15 October 2008, 14:23
Russian rabbi slams U.S. refusal to repeal Jackson-Vanik amendment
Moscow, October 15, Interfax - Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar has said he believes that Washington's delays in graduating Russia from the Jackson-Vanik amendment hurt the interests of the Jewish community and have political motives.
"We have had several meetings both with [U.S.] President George W. Bush and representatives of the U.S. Department of State. Our position is very clear. We believe that the American side made a big mistake when it refused to repeal these amendments. This step would have benefited the U.S. itself," Lazar said in an interview with the NG-Religii newspaper published on Wednesday.
A move to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment would demonstrate Washington's understanding and recognition of those increasingly serious changes that have taken place in Russia in the past two decades," the rabbi said.
Jews have been able "to emigrate and to freely travel to various countries and return home" for a long time, Lazar said. More than 100,000 people have returned from Israel to Russia, the rabbi said. "No one has forced them to return. It was their free choice," he said.
"But then the fundamental issue of free movements was suddenly replaced by economic interests for some unknown reasons. One started to tie the annulment of the amendment to the issue of American chicken imports to Russia. People and their spiritual freedom were placed on the same shelf with chicken! Russia received a signal: it could have been a political matter from the very beginning, not an issue driven by the desire to protect human rights," Lazar said.
"In my opinion, refusing to repeal the amendment harms the Jewish people. The result is that our cause was used for different purposes," he said.
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