Kennedy Warned of World-wide Mariners’ Action Against Arab Boycotts
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Kennedy Warned of World-wide Mariners’ Action Against Arab Boycotts

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The possibility of a world-wide seamen’s boycott of the Suez Canal and Arab shipping was raised today by an American spokesman for the 6, 500, 000 members in 71 countries of the International Transport Workers Federation.

The threat was contained in a telegram to President Kennedy from Joseph Curran, president of the National Maritime Union, who is a member of the executive council of the ITWF. In the telegram, Mr. Curran reported on an hour-long visit yesterday with Dr. Ralph Bunche, Under Secretary for the United Nations. The maritime union leader said he met with the UN official to protest Arab violations of the principle of freedom of the seas in regard to Israeli ships and ships under different flags trading with Israel.

The threat of a boycott, recalled the four weeks of picketing in the spring of 1960 in New York of the S. S. Cleopatra, an Egyptian passenger-cargo vessel, by members of the Seafarers International Union. The picketing ended under a formula worked out in talks between C. Douglas Dillon, then acting Secretary of State; Labor Secretary James P. Mitchell; and Arthur J. Goldberg, then AFL-CIO general counsel and now Secretary of Labor.

The formula included a formal reaffirmation of American opposition to Arab blacklisting and restrictions of freedom of the seas, and a commitment that the State Department would consult with the AFL-CIO and its maritime unions on developments “affecting American vessels and seamen” in the Middle East.


Mr. Curran informed President Kennedy that the seamen’s federation “views this interference as a serious threat to peace as well as to the safety and rights of seamen” and that Dr. Bunche explained that the UN could not act on the protest unless complaints were brought by governments. The union leader said Dr. Bunche told him that currently there were no such complaint before the UN.

A spokesman for Curran’s office said the blockading and boycott activities of the Arab countries had not changed since the agreement under which the picketing of the Cleopatra was called off. He said the advent of the Kennedy Administration did not bring any easing of the Arab tactics.

Mr. Curran informed President Kennedy that United Arab Republic “violations” were forcing American companies to split their operations, so that their ships would not go to both Arab and Israeli ports, and that “American seamen still are subjected to indignities and threats of physical violence in that area. Similar experience has been reported by unions of other nations.”

He added in his telegram that “in the absence of action by governments or by the UN to enforce the principle of freedom of the seas,” the International Transport Workers Federation would have to “consider joint action through its own resources, including the possibility of a boycott.”

The spokesman for Mr. Curran explained that the federation “was ready, in the absence of Government action, to boycott the Suez Canal or Arab ships in ports throughout the world.” He also said that several member unions of the federation in other countries had asked their governments to protest UAR “interference” with trading with Israel.

Mr. Curran informed President Kennedy that he would report on his meeting with Dr. Bunche at a meeting of the federation, July 26, in Rotterdam, Holland. He added “we would like to be able to assure the meeting that the Government of the United States is taking action within the UN against these continued Arab violations.”

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