Jewish Community in the Soviet Union: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 23 November 1988

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 121 No. 7

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Seanad Éireann — recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

—Recalling the final act of the Helsinki conference on security and co-operation in which the participating States undertake to recognise and respect religious, cultural and national freedom and to deal in a positive and humanitarian way with applications to emigrate of persons who wish to reunite with members of their families or to go to their national homeland, and recalling that the concluding document of the Madrid meeting reaffirms and strengthens these undertakings.

—While welcoming recent positive developments in the attitude of the Soviet Union towards its Jewish minority nevertheless is disturbed by reports of continuing harassments and anti-Semitism towards Soviet Jews.

—Noting that the Jewish community in the Soviet Union is still an oppressed cultural minority subject to systematic discriminatory action by the authorities and considering their position to be a cause for international concern.

(1) Calls on the Soviet Government to permit all Soviet Jews applying to leave the Soviet Union to do so without impediment and to ensure that the presentation of such applications does not prejudice or modify the rights of the applications or of members of their families in the areas of employment, housing, resident status, access to social, economic, or educational benefits or any other rights.

(2) Calls on the Soviet Government to permit Soviet Jews full freedom to pursue Jewish religious, cultural activities which includes the teaching and learning of Hebrew as a national dimension.

(3) Calls on the Soviet Union to limit refusals for emigration based on secrecy to a defined period of time.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  It is appropriate, at a time when there has been movement in the Soviet Union on human rights in general and an acknowledgement by them that things that happened in the past in the Soviet Union were not as they should be, that we should recognise there are changes taking place within the Soviet Union but that they have quite an amount of ground to make up to bring them into line with what we in western countries [705] and indeed in the civilised world agree would be a recognition of the human rights of all the citizens of the states in which they live.

It is unfortunate that people in the Soviet Union should feel the necessity to leave that particular union of states because they feel they are being oppressed and they are not getting equal human rights. The Jewish people in particular, are mentioned here, but we should recognise there may be other minority groups within the Soviet Union who are being oppressed equally with the Jewish minority.

We appeal from this House that any negation of human rights within the Union of Socialist States should discontinue. It is hardly likely that these people would want to emigrate if they were happy and were allowed to live in freedom and that they could practice their religion without let or hindrance. Like the people who put down this motion, I call on the Soviet Government to permit not alone Soviet Jews but all minority groups within the state to have full freedom to pursue their lifestyle in a free and open manner.

A number of people have been singled out as being oppressed in the Jewish community and those who have been most vociferous are the intellectuals. They are the people who have taken the high ground in this fight. That is natural but there must be quite a number of people of the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union who do not have the intellectual or word capacity to declare themselves as have the small number of well-known emigrés or of well-known intellectuals. In addressing ourselves to the problem I do not think that we should address ourselves to the intellectuals. We should address ourselves to the totality of people of the Jewish faith in the Soviet Union.

When we speak about calling on the Soviet Government to permit full freedom for Soviet Jews, we should not forget that in Europe there were terrible pogroms over a number of centuries. Therefore, we cannot say that Europeans have clean hearts and clean minds. Even in Ireland in the past there have been times [706] when the Jewish community have been treated badly. Therefore, when we call on the Soviet Union to change their attitude towards Soviet Jews we, equally, suggest that the countries of Europe and any country which in the past has had anti-Semitic feelings should change also. This motion is not strictly a motion aimed at the Soviet Union. It is a motion that asks that we fully support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I have no doubt but that the Government are cognisant of the facts behind this motion and will attempt to pass on the feeling of this House to the USSR. There is an acknowledgment that changes are taking place. The changes that have taken place in the Soviet Union over the past number of years have been dramatic and nobody could suggest otherwise. There is not a huge number of Jews in the Soviet Union who wish to get out but if they want to get out they should be allowed freedom of movement. They should be allowed, without harassment, to go to countries of their choice and if they wish to leave their homeland the Soviet Government should allow them to leave without impediment. If they are allowed to leave there should be no harassment of their relatives or friends or people of the same faith who are left behind.

It is an unfortunate fact that if all the Jewish people leave the USSR there will be a Jewish-free series of states and I do not think that is what the proposers of this motion would wish. We would like to see a situation where Jewish people who wish to leave would be allowed to leave and those who are left behind allowed to live and to practise their religion without let or hindrance.

This House supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This House calls on the USSR to bring in the elements of this motion before us. We recognise that changes are taking place and we urgently appeal to the Soviet Government to permit the Soviet Jews full freedom to pursue Jewish religious and cultural activities which include the teaching and learning of Hebrew as a national dimension. I support the motion [707] and I am sure that the principles of the motion will be acceptable to the Government.

Professor Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  At the outset I would like to refer to item No. 37 on the Order Paper which states:

That Seanad Éireann requests the Government to consider conferring honorary citizenship upon Raoul Wallenberg in recognition of his outstanding services to humanity.

This has already been mentioned by Senator Norris in his opening speech and I am sure it is something that will command the support of all of us. I certainly want to be included in that support.

This is an appropriate motion in many ways. At the moment it is fair to say that the balance of international opinion and sympathy is inclining somewhat against Israel, for obvious reasons. Just because at the moment Israel happens not to be the favourite nation, as it were, of what you might call impartial western mankind, it is very important to draw our attention to a continuing injustice in which Soviet Jews are involved, without being at all affected by the considerations of politics in the Middle East.

I support this motion for various reasons, not least because in a particular and profound way anti-Semitism is indeed the enemy of the people. We are all guiltily aware that we have recourse to scapegoats whenever we are confounded by a complexity of problems. In Ireland the obvious scapegoat, of course, is Britain, British injustice etc. but historically Europeans, in general, have had recourse to the Jews as scapegoats. The phrase “scapegoat” is biblically appropriate in view of its origin.

It is not only Hitler's Germany which has the burden of guilt for the infamous treatment of Jewry in Christendom. In one way or another all the nations in Christian Europe must carry some responsibility for this. I recall growing up that anti-Semitism was a minor drumbeat of much that I read and was taught. Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton [708] were, for example, part of the staple reading material of what you might call Catholic intellectualism at that time in the forties and there was a very strong vein of anti-Semitism there. We were exposed to it, of course, in as simple matter as the Penny Catechism. After all, the damning phrase “Pontius Pilate did it at the desire of the Jews” must have made an impact on many a childish mind.

A recent book by my distinguished colleague Dr. Dermot Kehoe, University College Cork, Ireland and Europe 1919-1948 reminds us that there was quite a steady pulse of anti-Semitism in Iveagh House at one particular stage. Fortunately, Eamon de Valera, towards whom I am inclined more and more to be sympathetic in my historical judgment in the large matters perhaps, had the vision to put in the Constitution in 1937 at a time of heightened anti-Semitism, at a time of the holocaust and less malignant forms of anti-Semitism elsewhere a specific recognition of the Jewish community in Ireland. Whatever other faults there were in our views of the Jews, we should take some small legitimate pride in that. Nonetheless, the overall picture is one of a mainline bias against the Jewish people in Christian history.

Last week I said we should support the pro-Nicaragua motion simply because in other circumstances we might have been Nicaragua; in other circumstances we might have experienced their brave experiment in social justice. There is a relationship here that we, too, owe it to make some little recompense for the general guilt.

I object in any case to the principle of a state exercising such totalitarian power over its citizens as refusing their legitimate and proper wish to leave that state. That is a fundamental transgression of freedom and of the relations of citizens and their State. What Senator Norris is talking about here is the ringing cry of “Let my people go”. I am reminded in a minor key that it is a rich irony that our clamour in this country should be “Let our people stay”. However, be that as it may.

