The Syrian embassy in Washington did not respond yesterday to WorldNetDaily’s request for an official explanation of the Middle East nation’s denial of a visa to Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein.
A consular assistant at the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, reportedly said Klein was turned back because he is Jewish
Klein planned to be in Syria last night to interview officials from Syria, Lebanon and the U.S., as well as co-host ABC Radio’s nationally syndicated “The John Batchelor Show.”
Batchelor and Klein, who broadcast instead from Amman, have aired the program from various Mideast hot spots all week, including the Gaza border, where they conducted live interviews with the leaders of Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees.
Klein, an American citizen whose family has resided in the United States for five generations, had made arrangements with the Syrian embassy in the U.S. in advance of the trip, along with Batchelor and producer Lee Mason.
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 yesterday.
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.