Status of Jews in Arab Nations Precarious, Worst in Syria, Report Says

The situation of Jews remains precarious in most Arab countries where they continue to live but is worst in Syria where the remaining 4,000 Jews are subjected to a wide range of restrictions, according to a report released here today by Gen. Lucius D. Clay, chairman of the Committee of Concern. The report was made public on the second anniversary of the hanging of Jews in Iraq. The anniversary was also marked by the International Conference for the Deliverance of Jews in the Middle East, headed by Alain Poher, President of the French Senate. The Committee of Concern and the International Conference are composed of non-sectarian groups which take a humanitarian interest in the plight of minorities in Arab countries.

Gen. Clay’s report said there was a possibility that Syria’s new military regime which seized power two months ago will include Jews in its announced policy of easing restrictions on civil liberties, including the right to travel. But meanwhile Syrian Jews are restricted in their movement to a distance of 2 1/2 miles from their homes, are subjected to curfews and are barred from employment in many fields, the report said. Jews must carry special identity cards with their religion marked in red. They are not permitted to emigrate and several Jews have been imprisoned on charges of attempting to leave the country, according to the Clay report.

The situation is not much better in Iraq despite the promises of Iraqi officials that restrictions on Jews would be abrogated, the report said. It noted that “various forms of economic and political discrimination are being maintained.” The report found that “the Jewish community continues to live under close police surveillance in a climate of fear of arbitrary arrest. Indeed,” the report said. “five Jews were arrested suddenly only last December and there are reportedly a handful who have been languishing in prison for some two years.”

(In Tel Aviv, a traveler from Iraq reported today that there has been some improvement in the treatment of that country’s remaining 2,000 Jews but a majority of them are jobless and lack means of supporting themselves. The traveller said that work permits have been granted to only eight Jewish doctors and pharmacists recently. But Iraqi police no longer beat up Jews in the streets and Jews enjoy a degree of religious freedom he said. They are not permitted to go to Israel. He said their main problem now was their financial plight.)

The Egyptian government released the 80 remaining Jews who had been imprisoned since 1967 last June. However, the Clay report said, “Their release was conditioned on the prisoners’ signing papers renouncing their Egyptian citizenship and agreeing to leave Egypt and to surrender their property to government confiscation.” There are only about 700 Jews left in Egypt, the Clay report said. The report declared that the Libyan Government failed to fulfill its promise to compensate Jews for property that was taken over by the present revolutionary regime. In addition, “The Libyan authorities have also created continuing, if unavowed, obstacles to the departure of the Jews who remained in Libya when the regime came to power,” the report said.

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