Anyone who has been to the Soviet [709] Union and who has had discussions with Soviet people about the whole matter of refusing to allow their citizens in general to emigrate, not just the Jews, although perhaps the prohibition on the emigration of Jews has a special point because they are an élite throughout the general citizenry because of their particular traditions and distinctive assets, will hear the answers being given that you cannot allow people to emigrate indiscriminately from the Soviet Union because of alleged dangers to Soviet security or because allowing total unrestrained emigration represents a grievous loss of human resources to the Soviet community, that you invest so much in the citizen's education and then he is allowed to go elsewhere and give other countries the benefit of that rich investment in education. Again, this has ironic undertones for us in our particular plight about emigration. Finally, the Soviets say it is anti-patriotic of these people to want to leave the Soviet Union, that in a fundamental sense they are being anti-patriotic.

One appreciates some of these arguments. For the Soviet Union, with all its history of travail and achievements tempered by ferocious setbacks, the idea of people abandoning the motherland is a much stronger feeling in Russia than any accusation of theoretically betraying Marxist-Leninism, so there is this feeling as well. I have some sympathy with this attitude. We must remember to look at it on the other side of the ledger that the Jews in human history are uniquely exclusive in their culture and in their theology. One might say that they are uniquely superior in their fundamental theological outlook. I believe part of the reason for anti-Semitism generally is this resentment of a group which refuses to admit other people to its circle in any meaningful way. There is resentment of this. There are other levels of resentment. Karl Marx, and therefore Marxist-Leninism as a whole, resents Jewry because of their real or imagined connections with international capital.

This is not to admit the force of these anti-Jewish accusations but there is [710] enough truth in these Russian answers to your query not to vindicate their policy but to excuse it to their own uncritical public. One tries to argue with the Soviets about this whole matter, to say that on balance it would be far better to let the people go but up to now at any rate, up to the Gorbachev régime, one got very stubborn answers indeed.

The one small reservation I have about this motion is that this is a time of peculiar crisis in the Soviet Union and that the naked enemies of the Soviet Union are gloating in Gorbachev's difficulties, are hoping that Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia as well as the other turbulent states in the south east, the Armenians and so on, will break up the Soviet Union. There is economic pressure from its super-power enemies at this particular moment which does not make things any easier for the whole Gorbachev policy of glasnost and perestroika. The one small reservation I would have about Senator Norris's motion is that it might seem to lend fuel in a small way to the general fire of criticism of Gorbachev when all sensible people in western Europe should be pro-Gorbachev at the moment.

I hope that the dramatic liberalisation of the past few years will extend to a fundamental change of attitude in the matter of enforced internment of Soviet citizens, and particularly this attitude to letting the Soviet Jews depart if they so wish. This is a very small reservation and on the whole I am very glad to support the motion.

I may end by reminding the House of an historic County Cork comment on Russian tyranny a long time ago in that at the time of the bloody riots in St. Petersburg the editor of the Skibbereen Eagle solemnly warned the Tzar of Russia that it had its eye on him “Let the Tzar of Russia beware, this Skibbereen Eagle has its eye on him”. Whether that story is apocryphal or otherwise, there is another aguisín to that, a recent addendum, that in 1917 after the success of the storming of the Winter Palace the Editor of the Southern Star which was the successor of the Skibbereen Eagle received a telegram from Lenin simply saying, [711]spassiba kamerad”, “thank you, comrade”. I hope that in due course when the Soviet Jews are free to depart that their leaders will similarily acknowledge Senator Norris's contribution to remedying their plight.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I have a particular interest in this motion not because Senator Norris put it down but because it took him to remind me, who had witnessed some of the difficulties of the Jewish people in other parts of the world as far back as 1937 and 1938 of the way they are still being persecuted. It is in that sense that I am stirred about this. It is not the first time we have done something about it because we sent a man to Russia to make case studies and we were satisfied that everything that was being alleged was true. Not only was it true but in some cases we had not been aware of the gravity of the problem and the difficulties the people in the Soviet Union were faced with.

Senator Murphy mentioned the question of security risks. For example, they can use the argument that the Jews are a security risk up to 20 years after they have finished a particular job. There is an inclination to label all Jewish people as dissidents rather than the other way round. For example, there is the dissident movement there and probably 70 per cent of people of Jewish origin would be active in it. The Jewish movement is a separate question. It is a Jewish question and it distinguishes itself very much from the dissidents. The difference is that the Jewish movement does not in every case wish to change the laws of the Soviet system. On the contrary, in many cases they want to see them implemented in so far as it applies to their own demands.

They want the very same consideration other people in the Soviet Union get. They want the very considerable harassment they suffer at the hands of the KGB and others to cease. They would like the same criteria to apply to them in teaching as it applies to other Soviet citizens. For example, if a Jewish person [712] qualified to teach Hebrew in an American university he would be denied by the Soviets the right to teach on the grounds that he had not got a Soviet qualification. This does not apply to anyone else in the Soviet Union. When you do not apply that criteria to other people it is a clear indication that it is a selective thing and that it is just another step in the harassment of the Jewish people in a way that is reminiscent of what happened to them in pre-war Germany. It may not be as bad but the problems are the same.

There is a consistent decline in the social standing of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union. They are also very concerned about the concentration by the KGB on their movement which is still vibrant, for example, the Hebrew language, as Senator Murphy mentioned. However I do not know the up-to-date position on that. Even though Mr. Gorbachev is doing his best to do a lot of good, the Jewish people are still in a vulnerable situation.

Over the years the cumulative effect of the decline in visas to almost zero and the increasing level of anti-semitism has presented difficulties for some people. For example, where both parents are Jewish for them and their children to change nationality is a big step. It is a big step anywhere but it is a very big step in the Soviet Union and it is extremely difficult to achieve.

On the other side of the coin, if they do that it means that minority is being further reduced and, for the people left behind, things become totally intolerable. When you have got a small minority people become extremely aware of their cultural identity and nationality much more so than they did when their number was larger. Since the Jewish people already suffer exile for their cultural activities it means that greater pressure will be placed on those remaining in the Soviet Union. This is a sad development. As far as the Labour Party can gather, anti-semitism is growing in the USSR and, of course the social standing of the Jewish people continues to drop. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the sons and daughters of Jewish families [713] to get into top grade third level educational institutions. The cultural activities of Jews have been successfully repressed. The remaining activity, which I mentioned earlier, the teaching of Hebrew, is now more likely to come under attack than ever. This is despite the law.

That is why I said earlier that all of them do not want to change the laws. They just want the laws that are right for everybody else to be applied to them. The law in the Soviet Union takes two forms, the written code of the law and the directives issued by the authorities from time to time. There is provision for private teaching of many languages, including Hebrew, but many activities which are permitted legally in Soviet law have nonetheless been prevented by the KGB authorities.

Many things are happening to the Jewish people of which we are not fully aware. I would like to stress two points. They are not all dissidents. They want the same laws to be applied to them as apply to other people in the Soviet Union. It is not all a question of overthrowing the Soviet system or its laws. One of the problems is that some Jewish people opt to go to Israel but when they leave they settle in America or Canada or other places like that. That obviously made the situation worse for the remaining Jewish people. It had a negative effect on the prospects of people who wished to get out and settle in Israel. They do not want to be used as pawns and this happens in some particular cases. It is not anti-Soviet but the Soviets do, in fact, try to use them in another respect. In the Labour Party we think now that there is this talk of reformation it is an opportune time for the United States and the Soviet Union to work out a system whereby Soviet Jews wishing to emigrate to the United States would be treated in the same way as any emigrant who makes application to go to any other part of the world.

This is the real problem. I mentioned earlier the type of harassment the Jewish people have been faced with for a long, long time. In 1938 when I was stationed [714] in what was then known as Palestine, the Jewish people who came there from Poland, Germany and other places at the time were trying to build up communication systems and to do a lot of things. They were trying generally to build a very good community and were starting to build homes and settle on lands. They suffered a lot of harassment. It was nothing to hear of some fellow who was trying to put up telephone wires being shot down off the wires. They were many atrocities. People were being mined on the way home and so the story goes on. I felt very strongly at that time about the way they were treated. I feel strongly about the way they have been treated in history. I feel strongly about the way they are being treated now in the Soviet Union but it does not follow that I agree with everything that is being done in the presentday Israel. It is a totally different situation.

