Friday, June 18, 2010

Remember Soviet Jewry?

Gal Beckerman tells about the international struggle to free the Jews of the Soviet Union. For years this was a major story; most people have forgotten it, so I'm linking for educative reasons. Beckerman eventually attributes to the activists a contribution to bringing down theSoviet Union which is way beyond what they deserve or what common sense would grant them, not to mention that he'd need Soviet sources to say, not American ones. The Soviet Union did not collapse because Jews wanted out. But it was a dramatic story.


Sérgio said...

Bye, bye José Saramago. I won't miss this pathetic antisemite. Too bad I read some of his books. That such unrepented stalinist was awarded a Nobel prize exemplifies perfectly the West's confusion of what an intellectual should be: someone who thinks, not that blindly follows murderous and bankrupt ideologies.

And beware of the loads of eulogies that will the newspaper the next days.

Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

José Saramago is one of my inspirations. The exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union was a historical mistake, leading to further oppression of the Palestinian people as well as depriving the Russian people of technological and financial expertise. We need to bring the Jews back home to Russia. Martin Buber noted that we should ask the endogenous inhabitants of Palestine for permission for Jews to emigrate, and in the case of the Soviet Jews, we did not ask permission

Sérgio said...

I have no doubt about your "inspirations": an antisemitic stalinist like that portuguese fool fits your outlook perfectly. Talk about blindness...

Sergio said...

Here's part of Herr Saramago's article in El País. It is so grotesque, that only a sclero-stalinist like him could be able to assemble all such a concentration of hate. Lots of inspirations for our Pseudo-Rabbi Tony...

"Intoxicated mentally by the messianic dream of a Greater Israel which will finally achieve the expansionist dreams of the most radical Zionism; contaminated by the monstrous and rooted 'certitude' that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God and that, consequently, all the actions of an obsessive, psychological and pathologically exclusivist racism are justified; educated and trained in the idea that any suffering that has been inflicted, or is being inflicted, or will be inflicted on everyone else, especially the Palestinians, will always be inferior to that which they themselves suffered in the Holocaust, the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner. Israel seizes hold of the terrible words of God in Deuteronomy: 'Vengeance is mine, and I will be repaid.' Israel wants all of us to feel guilty, directly or indirectly, for the horrors of the Holocaust; Israel wants us to renounce the most elemental critical judgment and for us to transform ourselves into a docile echo of its will."

Avigdor said...

The Soviet union fell, ultimately, because of a failed economic and social system that suppressed human nature. However, when you speak of resistance to the state, there were three main groups. Religious people, of various faiths, that clung to their beliefs despite being sent to Siberian labor camps for teaching their faith to their children. The dissident movement, which grew out of the Helsinki agreements on human rights, and sought to document Soviet violations of the agreement. The refusenik movement - an exclussively Jewish underground of those denied exit visas to leave the country. Of the three, the most influential was the Jewish refusenik movement. Indeed, all three were symbiotic to some extent, with the dissidents relying on the operational security and foreign contacts of the refuseniks to pass along information to the west documenting human rights violations. Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet nuclear prodigy turned dissident - he was so well known and respected that they couldn't kill him or imprison him - ended up marrying a Jewish woman, and writes in his memoirs of the role the refuseniks played in strenthening the dissidents. Not that it was all gravy. The Mossad was heavily involved in organizing cells of refuseniks, and they were adamant that Soviet Jews should not interfere with the Soviet Union's.politics, but stay focused on the exit visa issue, which they felt would not be interpreted as a threat to the state, the way the dissidents were seen. As Shatansky writes, however, to the Soviets, it didn't matter, loosing any control was dangerous.

I'm writing this blind on a cell phone (the screen stopped moving as I type, so I can't see the words) so plz excuse the spelling errors.

Sergio said...

Another off topic (I apologize in advance): yesterday on TV here on a major brazilian station, there was that news of the relaxing of the blockade, but, in the sequel it said the maritime blockade was maintainde to stifle Hamas' rearming, recalling it is an organization commited to Israel's destruction.

Yes, amazing indeed! A glance of sanity somewhere in the editorial office.

Anonymous said...

Two items:
First, there is an excellent documentary about the Soviet Jews of this period called "Refusenik"

Second, Gal Beckerman should know better, but he makes it sound like the sentencing of the hijackers set off this spontaneous reaction around the world. The truth is 6 years before the hijacking, Jacob Birnbaum began organizing the Jewish youth in the US to speak out for the rights of Soviet Jews. (we are talking about my youth, here) By the time the hijacking occurred, we were a well-organized, wide-spread group. The news of the sentencing would never have received the attention it did, had we not already had our networks in place (and we did it before the internet!) Jackson-Vanick would not have happened had it not been for our lobbying efforts.

Our work was nothing compared to what the Jews of the USSR did, but it shows the power of organization and democracy. We were a generation that understood the meaning of "all Israel is responsible for one another."

Here is an article about Birnbaum:

shabbat shalom everyone

Anonymous said...

OT - old news but new to me

Israel hasn't boarded the ships in international waters but in Palestinian waters says AlJazeera say the activists - after 0:30

I never knew that there were Palestinian waters at all?
But if Al Jazeera and/or the peace activists says so ...

and oh the scandal of it: a nobel peace prize winner says she was physically abused brought into prison at point of gun and a as Al Jazeera claims high security prison to boot

at about 3:35 she says that cement was symbolical

If these highly decorated NGO people continue to make such a ridiculous spectacle of themselves I wonder if it will not lead to small donations drying up thereby in the end hurting those who do really good work - in my local survey I found that the sawing off of the ship's railing is considered as vandalism that didn't amuse people one bit

NormanF said...

Soviet Communism was evil. It need to imprison its entire population in order to ensure the viability of its ideology. Yosef Mendelevitch and his small group of fellow Jews were prepared to give up their lives to be free. In their act and in the Soviet authorities' acknowledgment their cause was just, it signaled the beginning of the end of Communist rule. And this was just after the Soviet army successfully crushed the Czech liberal experiment and the Soviet state was at the height of its power. Defying totalitarian rule carried with it steep personal, national and spiritual costs. Yet it brought about freedom for hundreds of millions of people. It takes a very few principled people to change the course of human history. Thanks to them, Soviet Jews are free in Israel today.

We must never forget what they did for the Jewish people and also for the peoples imprisoned in the Communist "house of nations" prison in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union itself.