The acting president of the Board of Deputies, Mr Greville Janner QC MP is to be commended for his condemnation of the Orlov trial at last week’s meeting of the deputies. This is the first time that a leader of Anglo-Jewry has officially spoken out on a Jewish platform on behalf of a Russian democrat who has helped Soviet Jews.
In the past, there has quite correctly been a recognition of the difference in the aims of the general human rights campaign and the Jewish emigration movement. There has, however, been a tendency specifically to ignore such non-Jews such as Academician Sakharov whom Soviet Jewish activists have supported in appeals to the west.
For example, shortly before the arrests of Yuri Orlov and Alexander Ginsburg, 15 Jewish activists from Moscow, Minsk, Vilnius and Tbilisi appealed on January 12 1977 to communites in the West to defend Orlov and Ginsburg. They wrote:
Taking into account the noble activity of this group of leaders in the struggle for human rights including the right of free emigration, we appeal to you to defend these honest and brave people from harm in the future.
This letter was unfortunately never published by any Jewish organisation in this country.
Mr Janner has set a precedent. In the moral sense, therefore, his condemnation of the Orlov trial as a Jewish leader must be seen to be of greater significance than his question as an MP to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. Judging by the reception of his speech and the total lack of dissent, the deputies now understand the necessity to speak out for our friends.