It has been exactly one week since the Syrian government denied entry to their country to a Jewish-American reporter because of his faith.
- There has been no official U.S. government condemnation of the action;
- There has been no effort by the U.S. State Department even to seek clarification about the incident from Damascus;
- There has been no coverage of the action by major international media other than WND.
To review the incident, last Thursday, Aaron Klein, WND’s Jerusalem bureau chief, attempted to secure a visa to travel from Jordan to Syria as part of a long-planned tour of Middle East countries. A week earlier, the Syrian Embassy in Washington had given verbal approval of a trip by ABC Radio talk-host John Batchelor, his producer Lee Mason and Klein to enter the country together on the specified date.
However, right from the start, there were indications the Syrian government was uncomfortable with the idea of permitting Klein in the country. On Monday, Dec. 5, Ammar al-Arsan, the press attache for the Syrian Embassy in Washington, suggested to Mason there might be a problem with Klein’s visa. Mason asked if it was because Klein was Jewish and al-Arsan reportedly said yes. Eventually, al-Arsan said all three applications for visas were approved.
Then last Thursday, when the three traveling companions attempted to secure their visas to enter Damascus, Eyad Alarfi, assistant to the Syrian consul general in Amman, indicted there was a problem with just one of the three visas – Klein’s. He could provide no information about the holdup.
By telephone, Klein spoke to an official from the Syrian 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.
The official then said: “You know what you are.”
Just to be certain about the reason for Klein’s denial, WND gave the Syrian government two more opportunities to review and clarify its decision. In a letter to the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, we asked again that Klein be admitted entry. If not, we asked for a written reason for the denial. The Syrian Embassy declined to respond to our inquiry. Then, Batchelor persuaded the Moustapha to be interviewed on his nationally syndicated radio program, where he was asked again why Klein was barred. He refused to answer. Asked if Klein would be permitted to enter the country in the future, Moustapha refused to answer.
It is crystal clear why Klein was banned from Syria. It’s because he is a Jew.
But Aaron Klein is also an American and a journalist. And I am disappointed and puzzled by the lack of support he has received from his government and his colleagues in the news media.
This is an important story because it demonstrates once again that Syria is a human-rights violator, a rogue state, a racist government and an anti-Jewish nation – not just anti-Israeli.
The U.S. State Department has said there is nothing it can do about another nation’s policies on issuing visas. Not true. The U.S. State Department has a right and a duty to seek clarification on the denial of visas to its citizens. It also has the right and the duty to condemn discriminatory, anti-Jewish policies of foreign countries.
The White House has taken a different tack. When asked Tuesday in a White House briefing about the incident, press secretary Scott McClellan said he has not discussed the matter with the president. He should. The president sets the nation’s foreign policy. He should review the matter carefully and condemn Syria’s blatantly discriminatory, anti-Jewish policies quickly and publicly. He, too, has the right and duty to speak out.
And lastly, I appeal again to my colleagues in the news media to cover this important story. If Aaron Klein can be barred from Syria because of his religion, it can happen to other reporters from other news organizations. The American public deserves to know the truth about the Syrian government. The people of the world deserve to know the truth.