I see the two things as being different. I am talking about the situation in Israel and about what is right for everybody, rather than what is right for just the Jewish people. Specifically, I am anxious about this terrible, violent treatment the Jews have been given down through the years. Everything is relative. It is no joke to be taken off the street because you protest about something and to be sent to a labour camp for three or four years and suffer many other indignities. In this day and age in a world that is supposed to be working towards more freedom it is bad to see anything like that. Certainly, I would always support the Jewish people in their efforts.

You can never forget what happened to the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. I was a prisoner of war in Germany and I remember coming home and soon afterwards going to a cinema. I had just been released from a hospital and I went to the Carlton Cinema which had been rebuilt. I had been only two, three or four miles away from a concentration camp and I did not know such a thing existed. I nearly died when I saw the Pathe-tone news at that time on the screen. It was revolting. It was something that will never leave my mind for the rest of time. The idea that [715] people with a culture are still being harassed and chased inevitably introduces a little emotion into the debate about their rights and future development. The Jews are treated disgracefully. What happened to them before the war in Germany was dreadful. Equally, in this day and age where there are so many people so vigilant and where we have the United Nations, it is terrible to think that people can suffer the harassment they are suffering at present in Russia.

We in the Labour Party state that those who wish to leave the Soviet Union should be allowed to do so. If the Soviet authorities are given a list of people who wish to emigrate, one of the problems is that they will be selective and allow only certain people to leave. It has got to be done in some other way. It has got to be argued that the Soviet Union should be no different from any other country. If a quota has been accepted for emigration to America, then some of that quota should go to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, in this day and age and in view of their new stance should be pressurised in this direction.

I wish the people involved good luck. There is not a lot we can do by resolution except to let them know they have our full backing and full support. We should try to arouse the interest not only of the Irish public but of our Government to a greater extent so that they will heighten their activities to try to make the problem less acute and work towards a solution of it.

Mr. Connor: Information on John Connor  Zoom on John Connor  As the second spokes-person for foreign affairs for my party in this House I welcome this motion. It deals with what has been a major area of international concern for a long time. Speakers already in this debate have given some of the historical background to the Jewish problem in the Soviet Union and the Jewish problem in the Russian Empire because it is something that did not start today or yesterday. In Tsarist Russia there were periodic and quite frequent pogroms against Jewish people living in Russia and these very often had [716] a cultural and, indeed, a religious source so that oppression against the Jewish minority in Russia or in the modern Soviet Union is nothing really new.

It is strange where you had a system that changed and changed utterly, how prejudices deeply rooted in the system and in the minds of people did not change. On the face of it, oppression of a minority would appear to be the very antithesis of what Mr. Lenin and company stood for in 1917 but in practice that has remained in the Soviet Union. Indeed in many ways the repression we see today and the restrictions placed on the Jewish community have little to do with ideology very often or the modern ideology of that state but have more to do with the ingrained prejudices which have their roots far back in history.

We might mention to the House that at the present time it is estimated that there are about 2 million Jewish people in the Soviet Union. Like the Jewish diaspora across the world, the spread of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union is not found in any one great concentration. They are found in the cities, in the Baltic Republics of Esthonia, and Latvia in Byelorussia and the Ukraine, of course, and in Georgia and Armenia, too. You find them, in fact, right across in Siberia. I think there is in Siberia — I am open to correction on this — an area where some autonomy is allowed to the Jewish people. It is probably not a very hospitable part of the Soviet Union — a long time ago I picked up that piece of information and I hope it is still correct — but an area of autonomy still exists for Jewish people somewhere in the far east of Russia or somewhere in central Siberia.

I am saying that in the context that the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union are recognised as a nationality. In the Soviet constitution they are recognised as a nationality. Senator Harte mentioned the gap between Russian law in code and Russian law in practice. They are not given any nationality rights. Many people in the Soviet Union find a great gap between what the law says and what the constitution says, what the code says and [717] what happens in practice, in terms of the way the law applies and relates to people if you are a minority or if you are out of step with what the régime is doing or saying. You find that what is stated in the code and in the book is quite different from what may be applied to you.

It is timely, too, that we should discuss this motion in the House at this time because great changes are taking place in the Soviet Union at present. Glasnost and perestroika certainly have brought about major changes and we only have to look at the Baltic Republics in recent days to see the effects of glasnost and perestroika are having on that part of this vast culturally diverse country. Much more than even its culture is diverse. There are local parliaments in Latvia voting that they will no longer accept ordinances laid down in Moscow; the parliament in Estonia are not going as far as that but are certainly threatening. Now there are urgings and movements in Byelorussia. We also know what has been happening in Georgia and in the southern parts of the Soviet Union earlier this year.

This is a major watershed in the history of the Soviet Union, and certainly in the recent history of the Soviet Union, that that kind of thing has been allowed to develop and has been allowed to happen. Five years ago it would have been quite unthinkable that you would see people in Latvia laying flowers at the national monument. Incidentally, the national monument of Latvia is a monument which commemorates the independence of Latvia from Poland over a hundred years ago. Suddenly, it has become a focus of national feeling in that country. The KGB are no longer there to take away the flowers or, as was mentioned last week, to take away the people who are laying the flowers.

Suddenly, the régime in Moscow are allowing national expression within the Soviet Union. It would appear and he very often appears to be beleaguered on this, that President Gorbachev, a man whom I admire, is under tremendous pressure from people of the conservative elements within the party structure for allowing this kind of thing to develop. Let [718] us face it; if it goes wrong for President Gorbachev he will be very quickly removed. All these movements, this sunburst or flowering of national movements, of freedom movements, the right to free expression, the right to express national identity such as the Jewish people et cetera would be very quickly suppressed and we would be back again to the terrible times of the 1930s, the 1940s and right up to the present time. We must hope and pray in this House that Gorbachev and the people who support him and the people who now have the reins of power in that country, will continue to have power and that they will be the people who will continue to influence events.

We might go back, too, to 1975 and the Helsinki Agreement. At that time it was Brezhnev and Kosygin who were in office in Moscow, I think it was Kosygin who went to Helsinki and he signed the Helsinki Agreement. One of its major requirements was that ethnic minorities within any country would have the right to their own national expression, to their own religious expression or cultural expression and that there would be no restrictions placed against people who wish to emigrate or leave a country. Certainly that was part of the Helsinki Agreement to which the Soviet Union and this country and many other countries were signatories.

There was an interesting development in the Soviet Union after that. There was some increase in the number of Jewish people allowed out of the Soviet Union but there was a major increase in repression of the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union from 1975 possibly into the early 1980s. Kosygin had died in the late 1970s but after the demise of Leonid Brezhnev and his two successors Chernenko and Andropov, strangely, matters went upon ice. There was more suppression of the applications of people who wished to leave the Soviet Union. Certainly, the repression of the Jewish minority might have lessened somewhat.

All our informants tell us nowadays, since the advent of perestroika, while things are certainly not as we would want [719] them to be there has been some amelioration of the situation of Jewish people: more emigrant visas — I am taking that parlance from our experience, our present emigration experience and our young people going to the United States — more visas are being issued now, albeit a small number, by the authorities than there was. It does appear that some of the repressive measures, that is, in regard to the teaching of Hebrew in schools, and so on, have been greatly lessened. We are heartened to believe that at least in a private capacity it is now possible without fear of the KGB, or whoever else it might be, to hold classes to impart Hebrew or any other cultural expression to Jewish children or adults who may wish to learn it in the Soviet Union.

