PARIS (Feb. 13)
A crowd of 1500 persons filled the Mutualite meeting hall here calling on Syria to release its Israeli prisoners of war in the name of humanity. The meeting, organized by the humanitarian “Committee for the Liberation of the Israeli Prisoners in Syria” (CLIPS), was presided over by the League of Human Rights president Daniel Mayer.
Among the guest speakers were LICA (International League Against Anti-Semitism) president Jean-Pierre Bloch, Beate Klarsfeld, Paris Chief Rabbi Meyer Jais and publisher Claude Lanzmann. All of them strongly denounced Syria’s “gratuitous inhumanity” and “blatant violation” of the Geneva Conventions in its continued refusal to release a list of the Israeli POWs it holds. Mayer said the Israeli POWs “were no longer prisoners, but political hostages.” Bloch compared the tactics of the Syrian military to those of the Nazi army which refused to allow its prisoners the right to at least inform their families of their whereabouts and state of health.
Air emotional high point was reached when the fourth speaker, the wife of an Israeli POW in Syria, was introduced. Her name was not divulged and photographers were requested to abstain from photographing her. Mayer, who said total anonymity was imperative so as not to compromise the fate of her prisoner husband, simply introduced the young mother of two as “the symbol of the anguished face of Israel.” The young woman, accompanied by an interpreter, spoke in Hebrew.
Until a few weeks ago, she said, she had not known whether her husband was dead or alive. She said she knew he was alive when she saw him in a photograph accompanying the article appearing in the French magazine “Paris Match,” relating French journalist Pierre Demeron’s interview with seven Israeli POWs in Syria. Visibly moved, she said, “the accordance of such rare interviews is no substitution for their release.” She concluded with the hope that “peace would soon come to this region and our loved ones be returned home to us.”
Several prominent French political personalities sent telegrams to Mayer expressing their solidarity with the CLIPS cause, among them former French Premier Pierre Mendes-France Marseille Mayor Gaston Deferre and Socialist Party Chairman Francois Mitterrand.