NEW YORK (Jun. 11)
The Committee for the Rescue of Syrian Jewry announced today that it would register a complaint with the National News Council against Mike Wallace’s “60 Minutes” program on Syrian Jews re-broadcast on CBS on June 8. The re-broadcast contained Wallace’s responses to criticism provoked by the original broadcast on Feb. 16. The Committee maintained that Wallace neither corrected his previous statements nor justified the information contained in the original telecast. A similar complaint was filed June 3 by the American Jewish Congress. (See separate story.)
Rabbi Joseph Harari, executive director of the Committee, specified to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a telephone interview today, the Committee’s objections to Wallace’s new commentary. Wallace stated that “Jewish groups charge we have misrepresented and distorted the status and condition of the Syrian Jews.” This, according to Harari,” actually means that he refuses to admit that he himself made the errors.” Harari interpreted Wallace’s statement that “emigration restrictions have been tightened again,” to “imply that past emigration laws were more lenient and relaxed.” Harari insists that this is “untrue.” “The laws have always existed. The Syrian government has never permitted a Jew to legally emigrate,” he explained.
Harari objected to Wallace’s implication that “Jewish groups are incorrect when they disagree with the Syrian government’s explanation for the harassment and surveillance of Jews; that the Jews are suspect as a possible fifth column.” Harari indicated that Wallace merely mentioned that Jewish groups believe this to be untrue rather than admitting it to be so. “Wallace should realize that if the Syrian government had anything to fear from its Jewish citizens it would have been quite anxious to get rid of them rather than keep them under close surveillance and prevent them from leaving the country.” Harari said.
After the original broadcast, Wallace received complaints that he had omitted any reference to the four Jewish youths executed for espionage in 1969. In the re-broadcast Wallace justified this omission by having a member of the Syrian Jewish community state that this was untrue. The Committee accused Wallace of having “caused this man to falsely stand witness against his own people. He was forced to lend credibility to the accusation of a fifth column,” Rabbi Harari said.
Harari stated that Wallace should have dealt with an incident more recent than 1969. He said that “there was no justification for Wallace’s neglect to mention the four young women who were unjustly accused of espionage, detained at secret police headquarters and sentenced to death last year.” They were later found murdered but Wallace made no mention of this widely reported incident in his broadcast, Harari noted.