PARIS (Jul. 4)
The International Conference for the Deliverance of Jews in the Middle East appealed yesterday to President Nixon, Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Syrian President Hafez Assad on behalf of Syria’s long suffering Jews.
The conference, which held a one-day meeting here under the presidency of French Senate President Alain Poher. called on the three leaders to take “humanitarian action” and relieve the plight of Syria’s Jews who live in fear for their lives and suffer countless acts of discrimination. The conference unanimously voted the appeals which stressed that speedy action was needed if Syria’s 4500 Jews were to be saved.
The conference was attended by some 60 delegates and observers from some 20 countries. These included a number of former Cabinet ministers, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
(The Committee for the Rescue of Syrian Jewry in New York sent a message to Poher yesterday stating that “the Syrian Jewish community of the United States, which numbers 25,000 people, wishes to express its deep gratitude and applaud your humanitarian efforts for the liberation of Syrian Jewry.”)
(In Washington, the B’nai B’rith asked the State Department to intercede for Yussef Shaluh and Azur Zalta, two Syrian Jews being tried in secret as the alleged murderers of four Jewish women near the Syrian-Lebanese border. Dr. William A. Wexler chairman of the B’nai B’rith International Council, in a letter to Undersecretary of States Joseph J. Sisco, urged the U.S. to appeal to the Syrian government to grant the defendants “a fair and open trial.” Wexler wrote that “it is simply unbelievable that these men could be capable of murdering four of their fellow Jews.”)
The conference heard reports stressing that the situation of the Jews in Syria has worsened since the October war. A Syrian witness, a 26-year-old girl who managed to escape from Syria some months ago, said that the Jews there live in constant fear for their lives and safety. In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, she said that only world pressure can help their condition and enable them to leave Syria.
Later Israeli Supreme Court Judge Haim Cohen told the conference that the Syrian authorities have decided to cancel their murder accusation against Shaluh and Zalta who were no longer charged with murder but only with having tried to help the four girls to leave Syria illegally, a “crime” which could carry a five-year prison sentence. Cohen said that the far lighter charge seemed to indicate the world pressure has had some effect on the Syrian authorities.
Poher said that he had received a letter from the Syrian Ambassador in Paris denying charges of anti-Semitism but claiming that all this “is an internal Syrian affair in which we can accept no intervention.”
Jerome J. Shestack, chairman of the International League for the Rights of Man, addressing the conference yesterday, stressed that “the concern here is not one with the internal affairs of another nation. What is involved is a violation of international covenants and agreements, covenants which Syria ratified and which it now blatantly violates.” He noted that Syria was a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has ratified two UN trusties guaranteeing governmental actions based on human and civil rights norms. The treaties were the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. “What is ratification when Syria disregards covenants so blatantly and cynically?” Shestack asked.