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How Twelve Syrian Jewish Women Married Their Way to Freedom

Jan. 24 2018

In 1977, as Syria’s remaining Jews faced an ever-worsening situation, Congressman Stephen Solarz—who represented a Brooklyn district then home to some 25,000 Jews of Syrian origin—managed to bring twelve young women safely to the U.S. The website On the Rescue Front tells the story:

After Syrian independence from France in 1946, the 1947 partition plan, and the 1948 founding of Israel, Jews in Syria faced terrible discrimination, including several deadly pogroms and riots. By the time of the Six-Day War in 1967, there were an estimated 5,000 Jews in Syria, down from 40,000-45,000 in 1948. Jews could not work for the government or banks, or own telephones or driver’s licenses. Jewish property and passports were seized; bank accounts were frozen; Jewish schools were closed; the Jewish cemetery in Damascus was paved over. A 1964 law restricted Jews from traveling more than five kilometers from their hometowns. Jews who were allowed to leave for medical or business reasons had to leave behind money and family members as collateral.

The three largest Jewish communities, in Damascus, Aleppo, and Kamishli, were placed under house arrest for eight months following the Six-Day War. Jews began escaping in secret, sometimes with help from abroad, even though the penalty for attempting to escape or helping someone to escape was either imprisonment with hard labor or death, and any family members left behind could be imprisoned. Most of those who escaped were young single men. . . . As a result, by 1977, there were 500 unmarried Jewish women in their late teens and early twenties who had no marriage prospects within the Jewish community and who were not allowed to marry non-Jews.

Representative Solarz traveled to Damascus in December 1976, where he spoke with Jewish leaders as well as Syrian government officials. . . . [After Solarz lobbied the Carter administration], Secretary of State Cyrus Vance spoke with President Hafez al-Assad about the young women in February and May 1977; [then] National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski put Congressman Solarz in touch with President Carter, who made a personal plea to the Syrian president in May. Assad eventually agreed to let twelve women leave through proxy marriages.

Read more at On the Rescue Front

More about: American Jewry, Hafez al-Assad, History & Ideas, Jimmy Carter, Refugees, Syrian Jewry

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen