NEW YORK (Mar. 22)
The American Jewish Congress today angrily denounced Mike Wallace’s follow-up report on Syrian Jewry broadcast on the CRS-TV “Sixty Minutes” program last night but at the same time expressed some satisfaction” that Wallace included an interview with a Syrian Jew who was able to “speak freely” about conditions in that country.
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the AJCongress which had criticized the original program on Syrian Jewry 13 months ago as “inaccurate and distorted,” charged that last night’s follow-up sought “to support claims of Syria’s benevolent treatment” of Jews. He took Wallace to task for presenting a film “that showed Syrian Jews as uniformly and without exception successful and prosperous, giving lavish weddings and dancing the night away in Damascus nightclubs.”
According to Hertzberg, “It is difficult to imagine a more deceptive and illusory portrait of Jewish life in Syria. This kind of reportage is not merely inaccurate and distorted. By presenting so narrow and so skewed a portion of the truth, it does a disservice to TV journalism itself.”
On the other hand, Rabbi Hertzberg said, “The thousands of viewers who joined our protest may take some satisfaction from the fact that, as we had demanded after the first broadcast, Wallace did present an interview with a Syrian Jew outside the country who could speak freely. In Wallace’s own words, this unnamed witness ‘asked to be photographed in shadow to protect his family back home.”
TESTIMONY WAS INSTRUCTIVE
Hertzberg said “The testimony of this witness was instructive because it confirmed our argument that when Syrian Jews are in a position to speak freely, they will verify our assertion that members of this community are deprived of basic human rights and are under constant surveillance of the secret police.”
Hertsberg noted that “to answer the one witness who could speak freely, Wallace presented the testimony of two Syrian Jews who could not–one who still lives in Syria, the other who was identified by name and whose family remains in that country. As was inevitable with any Syrian Jews subject to government reprisal, both described the joys of Jewish life in Syria, repeating in essence what the first ‘Sixty Minutes’ program had reported,” Hertzberg said.