Plight of Syrian Jews Detailed

The Committee of Concern, formed two years ago to focus world attention on persecution of Jews by Middle East countries, today called on Syria to “cease persecution of the Jewish minority, to free those unjustly imprisoned and to permit those Jews who wish to emigrate to do so.” General Lucius D. Clay, corporate executive and former Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe, Committee chairman, in his appeal to Syria, cited “distressing and increasingly alarming reports from reliable sources concerning the threat to the survival of Syrian Jewry.” Among the instances of mistreatment of Jews listed by General Clay were the following:

Relatives of 12 young Syrian Jews held in jail on charges they had attempted to flee the country, have been interrogated under torture. Some have been held in solitary confinement for as much as three months; all Jewish prisoners who have been released from confinement are physically ill, bodily maimed or mentally deranged as a result of their imprisonment. They had been subjected to electrical torture, the ripping off of fingernails, and cigarette burns on various parts of their bodies; Jewish girls have been abducted, raped and thrown naked into the streets of the Jewish ghetto in Damascus. Recently, Jewish homes there were set on fire.

According to the Committee’s statement, restrictions on Syrian Jews cover almost every aspect of life. There is a total ban on emigration, and travel within the country is severely limited. Jews are obliged to carry identity cards, and cannot be employed by the government or by banks. Their houses have been seized for the use of Palestinian Arabs, their schools taken over by the state, and their cemeteries destroyed. As a result of these and other measures, the Committee stated, the majority of the Jewish community “has been reduced to object poverty.” Not the least of the Jewish hardships is the constant observation and pervasive fear.

“A higher Committee for Jewish Affairs (composed of representatives of the Interior Ministry and the security services) maintains a constant surveillance over the Jewish community and carries out frequent arrests, interrogations, and sudden house searches, invariably at night,” the Committee added, When a Jew lies, the Committee of Concern reports, “his property is transferred to a Government Authority for Palestinian Affairs. His family must then pay them rent for the continued use of the home or business property.” The property and assets of a Jew who manages to escape the country are automatically confiscated. Nevertheless, Jews make desperate attempts to flee because of the cruel conditions and despite their knowledge of the severe penalties. The Committee includes leading Jewish and non-Jewish figures in American business, religion, arts and sciences, public affairs, universities and civil rights.

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