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October 04, 1991 - Image 62

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-10-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Montreal Jews
Rally For Syrians

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Montreal (JTA) — Frigid
temperatures and rain did
not prevent several hundred
Montreal Jews from gather-
ing last week at a Simchat
Torah rally for Syrian Jews
outside the home and office
of Syria's honorary consul
general, Faiz Rifai, in
suburban Beaconsfield.
Rabbi Martin Penn, co-
chairman of the Canadian
Jewish Congress' Com-
mittee for Jews in Arab
Lands, one of several co-
sponsoring _ organizations,
pointed out that now is an
opportune time to pressure
Syria to stop mistreating its
Jewish population.
"While the condition of
Syrian Jews has always
been tragic, now is the time
to go public with our
demands," Rabbi Penn said.
"Syria is looking to
enhance relations with the
West," he elaborated, and
"to do so, Syria will have to
understand that the West
considers human rights to be
much more than an internal
matter."
Glenn Nashen, another
CJC co-chair and a city
councilman representing the
predominantly Jewish Cote
St. Luc suburb, said Syrian
President Hafez Assad con-
siders Syria's Jews to be
"hostages, bargaining chips
in future negotiations.
"That's another reason for
this demonstration, to make
the status of Syrian Jews
known to communities out-
side our own," Mr. Nashen.
said. "People aren't aware of
how badly they are being
treated," he added.
Mr. Rifai was not at home
when the demonstration
started at noon. An uniden-
tified woman could be seen
in a window on an upper
floor of the house, watching
the crowd.
And some bystanders from
the neighborhood were
puzzled by the rally. They
said they knew the Rifai
family but had no idea Jews
were being held in Syria
against their will.
They were given literature
by CJC communications di-
rector Mike Cohen.
Very few Jews live in
Beaconsfield, where some
local residents complained
in advance that the rally
might disturb the weekend
calm.
A Royal Canadian
Mounted Police cruiser and
several police cars were at
the scene as the crowd
chanted "Am Yisrael Chai"

and waved placards calling
for an end to the Damascus
government's "campaign of
terror" against the 4,500
Jews left in Syria.
The rally was initiated by
Rabbi Reuben Poupko of
Congregation Beth Israel
Beth Aaron, who opened and
closed the gathering with
blasts of a shofar. The B'nai
B'rith Hillel Foundation was
another sponsoring organ-
ization.
Alain Jean-Bart, a black
resident of Montreal who is
president of SOS Racism,
told the gathering, "We will
be saying more and more
that the world can no longer
be silent about the fate of
more than 4,000 Jews in
Syria.
"I request that the Cana-
dian government use its in-
fluence to ensure that these
people can leave Syria," he
said.
He said his organization,
with affiliates in 29 coun-
tries, would petition the
U.N. secretary-general to
raise the issue of Syrian
Jews before the United
Nations.

PLO Closes

Bolivia Office

New York (JTA) — The
Palestine Liberation Organ-
ization has blamed
"economic difficulties" for
the decision to close down its
office in Bolivia.
But the Anti-Defamation
League says it is just
"another sign of the PLO's
loss of credibility."
According to I. Barry
Mehler, chairman of ADL's
Latin American Affairs
Committee, "the loss of
PLO's credibility in Latin
America and its growing ir-
relevance in an era that has
witnessed the return of dem-
ocratic governments
throughout the region" are
the main reasons for the
pullback.
But George Salame, the
PLO's representative in La
Paz, attributed the decision
to "a series of economic
difficulties which the PLO is
facing in consequence of the
war in the Persian Gulf."
By siding with Saddam
Hussein of Iraq, the PLO
forfeited its subsidies from
Saudi Arabia and other oil-
producing Gulf states.
Mr. Mehler predicted that
the PLO offices in Mexico
and Peru would be next to
go.

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