UNITED NATIONS, N. Y. (May. 24)
Representatives of two Jewish organizations, the World Jewish Congress and the B’nai B’rith International Council, openly put Russia on the spot here today for forbidding Soviet state bakeries to provide matzos for Russia’s Jews during the last Passover season. The man who had to take the brunt of the criticism is the Lebanese Ambassador Georges Hakim, who is currently the chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
The incident occurred during the annual, two day conference of non-governmental organizations accredited to the UN. About 400 representatives of 150 organizations attended the conference. One session was devoted to human rights, and Mr. Hakim explained the work of his commission. An American Jewish Congress representative, Ralph Zacklin, was the rapporteur for the group discussing human rights.
Henry Grossman of the World Jewish Congress, and Dr. William Korey, representing the B’nai B’rith International Council, asked Mr. Hakim about the prospects of eventual implementation of a proposed UN convention, declaration or recommendation, dealing with the principle that human rights also involve freedom of religious rights and practices. Neither named the Soviet Union. Mr. Grossman, however, referred to “events that occurred during the recent celebrations of Passover and Easter.” Dr. Korey mentioned that “one country” had not heeded a principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which requires governments to provide to their citizens articles needed for the practice of their religion, including “dietary articles,” and mentioned the word “matzos” in that context.
Mr. Hakim assured both Jewish representatives that, sooner or later, public opinion throughout the world will support implementation of the rights which they mentioned. He held out little hope for adoption of a proposed formal UN Declaration on the Principles of Religious Freedom before at least another four or five years.