Menu JTA Search

Western Powers Urged to Challenge Egypt on Israeli Shipping

Failure by the Western Powers to challenge Col. Nasser, the Egyptian ruler, on the subject of Israeli shipping through the Suez Canal will destroy the practical and moral effectiveness of the Western case against Egypt, it was pointed out here today by Rose Halprin, acting chairman of the Jewish Agency executive. It can only lead to palliatives which in the long-run will further impair the Western position in the Middle East,” she declared.

Mrs. Halprin made the points in a letter in the New York Times in which she reviewed the Egyptian blockade of the Suez Canal against Israel. Her views coincided with an editorial in the New York. Times today stating that “a preview of what Egypt can do in the future if it has unchecked control over the Suez Canal has already been given in the case of Israel, to whose ships the canal has been denied in a blockade which has been extended even to non-Israeli shipping carrying goods to or from Israel.

“With the wisdom of hindsight it is now clear that there should have been more vigorous protest against that infringement of the right of free passage when it began,” the Times editorial said. “But certainly now with that example before them the Western powers can hardly be blamed for refusing to accept unchecked Egyptian control of the most vital single waterway in the world.”


Mrs. Halprin pointed out that since his seizure of the Suez Canal, Colonel Nasser has asserted his intention to guarantee freedom of navigation for all countries. “Almost immediately,” the acting chairman of the Jewish Agency continued, “the powers which have arranged the conference must agree upon an interpretation of what they call “freedom of the canal.” Does that freedom pertain to all ships irrespective of flag?

“The only legal case which the Western powers have against Egypt in terms of the contravention of the 1888 convention is Egypt’s denial of the canal to Israeli ships and the strictures on ships bound for Israel.” Mrs. Halprin emphasized. “The fact is that since May, 1948, Egypt has carried on a blockade against Israel in direct contravention of the 1888 agreement, in flagrant disregard of the armistice agreement of Feb. 24. 1949 between Egypt and Israel; of a Security Council resolution of Sept. 1, 1951, and of the reaffirming votes of eight members of the Security Council on March 23, 1954, which was only prevented from becoming a resolution by the veto of the Soviet Union.

During this interval Egypt has arrogated to itself the right of search and seizure of ships bound for Israel of all registries, under the penalty of attack. Through a new series of customs regulations it is required that ships captains present declarations countersigned by the Egyptian consul in the country of destination, showing that their cargo had been discharged and that it was for local consumption, as a way of preventing transshipment of supplies to Israel.


Ships trading with Israel have been put on a blacklist and denied drinking water and food at Egyptian ports,” Mrs. Halprin continued. “Oil tankers proceeding south ward through the Suez Canal have been required to submit log books showing that their ultimate destination is not an Israeli port. Vessels found to have called at any port in Israel are blacklisted and denied stores, fuel and repair facilities in Egyptian ports. Contraband goods, as defined by Egyptian regulations, include foodstuffs, building materials, clothing, hides, bicycles, etc. Cargoes containing this material have been seized from ships flying Norwegian, Greek, Italian and Australian flags.

The failure of the Western powers to enforce compliance by Egypt with the 1888 convention insofar as Israel is concerned has been an encouragement to the present act of defiance. It is the belligerent action of Egypt with respect to Israel in connection with Suez which offers a foretaste of what could be expected from Nasser with respect to any other country which he dislikes.

“Failure to challenge Nasser on the subject of Israeli shipping through the canal will destroy the practical and moral effectiveness of the Western case against Egypt and can only lead to palliatives which in the long run will further impair the Western position in the Middle East,” Mrs. Halprin concluded.