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State Department Says It is Not U.S. Policy to View Plight of Syrian Jews As Internal Syrian Matter

The State Department offered today what was a virtual apology for an official letter stating that the plight of Jews in Syria was “an internal Syrian matter” and stressed that this was not American policy. Department spokesman Paul Hare, replying to questions by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, confirmed that such a letter had been circulated by the State Department in response to public inquiries on the subject of Syrian Jews, but said it has since been replaced by another letter.

“Our view, which is reflected in the current letter replying to queries in this subject, is that we are concerned about the fate of the Jewish community in Syria and “we have made repeated and vigorous efforts at high level to help these people.” Hare said. He added that “a peaceful solution to the current Middle East crisis offers the Syrian Jewish community the best opportunity to lead the kind of life free from restrictions and intimidation to which the U.S. believes everyone is entitled.”

Hare could not say how long the original letter had been in circulation but believed it was only for “a short time.” He said Secretary, of State Henry A. Kissinger did not sign the letter and noted that a member of the Secretary’s party currently in the Middle East had said that Dr. kissinger was unaware of it.

State Department sources explained that letters of this kind which resemble form letters are drafted by the Department’s public affairs bureau in consultation with responsible political officers but not necessarily on the highest level, kissinger apparently was made aware of the letter when a complaint came up in the Israeli parliament and directed that a new letter be drafted the new letter expresses American concern with the plight of Syrian Jews, according to the state Department, although technically it continues to be an internal Syrian affair in the sense that the Syrians control the situation.

Last week, Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in Tel Aviv that “we have been assured by a very senior personality in the State Department that the question of Syrian Jews would be taken up with the Syrians at every possible instance.” The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Syria (Joseph Polakoff)

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