It is strange that one has to say these things in the context that the Soviet law, the Soviet code, the Soviet Constitution recognises the Jewish people as a nationality in the same way as their Constitution would recognise Estonia or Latvia. It is also an oddity of history that many of the Jewish people are some of the most Russified of the minorities in the Soviet Union. That strangely in these republics along the west coast——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Would the Senator like to address the Chair?

Mr. Connor: Information on John Connor  Zoom on John Connor  I always address the Chair. I also put a certain amount of body language into it and I apologise if you are offended if I looked away from you. Many of the Jewish minority have become the most Russified of the minorities in the Soviet Union. One often finds discrimination and prejudices against them in places like Lativia and in the republics along the Baltic coast. It is more rooted in the resentment of people on the Baltic side of the Russification, and the easy Russification, it would appear, of the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union.

While many of the ordinances of the laws which are repressive of Jewish identity may come from Moscow many of them [720] had a local origin from local administration. Many of them have their roots in local prejudices. It is a strange oddity of history that that is the case. Anti-semitism in the Soviet Union has some roots — and this might be strange to say — at the time of the Nazi invasion. It is surprising how successful Nazi anti-semitic propaganda was in those western states of the Soviet Union because they were in the front line after the invasion in 1941. It is surprising how persuasive it may have been to many people, Lativians, Estonians, Bylo Russians and so on. Many people will tell you that that propaganda, and remains of that propaganda, remain on ironically in those parts of the Soviet Union until this day.

The purpose of this motion is to call upon the Soviet Union to permit Soviet Jews full freedom to pursue the Jewish religion, their cultural activities which include the teaching and learning of Hebrew as a national dimension; and it calls on the Soviet Union to limit refusals from emigration based on secrecy to a defined period of time. I have here that something like 9,000 Jewish people in the very recent past have been refused exist from the Soviet Union they are the ones that are well recorded. It is estimated by some people that there are probably at least another 6,500 or 7,000 who are not known about. These are refuseniks, people who were not going by outside invitation but who nevertheless had their application to leave the Soviet Union refused.

Last year alone there were 75,000 people who asked for invitation to go to Israel. Somebody else was making that point and it is one of the things that has been used against the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union, that if those 75,000 were allowed to go perhaps only a small proportion of them would go to Israel at all, that maybe most of them would go where they felt there were better economic chances of doing well for themselves, maybe to the United States or some of the western countries.

Be that as it may, the spirit of Helsinki quite clearly is that a minority in any country who wish to leave that country [721] and go to their homeland, or what they perceive to be their homeland or to any other country in the ordinary way that men, women and races have gone all over the world since the very beginning of time, should be allowed to do so. That is the very principle in that particular section of the agreement signed in Helsinki and the ink was not even dry on that agreement when the Soviet Union, from day one were in breach of that part of the agreement.

Essentially, what we are doing is calling upon the Soviet Union — and we are not calling upon them in any hostile way but in a spirit of friendship. This country has very friendly relations with the Soviet Union and we welcome particularly the developments recently in the Soviet Union and the spirit in which the recent movements have been received officially in Moscow. There has been a sunburst and a flowering of movements of national expression. We hope the Soviet Government would look upon the Jewish question in the same new benign way as they seem to be looking upon the nationalities question, that is, the nationalities who have official nations within the Soviet Union, because the Jewish people see themselves as a nationality, too, within the Soviet Union. We would hope they would see them in the same benign and generous way as displayed, indeed by President Gorbachev. That is our appeal and we make it in no sense or spirit of hostility towards the Soviet Union. It is Members in a House of Parliament in a friendly country asking what we consider a friendly government to take this particular piece of advice from us.

We are being very heartened by what we see happening in that country in recent times. We would certainly be very heartened if we felt that Moscow would regard in a benign way Jewish people who wish to leave or who wish to have a full ethnic cultural expression, the right to education which takes account of their culture etc. and their history, within the Soviet Union. That is what we are asking: not merely the right to leave if you want to but the right to be educated in what Jewish people hold dear in terms of their [722] history, their culture and their language especially.

In any civilised State today there is no need to be afraid of minorities. A state certainly that has grown up — and I am sure the Soviet Union has grown up after about 60 or 70 years with its independence — has no need to be afraid of minorities and it should no longer be afraid of international pressure. I know part of the problem might have been that the Arab countries — and I wish to make this remark in no unfriendly way to the Arab states — would always keep a certain amount of pressure on the Soviet Union not to allow the exits because they felt it would be augmenting the population and the size of Israel. Until very recently most Arab states did not recognise the right of Israel to exist and they felt it was a further threat to them if tens of thousands or more than one million Jews were allowed to leave the Soviet Union.

I might just digress slightly to mention that Item No. 37 on the Order Paper says that Seanad Éireann requests the Government to consider conferring honorary citizenship on Raoul Wallenberg in recognition of his outstanding services to humanity. Raoul Wallenberg was Swedish. He went to Budapest in 1944 to try to save the remains of the Hungarian Jews from Eichman's final solution. Although he was unarmed, he faced the Gestapo and he was bundled into the cattle trains which took the people to Aushwitz. As a diplomat he used his position to try to smuggle many Hungarian Jews out of Hungary, which was in the centre of the Nazi empire at that time. He saved between 30,000 and 100,000 Jewish people. I do not wish to pre-empt the debate which we are going to have on that but I think this debate should not go without mentioning the fact that that is one of the items which will soon be coming up for debate in this House. It is a motion this House should have no difficulty in adopting in recognition of the outstanding services to humankind on the part of this very brave Swedish Jew, Raoul Wallenberg; in fact he is still alive.

[723] It has been my pleasure to speak in favour of this motion. I want it to be known that we are offering advice to a friendly country; we are not making this appeal in any hostile way. We are asking that the winds of change that are now very evident in the Soviet Union for many people and many movements would also blow in the direction and in favour of the Jewish minority in that country.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Go raibh maith agat as ucht an seans atá agam labhairt ar an rún atá os ár gcomhair. Ceartanna mionlach ar fud an domhain is ceann de na cúiseanna is mó gur cóir dúinn mar Dara Theach a bheith sásta a phlé: na rudaí beaga tábhachtacha nach bhfuil mórán tacaíocht pholaitíochta taobh thiar dóibh nach bhfuil mórán cinnlínte nuachta le fáil astu, nach bhfuil, ach amháin ó am go ham, mórán cinnlínte le fáil acu i bpolaitíocht idirnáisiúnta.

Sin ceann de na fáthanna go gcuirim fáilte roimh an díospóireacht seo, gur féidir linn ceist a phlé ar feadh pé mhéid ama a theastaíonn uainn a úsáid. Cuirim fáilte roimh an phrionsabal atá glachta leis gur féidir linn agus gur cóir dúinn ceisteanna ilpháirithe mar seo a phlé, ceisteanna atá tábhachtach agus nach bhfuil conspóid faoin bhunphrionsabal taobh thiar díobh. Caithfidh go gcabhraíonn sé sin linn ó thaobh bheith ag smaoineamh faoi chúrsaí an domhain, cúrsaí cearta an duine agus ceisteanna mar sin.

It is right that we should discuss a motion like this. It is also right that such a motion should be seen in its context. I do not think this is the happiest of opportunities, or the happiest of times, to launch into a criticism of the Soviet Union. It is as if somebody who had a serious drink problem for a long time was in the throes of trying to reform himself or herself and is suddenly told “you must do it faster or we will not play ball or talk to you”. That is not to say I have anything against the motion.

