LOS ANGELES (Nov. 3)
If Syria is contemplating measures to build confidence with Israel, they do not include extraditing a notorious war criminal or withdrawing a viciously anti-Semitic book, according to the official spokesman of the Syrian delegation to the Madrid peace talks.
In a 30-minute interview last Thursday with a representative of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, spokesman Mohammed al-Jannan also ruled out letting an estimated 4,000 Jews remaining in Syria leave for the United States or Israel until “after peace.”
And he reiterated Syria’s refusal to attend planned multilateral talks between Israel and the Arab countries on regional problems.
Shimon Samuels, director of the Wiesenthal Center’s European office, obtained the interview in Madrid in his capacity as an accredited reporter for the center’s Page One radio program.
Samuels showed Jannan newspaper interviews with Austrian war criminal Alois Brunner, who has been living freely in Damascus for decades, and asked why Syria would not honor extradition requests for Brunner from Germany, France and Austria.
“I don’t know him,” replied Jannan. “This is not an issue of the peace conference.”
Jannan also proved unenthusiastic when asked if Syria might withdraw “The Matzah of Zion,” a book written by Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas that resurrects the blood libel against Jews with gory graphics.
“Have you read the book?” asked the spokesman. “We do not allow anti–Semitism; we are a tolerant society. Read the book — it is true. Read it, then come back to me.”
Asked whether Syria would allow its remaining Jews to leave for the United States, Jannan said, “We have no problem. The Jews are prosperous businessmen in Syria — but let the Americans take them.”
“Could they go to Israel?” asked Samuels.
“No, Israel is our enemy,” responded Jannan.
“But if you boycott the multilateral talks, peace is not nearby. Can they leave now for the U.S.?” asked Samuels.
“No,” answered Jannan, “only after peace.”