JERUSALEM (Dec. 25)
A Foreign Ministry official said today that the continuing pressure of world opinion can ease the plight of Jews in Iraq and Syria as it succeeded in rescuing the Jews of Egypt. Shmuel Divon, director of the Ministry’s department on Soviet and Arab Jewry, said that the release of all Jews imprisoned in Egypt had been brought about by the pressure of world opinion “and other activities which cannot be revealed yet.”
He noted that all Egyptian Jews have emigrated, except for a few hundred who remained behind voluntarily, “for personal reasons.” He said the same results could be accomplished in Syria where eight Jews are imprisoned and in Iraq where the situation of Jews has recently taken a turn for the worse.
Divon said that reliable international sources report that thousands of Jews have left Iraq recently and only several hundred remain behind. But, he reported, eight Jews in Iraq were recently arrested and one Jew, Abraham Zayeg, was found dead in his home. The eight Jews incarcerated in Syria include Albert Elia, the president of the Lebanese Jewish community who was kidnapped by Syrian agents in Beirut last year.
Divon said there was reason to believe that Iraq is sensitive to public opinion and that the atrocities of the past will not be repeated. However, emigration from Iraq is presently at a standstill despite Iraq’s recent declaration at the United Nations that Jews were free to leave. Divon said he “shuddered to think” of the fate of Syrian Jews were it not for the efforts of “scores of governments and organizations and personalities.” He said that most imprisoned Jews in Syria have been released and “the Syrian government has on various occasions shown signs of sensitivity to the pressure of public opinion.”