Whatever I feel is wrong with the Soviet Union, and particularly with its [724] history, one has to acknowledge the enormous impact on the world of the Soviet Revolution. The fact that so much has gone wrong there, and that so much has been done wrong there, should not force us into a position where all we will ever say about the developments of the Soviet Union since the revolution is negative. We are likely to fall into the trap. It is quite clear that in recent times the ante is being successively stepped up by some of the western powers, and particularly by our nearest neighbour, about what is expected of the Soviet Union before we are prepared to talk to them about human rights. We have the extraordinary position of the British Prime Minister demanding an end to internal exile in the Soviet Union while, at the same time, her own Government have on their Statute Book a provision for precisely that within the United Kingdom whereby people can be deported from one part of the United Kingdom to another because the Government regard them as a threat to the security of the State. There is something ironic in giving one country a lecture about internal exile while retaining to yourself the right to do it, not even by judicial process but by the arbitrary opinion of the Home Secretary.

At this stage what we are saying is a continuous raising of the ante of demands on the Soviet Union for reform. It is necessary to remind ourselves that it was the Soviet Revolution more than anything else that scared the political establishments of most of western Europe and North America, and was probably the major impetus that made things like universal welfare, universal health services, workers' rights and the role of the trade union movement, so much more acceptable — the fear of something worse, inspired by the revolution in the Soviet Union.

It is important to remember that whatever appalling things may happen in the light of a major historical convulsion, the long-term effects must be judged in precisely those terms. It is very fashionable now to welcome the French Revolution as the single biggest impulse towards the extension of democracy. It is not so [725] fashionable to remember the reign of terror that followed immediately or to remember that most of the aspirations of the French Revolution — democracy and equality — were almost abandoned within a short period of 30 or 40 years with the restoration of the monarchy and the coming of Napoleon, but that does not get away from the fact that what happened in the French Revolution was an enormous liberation of the aspirations of ordinary people.

It is safe to say that a similar analysis could well apply in the future to the Soviet Revolution with all its imperfections, and that is not to attempt to avoid condemning without reservation all that has been done in the name of that revolution, particularly during the reign — and I use the word “reign” deliberately — of Stalin. It was a disgrace to socialism, it was a disgrace of democracy and it was, in particular, a disgrace to the brave people who had fought for the Soviet Revolution.

It is also true that during the Soviet Civil War the western powers intervened in order to attempt to defeat the Bolshevik Revolution. That is part of a continuing Soviet history of paranoia about the aims of the western powers, not just towards the Soviet Union but towards Russia as a nation. When we are rightly critical of abuses and indeed the absence of basic human rights within the Soviet Union, we have an obligation to do a number of things. One is to be very careful to be even-handed and to remind ourselves that human rights are not just something about which you give lectures to those of whom you disapprove.

Human rights are universal rights. It is equally wrong to abuse human rights in South Africa, Chile, Central America, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union or the Republic of Ireland. Human rights are not something you can shake out of a laundry bag in a convenient political climate and wave at somebody you want to embarrass. There is, to a certain extent, an impression developing in my mind and from reading the newspapers that human rights are going to be a continuously increasing demand that the [726] western powers are going to make on the Soviet Union in order to deflect western public opinion from an appreciation of the fundamental changes that have taken place in the Soviet Union.

It is important also, when we focus on the rights of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union that we avoid any sort of attempt to suggest that there is some sort of coincidence with the political and economic philosophy of the Soviet Union and anti-semitism. Anti-semitism is, unfortunately, perhaps the most painful heritage of Christianity. It is not a failing of the Soviet Union; it is a failing of people who come from a much deeper and longer established tradition in the Soviet Union, and that is, regrettably, the Christian religious tradition.

It is a fact of history that the Jewish people have been treated with far greater tolerance under Islam than under Christianity and that the history of the most shameful pogroms, the most shameful attacks, the most shameful politically inspired attacks, has been evident among so-called Christian societies. While I would not for one second pretend that the experience of the Jewish people under Islam has been pleasant, they have not suffered the same intensity of persecution, the same intensity of pogroms until recently. Historically the Moslem countries while not being particularly well disposed towards the Jewish people, did not have the history of persecution, did not have the history of anti-Semitism. Given that many Moslem countries would have been semites themselves that would have been particularly difficult, but the history of anti-Jewish feeling was not as deep.

It is important to say that all of us ‘Christians’ have an obligation of penitance towards the Jewish people because the religious tradition we subscribe to is guilty either by neglect or by deliberate manipulation of anti-Semitism. We have either used the existence of the Jewish people to give us a convenient whipping boy for all sorts of appalling allegations, or we have allowed our scriptures to be interpreted in a way which justified the most appalling pogroms against the [727] Jewish people. As Christians we cannot now suddenly say that because we have discovered the evils of anti-semitism in the last 40 years that somehow we are responsible for nothing.

We are all products of our history and we have a profound obligation to be quite clearly aware of where we came from and the appalling history we have with respect to the Jewish people. Many of the most awful things that were done against the Jewish people were done on the basis of their allegedly being responsible for the death of Christ, etc. The leader of the Church to which I subscribe goes to great lengths to deny that Christianity in any way is culpable for the history for anti-Semitism. I think that is a load of nonsense. It is quite clear to me that even a cursory reading of history indicates that the church, of which I am a member, has an appalling record in terms of how it historically dealt with the Jewish people. In my view, the proper and Christian thing to do is to acknowledge the truth, say we are extremely sorry and commit ourselves to trying to make sure that that never happens again.

The rights of the Jewish people within the Soviet Union is a simple issue. Of course all the rights addressed in this motion should be granted forthwith. I would say that about any minority group prepared to operate within the general legal framework of a society, wherever that country was, irrespective of its social and political order, whether they be a religious group, an ethnic group or another minority. I would say it about the travelling community and about the gay community in this country. Any minority group should be allowed to live according to their own traditions, using their language and in a position where they are able to practise their own religion without any discrimination, overt or covert. Given the experience of our co-religionists in the Northern part of this country for the past 60 years, we have a particular obligation to be sensitive about the rights of minorities.

However, when it comes to the issue of emigration from the Soviet Union, [728] there is a legitimate problem to be considered, that is the problem of a country which cannot offer the same standard of living as a competing country. I am talking in this case of the contrast between the standard of living in the Soviet Union and the standard of living in the United States of America. Would we be happy if the United States announced that it would accept every Irish person who wanted to emigrate?

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Yes.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  We might get rid of Senator Ross——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  That would be tremendous.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  That is not an impartial remark——

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  In the case of Senator Ross, it would be unreasonable to expect the Cathaoirleach to be impartial.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Some hope.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  The more vulnerable partner in an unequal economic relationship like that must have the right to be concerned about the enticement away from it of those to whom education and skills have been given. In particular, since the motion refers to secrecy, there must be legitimate reasons to protect State secrets. All these things can be abused, and have been abused, but I am not aware, for instance, if the Jewish minority in, say, any of the North African countries, or anywhere else in the world, wanted to emigrate to the United States that they would get the same enthusiastic welcome that Soviet Jews would get. As Mr. Gorbachev has said on more than one occasion, if the United States are so worried about the rights of emigrants, why do they not allow all those Mexicans on their borders who would like to emigrate to the United States to do so? It is not just the rights of emigrants that are involved here, it is an issue which is being used by one side in the Super Powers [729] struggle to embarrass the other side. Of course, that is not a complete answer but I think the perspective ought to be retained here by way of a contrast.

Everything that has been said about the abuse, misuse, of the Jewish people inside the Soviet Union is true and it is correct that it should be condemned. It is also true that in the United States a far more serious attack on a racial minority continues without much criticism, that is, the quite clear discrimination in the United States where a disproportionate number of its black population are the victims of the death penalty. That is also a very serious assault on a racial minority within the United States which deserves equal criticism and equal condemnation as do the quite appalling abuses that the Jewish people have suffered in the Soviet Union.

