Out of sight, and that's unfortunate
Sir, - The exhibit reviewed in your magazine on November 2 ("Let my people go"), which presents a historic summary of the Jewish national movement struggle in the USSR, is the result of a large investment of time and energy on the part of the organizers. Nevertheless, one major failing must be pointed out.
The exhibit represents the position of official Israel government policy, and of the Jewish establishment bodies. In essence, the leading activist players and groups who actually galvanized the struggle and took it into the streets and into the media are marginalized, if not eliminated entirely. The visitor leaves knowing nothing of the central crucial factor of that struggle, which is that the campaign to liberate Russian Jews was delayed, and at times crippled, by the policy of the various governments of Israel and the Jewish organizations abroad who fell in with it.
As is documented, for example, in Prof. Fred Lazin's recent book The Struggle for Soviet Jewry in American Politics, as well as in others, the opposition to an independent activist struggle and the denigration of and interference with such tactics - which were then adopted several years later - hampered the campaign.
In addition, much is hidden. The pre-1967 activities are downplayed. Later minor figures are near-glorified. The early crucial contributions of Yitzhak Shamir, Geula Cohen, Morris Brafman, Bernard Deutsch, Pesach Mor and many others are absent. Rabbi Meir Kahane's JDL is dismissed as simply "crude."
Are we to assume that political favoritism was at play here? Was history altered and perhaps obliterated to suit patrons? We can argue retrospectively over methods and tactics, but that a great part of what happened in those years was placed out of sight is an unfortunate reflection on the organizers.
SONJA COHEN ILLUZ
Formerly Committee for the Release of Soviet Jewish Prisoners UK
Founder of The 35s, London