US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance flew out of Moscow last week leaving the issue of human rights in a stalemated limbo and perhaps paving the way for a renewed repression of the Jewish activists.
Vance and Soviet party-leader Leonid Brezhnev agreed to disagree on this issue as well as on arms limitation. If, as seems likely, the imprisoned Jewish activists Anatoly Shcharansky and Iosif Begun and Helsinki watchdog committee members Yuri Orlov and Alexander Ginsburg are put on trial and given long sentences, the Carter Administration will be under pressure to consider further protests. Although Carter has rejected “linkage” with other issues as a method of campaigning for human rights, his policy will soon become weakened if it is based on words alone.
Meanwhile, Soviet Jews report that the atmosphere of intimidation is continuing and even intensifying. Fellow citizens have been overheard accusing Jews of starting the recent fire in a leading Moscow hotel and a Jewish refusenik taking her children to a kindergarten heard another mother exclaim: “Wasn’t it the Jews who threw bombs in the Metro? Let them get out—we don’t want them here”.
The case of Shcharansky has been taken up by numerous dissidents in the west, including Vladimir Bukovsky, Andrei Amalrik and Ludmilla Alexeyeva. Alexeyeva, who was one of the founders of the committee in Moscow, said in London last week that Shcharansky had been a major influence in forming the Helsinki monitoring committee in Moscow and had not joined, as was thought, at a later date. She said: “Shcharansky is not an ordinary man who has made an application to leave but a great leader of Jewry who puts his concern for his brothers before himself. He is also a great human rights man”.
Jewish Observer 7 April 1977