I was in Jerusalem last April and had a few interesting experiences. One of the most interesting was when I read a copy of The Jerusalem Post. It quite clearly suggested that a lot of the enthusiasm of Soviet Jews to emigrate was not motivated by an enthusiasm to move to Israel but to get far enough to be able to change their destination to the United States. In order to minimise that, the point at which they would be given their visas to enter Israel was being shifted from Vienna to Bucharest because there is no Israeli Embassy in Moscow. The idea was that people would not be able to change their destination in Bucharest with the ease they could do it in Vienna, and the people who left the Soviet Union because they said they wanted to migrate to Israel would have to go and live in Israel. The Jerusalem Post speculated it was quite likely that if people were only assured of migration to Israel the requests for permission to emigrate might be quite drastically reduced.

It was an interesting insight into the debate on emigration from the Soviet Union that apparently a considerable part of it has more to do with the quality of the countries they go to in terms of standards of living than it was about fine and noble aspirations to live in freedom. I am not entirely convinced that Israel is [730] a free country in any sense that I would define a free country, but I am concerned that if we are going to give lectures to other countries about human rights — something I subscribe to since I spend a considerable part of my political career doing it anyway — we should talk about the issues as they are, not the issues presented in the most favourable light.

It would be impossible to oppose this motion as I subscribe to that what is sought in it. It is to be hoped that at some stage in the immediate future we can look at other countries who subscribe at least in theory to the same political and social values we subscribe to and identify, as I have said in the case of the United States, the quite clear and fundamental racial bias that operates there in the exercise of the death penalty. That sort of issue also deserves to be addressed. If we feel we have the right to give a lecture to one Super Power about human rights in that country, and we do and I subscribe to that, then we also have an obligation to identify abuses of human rights on the part of another Super Power. There are human rights in that country that are in severe need of reassertion, and particularly the most fundamental of all, the right to life, because it besmirches the name of the greatest democracy, as many people would describe it, that it exercises the death penalty on such a frightening scale. There are almost 2,000 people awaiting execution in that country. I will circulate a motion to all Members of the House seeking all-party support for condemnation of the continued use of the death penalty in a racially discriminatory manner in the United States.

Saying that and putting the motion in perspective, I am quite happy to support it.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Calleary): Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I am glad to be able to participate in the debate on this motion.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, proclaims unequivocally a number of rights which are of particular relevance to this [731] motion. These include the right to freedom of religion, the right to leave one's country and the right to enjoy one's human rights without discrimination. This declaration is one of the basic instruments setting out the human rights and fundamental freedoms which the 35 CSCE participating states committed themselves to respecting when at Helsinki they signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The Helsinki Final Act and the concluding document of the Madrid meeting are not treaties and do not legally bind the 35 signatories, which include all the states of Europe, with the exception of Albania, together with the United States and Canada. They represent, however, a political commitment by these states to implement in full the provisions of these documents and give the other participating states the right to review the extent to which this commitment is being honoured.

In the area of human rights the Final Act provides that the participating states will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. As the motion recalls, it mentions specifically freedom of religion and commits the participating states to recognising and respecting the freedom of the individual to profess and practise religion, either alone or in community with others. The signatories undertook to encourage the effective exercise of human rights and freedoms and at Madrid they stressed their determination to assure constant and tangible progress in this field.

The Final Act also devotes a lot of attention to the question of human contacts, particularly the reunification of families and marriages between citizens of different states. The participating states commit themselves to dealing in a positive and humanitarian spirit with applications from people who wish to be reunited with members of their family. At Madrid it was agreed, specifically, to decide on such applications “in normal practice, within six months”.

The extent to which the Soviet Union [732] has complied with the commitments it adopted in the CSCE process has varied somewhat over the years since 1975, but it is clear that at no time has its implementation of the Final Act been entirely satisfactory. In the early eighties, in particular, the Soviet record in the area of human contacts deteriorated rapidly. While the period immediately following the signature of the Final Act has seen increasing numbers of Jews being permitted to leave the Soviet Union each year, the numbers declined sharply after 1979, when emigration peaked at 51,000. By comparison, the 1986 figure was only 914. The decline in Jewish emigration was coupled with repression of persons who had applied for exit visas and the continued denial of the possibility for Jews to give expression to their particular culture. In other areas too the provisions of the Helsinki and Madrid documents were violated — for instance, through the systematic suppression of groups set up to monitor their implementation and the repression of religious believers.

As Senator Norris stressed when he introduced the motion and as was mentioned by other Senators, in particular Senator Murphy, Senator Connor and Senator Ryan, there have been considerable improvements in the Soviet record in the human rights field. It is particularly important that we would set this on record, that we would recognise it and that, particularly at this time and in the climate that now prevails in the Soviet Government, we should place on record our aknowledgement of those improvements. Significant numbers of political prisoners have been released and there has been a new, though limited, freedom of expression that would not have been possible in the past. Since January 1987 the number of visas issued to enable Jews to leave the Soviet Union has increased substantially. Last year, they numbered just over 8,000, while in the first nine months of this year approximately 11,500 have been issued. There are reports that reforms in legislation, at present in preparation, will make emigration somewhat easier.

These developments, and the prospect [733] of reforms in Soviet society after the 29th Conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, are encouraging, but there remains ample scope for concern at the current situation. The most recent figures for emigration are still well below those prevailing throughout the seventies, and are small compared to the number of Soviet Jews who wish to leave the country. Regulations introduced in 1987 limit emigration to those who have a direct relative abroad, although there are indications that for the present these are not being fully enforced.

Many persons have had visas denied to them on state security grounds. In many cases the act of applying for permission to leave leads directly to discrimination against not only the applicants but their families as well. Continued harassment and restrictions on the use of Hebrew, as mentioned by Senators Norris, Harte, Murphy and others, makes it difficult for Jews to practise their religion and pursue their culture. The anti-Semitic sentiments of such nationalist groups as “Pamyat” are disturbing.

Ireland, as well as our partners in the Twelve and other CSCE participating states, has availed of the opportunities offered by CSCE meetings to express our concern at the deficiencies in Soviet implementation of the Helsinki and Madrid provisions, most recently at the review meeting which has been taking place in Vienna since November 1986.

Together with our partners in the Twelve, we have also sought to strengthen significantly the commitments undertaken at Helsinki and Madrid by making specific and detailed proposals for measures that the participating states must take to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practise religion.

These measures include the right of religious communities to establish freely accessible places of worship, to organise themselves according to their own institutional structure and to solicit and receive financial contributions. States would also commit themselves to respect the right of everyone to give and receive religious education in the language of [734] their choice and to respect the liberty of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

The Twelve have also made proposals aimed at strengthening the provisions relating to travel for family meetings, family reunification and marriage, and where there is an urgent humanitarian reason. The Twelve, including Ireland, have also co-sponsored proposals aimed at preventing the abuse of national security grounds for restricting travel and ensuring that any restrictions imposed on these grounds will be for as short a period as possible.

The Vienna meeting has not yet concluded and negotiations on these and other proposals are continuing. However, it is expected that the Vienna Concluding Document will lead to increased commitments by the participating states in these and other areas which are of particular relevance to this motion.

I have already mentioned that the Helsinki Final Act confers on all participating states a right to review the way in which a particular state has implemented its commitments. To date this review has mainly been conducted in the context of one of the three main follow-up meetings held at Belgrade, Madrid and currently, Vienna. The Twelve, and othe CSCE participating states, consider however, that there is scope for improving the procedures for reviewing implementation of the provisions relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms and human contacts. With this in mind, we co-sponsored a proposal aimed at strengthening these procedures. This would allow a state to make representations on particular situation and cases to the state concerned and to bring them to the attention of all the 35 participating states. These cases could also be raised at the normal CSCE review meetings as well as at the annual sessions of a conference on the Human Dimension, which will be attended by all CSCE participating states. It is expected that the first session of the conference will take place next year in Paris. The Twelve hope that this [735] increased emphasis on the human dimension will lead to a more thorough implementation by all states of their commitments to human rights and human contacts.

