JERUSALEM (Dec. 1)
Yaacov Tzur, newly installed chairman of the Council for Jews in Arab countries, said here tonight that Jewish leaders in the U.S., Mexico and other countries have fallen into the trap of rumors propagated by Damascus that Syria’s Jews are no longer the targets of persecution and discrimination. Addressing the first meeting of the Council under his leadership, Tzur said it was necessary to bring the pressure of world public opinion to bear against the intolerable conditions of Syrian Jews.
He said that while it is true that President Hafez Assad of Syria has ended the torture that was the lot of Syrian Jews until 1973, they are still discriminated against with respect to employment and their movements inside Syria are severely restricted. He said that any Jew who wants to travel more than three kilometers from the Damascus ghetto must get a special permit from the authorities. Even worse is the total ban on Jewish emigration from Syria, Tzur said.
“Rarely have the Syrian authorities allowed Jews to leave the country for commercial or medical reasons” and when they did allow it, the authorities kept their children hostage until the traveller returned to the ghetto, he said.
Tzur noted that some 4500 Jews presently live in Syria, confined to three ghettos, mainly in Damascus. Syria is actually a prison for Jews and “it is our task to call upon the Syrian authorities to open the gates and let the Jews out of that country,” he said. Tzur stated that he was not suggesting at the moment to permit the Jewish population to emigrate to Israel, “though this might be the most simple solution.” But, he said, “What we demand is freedom to leave the country to any place in the world.” He added that this was not a political demand.
President Ephraim Katzir of Israel congratulated the Council and expressed hope that it would succeed in its difficult mission.