North African Jews Are ‘scapegoat Victims’ of War, B’nai B’rith is Told

The majority of North Africa’s 100,000 Jews are likely to emigrate as “scapegoat victims” of the recent Middle East war, the B’nai B’rith International Council was told today at the final session of its annual four day meeting.

Maurice A. Weinstein, Council chairman, reported a “large-scale exodus” already under way from the dwindling North African Jewish communities because of a “widening cleavage” between the Jewish and Moslem populations, even in countries whose governments have taken strong measures to protect their Jewish inhabitants.

He cited the Jewish community of Tunisia, which had a population of 20,000 before the war and which is now shrinking at the rate of 1,000 departures for France per month, in spite of the protective measures taken by the government of President Habib Bourguiba. The government is assisting the Jews to emigrate, he added.

He reported “increasing anxiety” among Morocco’s 60,000 Jews, despite King Hussein’s “firm efforts” to forestall anti-Jewish eruptions following the mob violence at the height of the Arab-Israeli crisis. “Economic boycotts organized by private groups are persuading large numbers to seek ways of leaving Morocco,” Mr. Weinstein declared.

He said recent reports from Egypt estimate 400 to 500 Jewish “heads of household” still imprisoned in Cairo and some 80 others in Alexandria, “all of whom — Egyptian nationals — have been maltreated.” Some 3,000 Iraqi and 4,000 Syrian Jews, he said, are living “with harassments and discriminations” and are not permitted to “exist” in their respective countries, “although the Syrian government is reported to have detailed security police to protect its Jews.” His survey also reported that 3,100 of the 5,000 Jews who lived in Libya before the war have since migrated, with government assistance, as an aftermath of the riots.

SEE IMPROVEMENT IN CATHOLIC-JEWISH RELATIONS SINCE VATICAN II

The need for parish-level Implementation of the Vatican’s new ecumenical policies was stressed by delegates from countries with large Catholic populations at an earlier session. At the same time, they reported marked improvement in Roman Catholic-Jewish relations in many parts of the world as a result of the Vatican Council’s declaration on Jews, and said it had eliminated a major source of anti-Semitism. The delegates also reported that the relationship of their communities with church leaders was reaching levels of discussion which “create a mutual respect that grows out of candid confrontation.”

They added, however, that there remains “continuing need for Vatican intent to reach those parish levels where priests and teachers, steeped in past traditions of the Church, have either not learned of, or choose to ignore, Church revisions.”

Benjamin R. Epstein, director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, told the Council that recent events had shown that “any nation of a monolithic Catholic community is fantasy” and that “liberal Catholic communities are growing in number, articulation and influence.”

The Council, in a resolution, called upon the Soviet Union to permit emigration of Jews “who wish for family or other personal reasons to do so.” The statement expressed B’nai B’rith’s “good wishes for peace and cooperation to the Soviet people” on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution of 1917.

A delegation from the convention, headed by Dr, William A, Wexler, president of B’nai B’rith, was received by Raul Leoni, President of Venezuela. The President told the group that Venezuela “will seek to uphold peace in the Middle East.” He affirmed his government’s view that “Israel should be recognized as a sovereign state, and its integrity guaranteed.”

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