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State Dept. Issues Statement on Situation of Iraqi Jews; U.S. Policy Not Indicated

The State Department late today issued a statement on the Iraqi prosecution of Jews based on a report received from the American Embassy in Baghdad. A copy of the report was given Israel Ambassador Eliahu Elath when he called at the Department today and conferred with Raymond J. Hare, a member of the Department’s Near Eastern Division.

The State Department statement, which gave no indication of the American Government’s intentions vis-a-vis Iraq, declared:

“During the past few years tensions arising out of the Palestine controversy have occasionally resulted in agitation against members of minority groups in Near East countries.

“This government has followed the situation closely and has constantly urged moderation in treatment of minorities of whatever faith in the Near East, and has expressed the hope that such treatment would be compatible with the objectives of the United Nations in the field of human rights and fundamental freedom.

“The Department has received information that a certain number of Iraqi subjects of the Jewish faith have recently been arrested. However, the number is much smaller than had been mentioned in earlier published reports and individuals taken into custody are understood to be under charges of having violated specific Iraqi law.

“It is further reported that the Iraqi Government has assured leaders of the Jewish community that no Jews will be molested who do not participate in activities prohibited by Iraqi law. The American Embassy in Bagdad discussed these reports with the Iraqi Government in accord with Department policy as indicated.”

Diplomatic sources in Washington today said that American reports from Bagdad indicated that Israel stories of anti-Semitic violence in Iraq were exaggerated. It was said that American observers think that the number of Jews in Iraqi concentration camps is closer to the 36 admitted by the Iraqi newspapers than to the 2,000 claimed by the Israelis. Actually, diplomatic sources in Washington believe that the number of Jews in prison in Iraq is between 200 and 300.

Ambassador Elath, in his talk with Mr. Hare, said that the persecutions were “continuing with the same severity.” Expressing his government’s concern, he pointed out that this is not the first excess of the Iraqis against a minority group. He cited the massacre of Assyrian Christians in Iraq in 1933.

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