Contrary to Larry Lerner’s remarks, expressed in his June 29 op-ed, “Time for a New Jackson-Vanik,” the Magnitsky Act now under consideration is not the “modern-day version of Jackson-Vanik.” Organized American Jewry lobbied for Jackson-Vanik, and Congress adopted it in 1974 with full support and after consultation with Soviet Jews — the courageous refuseniks who fought for free emigration to Israel.
Today, no legislator or Jewish organizations is asking for support or advice on the Magnitsky Act from the Russian Jewish community. The discussion about whether this legislation could be effective in fighting corruption or if it would only complicate relations between the United States and Russia has no connection with the issue of Jewish emigration or other Jewish causes. Accordingly, the vote on the Magnitsky Act should not be tied to Jackson-Vanik.
Such a “replacement” would bring to Russian Jews more harm than good. This substitution is even more dangerous if it will, as Lerner suggests, irresponsibly exploit the legacy of the Soviet Jewry campaign. Linking Russia’s graduation from this amendment to any other laws or sanctions might in turn cause a negative response toward Russian Jews by corrupt security forces and officials, as well as by those groups who benefit from supporting anti-Semitic stereotypes in Russian society.
Today, freedom of travel is an undeniable right of all citizens of Russia, and even the most radical and eccentric political forces do not advocate restricting emigration from Russia on an ideological or any other basis. Regarding immigration to Israel, the availability of such opportunities are best illustrated by the fact that Israel and Russia signed a visa-free agreement resulting in nearly half a million Russian citizens freely visiting Israel each year.
Jackson-Vanik played an important historical role in the liberation of Soviet Jews. Now it has completely fulfilled its purpose and should be lifted for the mutual benefit of two nations.
President of the Russian Jewish Congress