The appropriate framework in which to raise human rights issues, such as the case of Raoul Wallenberg, referred to by Senators Norris, Murphy and Connor is the CSCE. This is the context in which the Government raises such issues.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the subject of this motion is a matter for continued concern to us and one on which we have made our views known to the Soviet authorities, both bilaterally and through the Twelve. We will continue to press, by appropriate means, for the full implementation of the commitments entered into at Helsinki and Madrid, and about to be undertaken at Vienna, so that Soviet Jews and all Soviet citizens may enjoy their fundamental rights.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak very briefly on this motion — very briefly simply because I cannot see what there is to discuss about it. To me it is a very clear-cut, very open issue. There is only one issue involved and that is the right of any person of any particular religion or faith or loyalty to a particular country to move freely around the world from one country to another. As the Minister said so rightly in his speech, that is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Having said that, I must once again express serious disappointment with the Minister's response because, just as it has been the custom of the Minister on other issues to respond by stating that with the Twelve, or as one of the Twelve we have done this or that, I believe that we are falling into the trap which we said we would never fall into, which is that our foreign policy and the foreign policy of this and the former Government is simply the foreign policy of the European Community.

It is a great shame that we should not, not just as one of the Twelve but on this [736] issue and on the issue of Nicaragua — which I raised last week — speak out individually, loud and clear; and if the Twelve do not agree with us or feel as strongly as we do, so be it. There is a tendency for us to make a great deal of noise about our neutrality, to say it is precious to us and yet be quite happy to take common foreign policies, common stands which are by their very nature diluted in situations of this sort and hide behind the umbrella of the Twelve. I would prefer——

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I hesitate to interrupt the Senator.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  No, you do not.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I do. I did say that we have done it bilaterally and through the Twelve.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I saw that and what I should point out is “bilaterally” is mentioned once in the speech, “Twelve” is mentioned six or seven times already. That is the whole point I was trying to make, that it is mentioned as an afterthought. If we are to be consistent about our neutrality our whole foreign policy should be bilateral and independent. I believe that the statements that are constantly coming from the Department of Foreign Affairs about our foreign policy are safe but diluted; whereas I myself feel, and have felt in the past, that maybe our neutrality is bogus and therefore we should be honest about it and say we are not neutral. The Minister and the Government are continuously grooming us day by day by not making a courageous independent stand. Having said that, I should say that I think the Minister's speech could have been a great deal stronger. Having said last week that I think we are a bit frightened of offending the United States on Nicaragua, I think I can say this week we are a little bit frightened of offending the Soviet Union on the Jewish problem there.

It is clear to me that this is a well-drafted and cleverly-drafted statement, but it does not refer strongly to abuses; [737] it is diluted. I would like to quote one paragraph on page 2: “It is clear that at no time has the implementation of the final Act been entirely satisfactory”. The fact is that the implementation of this Act in the Soviet Union has been a dismal abuse. I would prefer it if the Minister were to say this. I know we are a small country. I know we defer in foreign affairs to larger countries, but I think our weight is far greater than we actually estimate, if we are to use it. So long as we defer to the larger powers and so long as we defer to the Twelve and so long as we are to have a common foreign policy with the Twelve, we will not carry this weight. It is time that we had open protests to the Soviet Union about the treatment of Jews in Soviet Russia. I think we are entitled to do that if we are going to protest about human rights in other parts of the world. That is what our neutrality should mean. It should be neutrality, not against anybody but neutrality for human rights regardless of whom we offend. I agree with what Senator Ryan said about the death penalty——

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  That is exactly what we do.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I look forward to the Minister's reply on Nicaragua this evening and I look forward to him saying in his reply on Nicaragua that American policy in Nicaragua has been a disgrace and has been oppressive and has been despotic.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  You will have this evening for that.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The Minister interrupted me.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  He is only trying to put you on the right path.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Having said that I would like very briefly to get on to the substantive motion. This issue is so clear that I cannot understand some of the things which Senator Ryan said. Senator Ryan gave qualified approval to an issue of this sort. I believe that that sort of an argument [738] takes into account the whole Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. I know where Senator Ryan's sympathies lie on that. My sympathies do not happen to lie in the same place. I do not believe that red herrings should be allowed into a debate of this sort. It is simple; it should be seen to be simple. For Senator Ryan to use this particular motion to make an attack on the death penalty in the United States — which I totally agree with — I think is a deliberate and misleading diversion and red herring.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  Would the Senator make his own contribution and let Senator Ryan stand alone?

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  That is outrageous. He was allowed to make a statement of that sort without interruption from the Chair. If I am not allowed to even speak in reply to what he said without interruption, I really do find it difficult to function in this House under those circumstances. I would like to ask Senator Ryan what would happen and what would be the situation and how we would feel if Irish emigrants overseas were not allowed to return home? That would be outrageous; for that, there could be no excuse. I do not accept for one moment the Soviet reason, which is simply that it is a matter of security. You cannot possibly not allow so many people making so many applications out for security reasons nor should the Soviet authorities be allowed to use these people as some sort of leverage. When the West puts pressure on, they let a few out and they let a few more. When the pressure comes off then they are incarcerated and imprisoned again.

It really is not enough even now in the present delicate situation, which I acknowledge the Minister said exists in Russia, that we should soft-pedal on this issue. We should not soft-pedal on this issue. It is only right that, whatever the situation and whether the doors are being opened or not, the pressure should be kept up. That is why I welcome this debate here. That is why I welcome the apparent unanimity in this particular area.

[739] Finally, I would like to congratulate Senator Ryan and put it on the record that he here today relegated himself from ownership of his Church to just being a member of it. It is something on which I should congratulate him.

Prof. Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  Has he no longer a bishop in Cork?

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  In supporting this motion I want to make one or two points. First, I want to recognise some of the things that have been done and I want to refer to a meeting between the representatives of Amnesty International and the Soviet Public Commission on International Cooperation on Humanitarian Affairs and Human Rights held in Paris in May this year. The Secretary General of Amnesty International and a staff member met people from the Soviet commission. The chairman of that commission is Fyodor Burlatsky and Professor Yelena Lukasheva is a member. Generally, Amnesty International welcomed the move that had been made by the President Gorbachev and his advocacy of a strong United Nations role in promoting and protecting human rights and indeed the unprecedented public discussion on human rights in the Soviet Union.

We must also look at what has not been done. There is no doubt that the Jewish people who live in the Soviet Union — their numbers is given variously as numbers between 1½ million and 2½ million; I am not quite sure which figure is correct: there are various estimates and it is probably closer to 2½ million — have been discriminated against in a way experienced by no other national group in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union contains so many different groupings of nationalities who speak different languages and have different cultural and different religious practices and the Jews seem to be the ones who are discriminated against, as they have been discriminated against for as long as anybody can remember.

We must support the motion. I would like to say one positive thing and I would [740] like to point out that we could make a gesture which perhaps would highlight how we feel about this. In doing so we could follow the lead of three other nations. On 25 October this year I was in Jerusalem and I visited a place called Yad Vashem which is a memorial to the six million Jews who were destroyed — I suppose that is the only word — in the holocaust by the Nazis. It is a very stark memorial and indeed up on the hill there is a piece of sculpture the memory of which will always stay with me. It is a stark piece of sculpture of Jews caught on the barbed wire of the concentration camps. It stands out against the skyline of Jerusalem and it is a horrific sight. On the way up to it there is a road called the Avenue of the Righteous and there are about 600 trees along this road. It was a balmy evening and there was a nice wind blowing when I was there and as you walked along you were in good humour but you came out rather sad.

