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Aj Congress Says Natl. Geographic Article Distorted Situation of Syrian Jews

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The American Jewish Congress picketed the offices of the National Geographic Magazine today because of its alleged “whitewash” of Syria’s treatment of its Jewish citizens and its editor’s refusal to correct what the AJ Congress considers “shocking distortions” in an April, 1974 article on Damascus by Robert Azzi.

Phil Baum, associate executive director of the AJ Congress said the article had “left the clear impression that Jews in Syria were treated decently and that the Syrian government maintains a tolerant and even benign attitude toward them. He said that because the Azzi article could be used to “undermine” world-wide efforts to call attention to the “desperate condition” of Syrian Jews, he had met earlier this month with National Geographic editor Gilbert Grosvenor Jr. and other top staff of the magazine which claims a world-wide circulation of more than nine million.

“We did not ask the editors to publish our own views as to the plight of Syrian Jews. We asked only that the National Geographic print…the same admission of the inadequacy of the Azzi article that its staff had repeatedly acknowledged in letters to those readers who troubled to complain,” Baum said. “This request was refused,” he added. He cited as “misleading” passages in the Azzi article that referred to the Islamic tradition of tolerance and noted that “Even as Syria launched its attack on Israeli troops, Sephardic Jews of Damascus observed Yom Kippur unmolested”; and another passage in which Azzi wrote that “the city of Damascus still tolerantly embraces a significant number of Jews.”

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