JERUSALEM (Feb. 3)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban today credited the efforts of international humanitarian groups with alleviating somewhat the plight of Jews remaining in Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries. But he warned that “the remnants of these communities are still held as hostages, subject to persecution, oppression and discrimination” and denied the universal human right to emigrate. Eban addressed the Knesset on the second anniversary (according to the Hebrew calendar) of the mass hangings of Jews in Baghdad and Basra for allegedly spying for Israel. “The martyrs were put to death for a crime which they had not committed. Others were murdered or died of hideous torture in the prisons. Their sole crime lay in their being Jews,” Eban said.
He noted that in Jan. 1970, about 100 public figures and religious leaders from 24 countries convened in Paris and set up the International Committee for the Jews in Arab countries, headed by Alain Poher, President of the French Senate. National committees in various countries were also established and the testimony they submitted on the situation of Jews in Arab lands aroused international public opinion to demand in the strongest terms that the Arab rulers desist from the oppression of the Jews and set them free, Eban said. He said the Arab governments responded with a wave of propaganda intended to create a satisfactory image of the condition of their Jewish citizens. But it also led to admissions of the true situation, Eban said. “The very fact that in reaction, the Iraqi authorities announced the abolition of discriminatory laws was evidence that discrimination existed,” he said. It is true the acts of murder have ceased for the present but the plight of Jews in Iraq has not been improved, he added.
Eban said the awakening of enlightened public opinion, the activities of the International Committee and the intervention of governments on behalf of the Jews in Arab countries, have led to the release of Jews from prison in Egypt and their departure in freedom. But hundreds of Jews still remain there, he said. According to Eban, the situation of Jews in Syria is the most grave. “They live in ghettos subject to a regime of curfews, restriction on movement outside their place of residence and arbitrary arrests accompanied by torture,” Eban said. “When a Jew dies, his legal heirs are robbed of his property which is confiscated by the authorities. In the few Jewish schools, Arab headmasters have been appointed on behalf of the authorities and religious instruction has been restricted. The Jewish cemetery in Damascus has been destroyed and a road laid over its ruins,” Eban charged.