Israel Protests to Security Council on Seizure of Ship by Egypt

Israel today submitted to the United Nations Security Council a note on the persecution and harassment suffered by the captain and crew of the Israel-chartered Greek ship Panagia during the time when it was detained by Egyptian officials and refused passage through the Suez Canal.

Submission of this note followed a protest which Israel filed with the Security Council yesterday against Egypt’s illegal confiscation of the Israeli freighter Bat Galim, which Egyptian authorities seized in September 1954 while the ship was passing through the Suez Canal en route from Eritrea to Haifa.

Citing a report in the Egyptian press that the Bat Galim was incorporated into the Egyptian Navy “because no purchasers could be found for the vessel when it was put up for sale at public auction,” Israel’s protest called the Cairo Government’s action in this respect “piracy.”

Mordecai R. Kidron, deputy chairman of Israel’s delegation here, pointed out in his letter of protest to the president of the Security Council that a majority of the Council considered Egypt’s detention of the ship as a violation of the Constantinople Convention of 1888 and of the Council’s own resolution of 1951–both of which guarantee freedom of passage through the Suez Canal for ships of all flags.

The Israel representative reminded the Council that it discussed the Bat Galim issue at seven sessions late in 1954 and early in 1955. “Twenty months have passed since then,” Israel complained, “and instead of releasing the Bat Galim and its cargo to its rightful owners, the Government of Egypt has now put a seal on its lawless conduct by confiscating the vessel and incorporating it into the Egyptian Navy.”

“If further proof were needed of the worthlessness of Egypt’s protestations of fidelity to the international compacts guaranteeing unrestricted freedom of passage through the Suez Canal,” the Israel protest maintained, “the case of the Bat Galim provides it.” The letter to the Security Council did not request a meeting on the issue but was apparently another of a series of steps taken by Israel here recently to keep the record straight in regard to its contention that Egypt cannot be trusted as a result of its nationalization of the canal.

CAPTAIN CITES MISTREATMENT BY EGYPTIAN AUTHORITIES

The Israel note to the Security Council on the mistreatment of the Panagia crew by Egypt was accompanied by a full report from the ship’s master, Costa Koutales. Egyptian officials told him plainly, Capt. Koutales said, that “it seems that the Jews have finally understood that their endeavors through the United Nations were of no avail.”

Capt. Koutales told of the Egyptian persecutions from May 25, the date he reached Port Said, en route from Haifa to Elath, to Sept. 8, when he was recalled to Haifa. During that period only 50 percent of the water and provisions he had tried to obtain for his ship were allowed. The crew, he stated, was continually insulted by Egyptian police “who cursed them and even spat at them.”

At one time, he related, he was taken to Alexandria and subjected to interrogation by an official of the Egyptian War Ministry. Three crew members became ill and were finally permitted to disembark and return to Greece.

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