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Jewish Leaders Withdraw Support : Human Rights Stipulation Erased From Scope of L.B.-Soviet Sister City Proposal

August 20, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Dismissing a recommendation by its own legislative committee, the City Council this week agreed to move ahead with plans for a sister city in the Soviet Union without a stipulation that human rights issues be discussed.

"To make a precondition, we should drop the whole thing," Mayor Ernie Kell said to the dismay of Jewish leaders, who withdrew their support for the proposal following the council's action Tuesday.

Councilman Clarence Smith called the concept of mandating that a sister city committee include human rights in its discussions "un-American," adding that committee members should be free to discuss--or not discuss--what they please. "I just don't believe in restricting freedom of speech."

He Favored It Last Week

Last week, however, Smith was one of three council members who forwarded a recommendation to the council that it establish a relationship with Sochi in the Soviet Union only if the sister city committee includes human rights issues as part of its discussion.

Council members Edd Tuttle and Evan Anderson Braude, the other two council legislative committee members who last week endorsed the concept, voted with their colleagues Tuesday but said they expect human rights to be part of the discussions.

Representatives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Long Beach and West Orange County were not as optimistic.

"I'm afraid that we're looking at this issue through American eyes," said Lee Rosenblum, community relations director for the federation. The Soviet Union is not an open country and such discussions will be difficult unless it is agreed upon from the beginning, he said.

Different Set of People

Rosenblum said he would want the Long Beach delegation which will visit Sochi, a resort town on the Black Sea, to "understand that the people they are meeting are not the people I know who are suffering."

Council members plan to invite representatives of various groups, including the Jewish community, to form part of the sister city committee. Once the committee is appointed, it will act as a private organization and not be controlled by the council.

Kell and other council members said they did not want to set different rules for the Soviet Union sister city committee than those being used by other sister city committees that Long Beach has established for cities in Chile, South Korea, the People's Republic of China and Japan.

At last week's legislative committee meeting, the head of the Jewish Defense League, Irv Rubin, protested against the program, as did several others. In favor of the proposal were the International Children's Choir, the Gray Panthers, the New Jewish Agenda, and several individuals.

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