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Report by Foreign Ministry Official That Syrian Jewry Situation is Improved Received with Skepticism

A government official said today that the latest information from Syria indicated that an improvement has taken place in the situation of Syrian Jews who are now given the same treatment as other minorities in that country. But the report by Max Waron of the Foreign Ministry was received with skepticism by some members of the Council for Jews in Arab Countries to which it was addressed.

Likud MK Menahem Yadid told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the reports from Syria were “cosmetics” applied by President Hafez Assad and chided the Foreign Ministry for being “taken in” by Syrian propaganda. “What we want is not the same treatment as other minorities. We want equal rights like all citizens, including the right for free exit,” Yadid stated. He said he has asked Premier Yitzhak Rabin to raise the issue of Syrian Jews when he meets with President Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger later this month.

Waron said the improved treatment of Jews in Syria was probably a result of the pressure of world opinion on the Damascus regime. He said evidence of improvement was contained in letters received from Syrian Jews who reported that they were no longer the targets of violence. One writer said Jews are now allowed to purchase cars and another wrote that he was able to visit the Syrian side of Mt. Hermon and view the Israeli side. A third writer requested religious articles for the approximately 5000 Jews in Damascus.

COHEN RESIGNS FROM COUNCIL

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Haim Cohen announced yesterday that he was resigning as chairman of the Council for Jews in Arab Countries after serving five years in that office. He said he was leaving because he believed that the post should be rotated. But sources said that Cohen was fed up with the inactivity of the Council since its secretary. Dr. Eddi Kaufman, left to spend a year abroad.

A three-member committee headed by Yadid was named to select a new chairman and until this is done the Council will remain in suspension since the new chairman must appoint new members. One of the candidates mentioned is Israel’s former Ambassador to the UN Yosef Tekoah who is presently president of Ben Gurion University in Beersheba.

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