The American Movement to Aid Soviet Jews

The American Movement to Aid Soviet Jews

The American Movement to Aid Soviet Jews

The American Movement to Aid Soviet Jews

Excerpt

Violence intruded upon the decade of the sixties, most notably in the shape of the Vietnam War and urban race riots. As a result, the media devoted comparatively little space to the more mundane events and movements of those years, even when these encompassed forces that decisively affected international relations. The American movement to aid the Jews in the Soviet Union is a case in point.

Early in the decade, Americans became increasingly aware of the plight of Soviet Jewry. Repudiating traditional Jewish defenselessness, several individuals in New York and Cleveland launched a campaign which, although barely discernible in its incipient stages, eventually developed into a major issue between the superpowers. The Leningrad arrests and subsequent trial of a number of Soviet Jews in 1970 catapulted the movement into the international limelight. Consequent Jewish Defense League activity, often involving organized violence, insured continuing media attention.

Senator Henry Jackson of Washington, labeled idealist by some, opportunities by others, heightened the movement's visibility when he and seventy-six co-sponsors introduced an amendment to the East-West trade bill that linked American trade benefits t the emigration policies of nonmarket economy (i.e., Communist) states. The Jackson Amendment limited Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, long-term government-guaranteed credits, and investment guarantees to states which neither denied their citizens the right to emigrate nor more than nominally taxed exit visas. In the wake of the prohibitive Soviet "exit tax," which made emigration virtually impossible, this bill threatened to unravel the intricately woven fabric of détente. It also tempered power politics with a degree of compunction. The progress of this . . .

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