This Avenue of the Righteous contains 600 trees and below each tree there is the name of a gentile who helped the Jews at that time. One of these trees bears the name of a man called Raoul Wallenberg. He is a Swede. There are many different versions of what he has done for the Jewish people during the war but he is reckoned to have saved about 300,000 people, some people say 100,000 people — it does not matter. He disappeared into the Soviet Union and persistent efforts to locate this man have been met with the reply that he died in 1947. Other people have reported seeing him from time to time and having evidence of his existence. For his work he was recognised in 1981 by the United States and made an honorary citizen of that country. In 1985 Canada did the same thing and in 1986 Israel did the same thing. I would like to ask the Minister if he would consider making him an honorary citizen of Ireland also. It would highlight how we feel about people who are discriminated against in general and it would certainly highlight the Jewish situation. It would not cost us anything and it might mean a great deal to some people who are suffering at the moment in the Soviet [741] Union because they are not permitted to practice the faith in which they believe.

It is well known that Soviet officialdom does in many ways allow them to practice somewhat, but really when it comes to learning Hebrew and to having their own practices they do not get the same freedom that other groups do. For that reason I think it would be a fitting memorial if we could perhaps honour this man, make him an honoroary citizen of Ireland, and maybe highlight the plight of Jews who are still suffering, particularly in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I would like, first of all, to thank the Senators who took part in this very important and indeed, I think, historic debate. I would like to thank in particular members of a committee of the Jewish community who supplied myself and other Senators with information which was most helpful in this regard and to note the presence in the Chamber of a member of that distinguished group, Mrs. Lynne Jackson.

I would like also to welcome the very careful and detailed speech by the Minister which I have just read. I am particularly heartened that it addresses itself in some detail to many of the issues which were raised, not just by myself but by other Senators, the issue of the right of the Jewish people to educate their children in their own cultural tradition, to have access to the Hebrew language and also, of course, the right to emigrate. I am very glad that such detailed information was provided as has reassured me that this important matter is being carefully monitored. I am very heartened indeed that the Minister underlined the continued harassment — and I use his own words from his speech — and restrictions on the use of Hebrew which makes it difficult for Jews to practice their religion and pursue their culture. I am very pleased that he actually named a particular offensive publication called Pamyat because I think that the action of naming is important. It is important to name the organs which we find offensive and it is also important to, as I was able to do already, name some of the individuals [742] who have been awaiting exit visas for a very long time, the so-called refuseniks.

I think nothing puts a human face more clearly on this kind of debate which otherwise can appear to be rather academic. I did go to great trouble, as the Minister is aware and has understood, to place this whole debate in a framework, first of all, of international agreements and protocols and various other international instruments, to show what violations were occurring there and then in the context of the Soviet constitution and finally in the context of the laws of the individual Soviet Republics. That can appear academic and it is when one puts a human face on these matters that one pierces behind the apparently academic mask and realises the human suffering that is the reality for many people in our world today.

I am most interested in what the Minister says with regard to the case of Raoul Wallenberg and the Minister will have noted, as I did and I was most heartened by this, that speaker after speaker from every side of the House urged the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Minister and the Government to take on board this practical issue of Raoul Wallenberg and to consider Item No. 37 on the Order Paper today in my name which is to grant citizenship of this country to that great man. I know that the Minister said that the appropriate framework in which to raise human rights issues such as the case of Raoul Wallenberg referred to by myself is the CSCE. This is the context in which the Government raises such issues.

I wonder if I can have an assurance that the Government will, as a matter of urgency raise this matter. It is not enough I must say merely to indicate that a certain forum exists if that forum is not currently being used. I am very glad to see that the Minister is nodding and perhaps he will be able to take this up. It has been raised by Irish Members in the European Parliament and in the Council of Europe. I am very glad to say that Irish Members from different parties played an important role in raising this issue but [743] there is nothing to prevent the Government of this country, acting on behalf of its people, conferring citizenship on Raoul Wallenberg. I have to say that a number of other countries, including Canada and the United States of Amrica, have done so.

I would particularly like to welcome the speeches of my fellow Senators. Without being invidious, I would like to isolate one particular factor that I felt was enormously hopeful and that was that nobody took the opportunity, which might 20 or 30 years ago, have been taken, to launch a blistering attack on the Soviet Union. It is now accepted that the Soviet Union is a Government with which it is proper to have friendly diplomatic relations. There was no attempt to be antagnostic. I think that is most important and I certainly would not wish to be associated with any attack on the Soviet Union.

I note with some interest that the Russian periodicals and films are currently being censored, but I note with even greater amusement that they are not being censored in holy Catholic Ireland, but they are being censored in East Germany. They are being censored precisely because of the operations of perestroika and glasnost because the administration in East Germany is apparently afraid of the release of liberal ideas into the local political context, including not just economic ideas but the raising of the whole question of the emigration of Soviet Jews. One of the films that has recently been placed on the banned list is a film dealing with the plight of the Jews wishing to leave Russia made by a Soviet film maker and distributed apparently with the imprimatur of the Soviet Government. That, I feel, is an interesting indication of where perestroika and glasnost are bringing us and it is something I welcome as I welcome very much the sight of President Gorbachev in Siberia encountering the reality of political life — people in queues for goods, people in the workplace and having patiently to explain directly to an aggrieved public precisely what the implications of [744] this policy of glasnost and perestroika are.

Professor Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  We should have it here.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Indeed, we should, Senator, have it here; and, in some small measure, I think we perhaps do. I would like to just simply say because it is important that we put it in a positive context, how welcome was the speech, among others, of the Leader of the House, Senator Lanigan, who occupies an unusual position because he is leader of the Government party in this House, I was certainly very pleased by the fact that Senator Lanigan, who is well known and is very proud of espousing the cause of the Palestinian people in the Middle East and of the Arab States in general in that area of the world, very carefully and very appropriately and properly drew a distinction between the fate of the Jewish people in the diaspora, and particularly in the Soviet Union, and the situation in the Middle East about whom we are all concerned. It showed a great responsibility on the part of all Senators and I am sure that the Jewish community in Ireland and throughout Europe will be very pleased, if and when they hear this debate, to realise that the Irish people and their representatives have the political sophistication, which is not widespread, I am sorry to say, to be able to draw this distinction between the Jewish people and their rights as citizens of various countries — in this case the Soviet Union — and the situation currently prevailing in the Middle East.

I do not wish to be repetitive, and I know that, even did I so wish, the Cathaoirleach would not allow me to be so, I think it has been a very full debate and I am most grateful to the Senators who spoke. The subject was dealt with in considerable detail and the response of the Minister was also considered, positive and hopeful. It is the intention of those who sponsored this motion to seek to advance the matter one degree further by looking for a meeting with the diplomatic representatives of the Soviet Union at [745] which both Members of this House and representatives of the Jewish community in Dublin and the Committees of that community, who are specifically interested in this issue, may also be present. I did telephone the Soviet Embassy during the afternoon but, unfortunately, I was a little bit late and the very courteous lady to whom I spoke did not have sufficient command of English, at least in my Irish accent, to enable her to deal with this in any great detail. She invited me to phone again tomorrow and I shall certainly be doing so.

I hope and believe that this form of non-confrontational dialogue with the power which is, I believe, in a friendly position with regard to this neutral Republic of Ireland is a positive way forward. I do not believe it will be resented and I very much hope that such a meeting can take place in the immediate future. I wonder if it is possible to get some information on one or two of the points that I have raised such as whether, for example, the Government intend to use the machinery of the CSCE to inquire into the case of Raoul Wallenberg and whether there is any possibility that the machinery will be set in motion for conferring citizenship status upon this man.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  Senator Norris, thank you. You will be allowed just one question and if there is further information I am certain that the Minister, Deputy Calleary, will give it to you in some other way. We cannot open up the debate again. I think you appreciate that.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Thank you very much.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  If you have one question that you would like to ask the Minister you may do so. I am sure if there are further questions he would be very happy to communicate with you.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Many of the questions having been answered in the course of the Minister's speech, I would like to ask him can he comment further upon the Government's response to the feeling that was universal throughout the House [746] that something substantial, such as the conferring of citizenship on Raoul Wallenberg, should be embarked upon in honour of the extraordinary work that he undertook during the Second World War.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  Not now, Senator.

Question put and agreed to.


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