WASHINGTON – Aaron Klein, WND’s Jerusalem bureau chief, was prevented today from entering Syria, where he planned to interview officials from Syria, Lebanon and the U.S., as well as co-host ABC Radio’s nationally syndicated “The John Batchelor Show,” because, according to at least one official in the Syrian embassy, he’s Jewish.
ABC’s John Batchelor and WND’s Aaron Klein
Klein, an American citizen whose family has resided in the United States for five generations, is currently working full-time for WND in Jerusalem. He and Batchelor, along with producer Lee Mason, made arrangements with the Syrian embassy in the U.S., in advance of their trip. All three were told Monday by Ammar al-Arsan, the press attach? for the Syrian embassy in Washington, that the applications for the visas were approved, and that Damascus had sent an approval letter that would permit them to enter the country from Amman, Jordan today.
However, when the trio arrived in Amman, they were told there was a problem with the application. They met with Eyad Alarfi, assistant to consul general in Amman, who could provide no information about what was holding up the visa. Later, Alarfi said approval for visas were granted for Batchelor and Mason, but not for Klein.
By telephone, Klein spoke to an official from the Ministry of Information in Damascus who declined to provide his name. At first he refused to suggest why Klein had been singled out and prevented from entering the country. Later, however, he asked: “What religion are you?”
Klein said he refused to answer.
“You know what you are,” said the official.
Mason, who made the initial arrangements for visas with Syrian media representative al-Arsan, said a red flag was immediately raised when Klein’s name was mentioned.
He reportedly told her it would be better if Klein did not go. She asked if it was because he is Jewish. Al-Arsan replied: “Yes, it is.”
Batchelor and Mason decided to leave the Syrian embassy without their visas.
Batchelor is staying in Amman and broadcasting from the Grand Hyatt Hotel, one of three Jordan hotels hit by al-Qaida bombing attacks last month. Batchelor said he would dedicate the program tonight to the story of Syria’s blatant racism.
“It seems like it’s 1938 and Czechoslovokia all over again,” said Batchelor. “Aaron told me to go on to Syria and broadcast. But I told him that if I was to leave him behind, the enemy has won a victory. What we represent to the people of Jordan and Syria is that we don’t separate people on the basis of race, color or creed.”
Later, another official in the Syrian embassy told Klein he didn’t think he was being singled out because he’s Jewish, but rather because he is a Jerusalem-based correspondent. However, Klein pointed out that other non-Jewish Jerusalem-based correspondents, including Fox News Channel’s Jennifer Griffin, have recently been granted visas by Syria.
Batchelor and Klein have broadcast from various Mideast hot spots all week.
Batchelor, New York City’s No. 1 rated nighttime talk-show host, achieved the highest ratings on WABC-AM during the aftermath of 9-11 with his debates surrounding the war on terrorism. Batchelor began national syndication in March 2003, and can now be heard on over 30 affiliated stations, including WABC 770 in New York, WMAL 630 in Washington, WKRO 680 in Boston and WWBA 1040 in Tampa – all of which provide Internet links for listening to the program online.
His show covers a wide variety of topics – from military battles, presidential campaigns, planetary exploration and Hollywood politicos, to Batchelor’s own international travel. He has broadcast from all corners of the world and regularly brings on guests from New York, Jerusalem, Des Moines, Kazakhstan, Manchester, Morocco, Boston, Taipei, Washington and Baghdad.
Klein and Batchelor this week broadcast from the Gaza border and conducted live interviews with the leaders of Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees.
A regular WND reader, Batchelor has published seven political novels, as well as the best-known history of the Republican Party, “Ain’t You Glad You Joined the Republicans?”
Klein joins Batchelor regularly throughout the week to discuss his WND reports and offer the latest information on events in the Middle East, with particular emphasis on Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. Klein usually appears in the 10:50 p.m. Eastern time slot during weekdays at a rate determined by the news cycle.