refusenik.

Delegates to the recent Democratic Party convention were sent an open letter by those Soviet Jews who had met Congressmen in Moscow last summer. The address to which the letter was sent was that of Senator Humphrey, the Democrats’ elder statesman. No similar letter was sent to the Republican convention, although if one had, it would almost certainly have tended towards the hard line policies of Ronald Reagan, whose condemnation of detente has found much favour in the hearts of the American right.

On Soviet Jewry as on other issues. Jimmy Carter is an unknown quantity. Yet it is significant that the most widely quoted possibles for the post of Secretary of State would find favour within the Jewish emigration movement.

One candidate mentioned is the dogmatic Senator Henry Jackson. Another is Zbigniew Brzezinski, from Columbia University, a specialist in Soviet affairs. Both have been critical of Kissinger’s concept of detente and prefer a tougher, more, open approach.

It would seem to indicate, therefore, that Carter would change America’s policy towards the Soviet Union. More pressure on the Soviet Union would hopefully produce concessions on the question of Jewish emigration, was the case with the Jackson amendment. Almost certainly, number of well-known activists will be given permission to leave during the period of the elections themselves, as a goodwill gesture.

It would appear, therefore, on balance that like American Jewry, the emigration movement in the Soviet Union will hear very little that is new from Gerald Ford, but has everything to gain from Carter’s installation in the White House.

Jewish Observer 27 August 1976

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