U.S. Opposes Proposal for U.N. Custodian over Arab Property in Israel
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U.S. Opposes Proposal for U.N. Custodian over Arab Property in Israel

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The United States Government today told the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee that it is equally opposed to the Arab Moslem resolution calling for a custodian over Arab property allegedly existing in Israel and to a resolution introduced yesterday calling for direct peace negotiations between the Arab States and Israel.

Addressing the 110-member committee which for more than two weeks has been debating the Arab refugee problem here, Carl T. Rowan, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, told the United Nations that the Arab insistence on a custodian in Israel would be a clear infringement of Israel’s sovereignty. As for the resolution calling for direct Arab Israel peace talks, Mr. Rowan said that such a step is not timely at this point because of the deep tensions on both sides.

On behalf of the United States Government, Mr. Rowan proposed that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East be given a new mandate for one year, until June 30, 1964. UNRWA’s current mandate expires June 30, 1963.

Mr. Rowan also told the Committee that the United States Government does not agree with everything stated in this year’s annual report on UNRWA’s operations by the American Commissioner General of that agency, Dr. John H. Davis. That report has been condemned by Israel as going beyond its legitimate points of reference through a pro-Arab attitude in its political sections.


Voicing a powerful plea to the Arabs as well as to Israel for steps to resolve the tragic Arab refugee situation, Mr. Rowan said: “We would stress that the primary responsibility for solving this problem rests squarely with the five states directly concerned–Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and the United Arab Republic. Let the Assembly face this reality. Conciliation efforts by third parties–however earnest, fair, ingenuous and well intentioned- cannot succeed in the absence of a disposition on both sides of the armistice lines to resolve the problem, to demonstrate genuine concern for the refugees as human beings above all else. Such a disposition has been largely and disappointingly absent.”

Deploring “the same rigid attitudes” which, he said both the Arab states and Israel have held for 15 years, the U.S. representative said: “So long as this dispute exists with all the passions that we have once again heard expressed, time is on the side of danger and despair. Again and again we are treated to new tactical variations on the same discordant themes.

“Some appear to feel that the chasm now dividing the parties can be simply and abruptly bridged if only they all were urged by this Assembly to sit down around a conference table. We have always been, and we remain in favor of direct talks between the parties at such time as this offers real prospect of helping the refugees, or of other constructive outcome. But regrettably, that time appears not to be now. In these circumstances, such proposals are unhelpful.

“On the other side, there is a proposition for appointment of a United Nations custodian of properties in Israel viewed by the refugees as theirs. This proposal too, we think, offers no realistic basis for adjustment or for helping the refugees. In fact, it would be a gesture of retrogression, for it is clearly designed to strike at the very foundations of Israel’s sovereignty.”


The official spokesman for the Washington Administration voiced high praise for the Palestine Conciliation Commission and for the PCC’s special Mideast envoy, Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, who, for two years, has been trying to work out some easement of the refugee problem. Through that work, Mr. Rowan said, “the Commission has learned much about what will not work, at least in present circumstances, and about what might possibly work. The realities of the problem have been more sharply defined.”

Mr. Rowan said that nothing would be published at this time about the details of Dr. Johnson’s efforts. He urged the delegates “not to place credence in various published distortions of the work accomplished.” His reference here was to the unpublished. but very real, Johnson plan for an informal plebiscite among the refugees on their possible “return” to Israel or compensation by Israel. That plan was never given the State Department’s official approval, was rejected by both the Arabs and the Israelis, and was found unacceptable by America’s two partners on the PCC, France and Turkey.

Mr. Rowan voiced pro-forma endorsement of Dr. Davis’ UNRWA report. He praised UNRWA’s educational and medical work. But he made it clear: “My Government did not and does not associate itself with all the views espoused in the current UNRWA report.”

He then told the Committee that the U.S.A. will support the extension of UNRWA’s mandate for one year, until June 30, 1964. The Arabs here have been hoping that UNRWA’s mandate would be extended at least until 1965 or possibly until 1966. Mr. Rowan, one of the most prominent journalists in the United States before he joined the State Department, is noted as one of the leading and most articulate liberals in the Negro community.


The Soviet position on the Arab refugee issue was outlined here by Michael A. Menshikov, formerly Moscow’s Ambassador to Washington, who is now Foreign Minister of the Russian Federated Soviet Republics, largest component of the USSR. In a brief address which followed the Arab line but evinced little or no enthusiasm for the entire subject, Mr. Menshikov endorsed the Arab claims that only “repatriation” of the refugees would solve the entire Arab-Israeli problem.

The Soviet delegate went out of his way to praise the “eloquence” of the Saudi Arabian representative, Ahmad Shukairy, who, until this year’s refugee debate, had been the most bitter of anti-Israeli attackers. He was joined by others this year, most of them expounding an anti-Semitic series of attacks against all Jews, equating Israel with Nazism.

While, until now, not a single delegate had arisen to discuss this injection of outright anti-Semitism–except for Israel’s permanent representative, Michael S. Comay-Denmark’s representative on the committee, Hermond Lannung, finally broke that noticeable silence. He took the floor with an impassioned rejection of the anti-Semitic attacks by the Arabs.

“In the name of decency,” Mr. Lennung said, he must speak out against the equating of Israel with Nazism, which had been espoused by many of the Arab delegates here in the last 10 days. He said he must do so “for the sake of decency.” Those making such charges, he declared, did not know what Nazism was or were “rather indifferent to Nazism’s true character, which is even more deplorable.” He listed major points in the Nazi atrocities, recalling what the Nazis had tried to do in his own country by ordering all of its 7,000 Jews arrested.

He told proudly how Denmark saved nearly 6,500 of its doomed Jews because it was repelled by the Nazi “intolerance, racial hatred and contempt for human dignity.” It is “unreasonable, even indecent,” he continued, “for any delegate to equate Israel, so many of whose people suffered so much from the Nazis, with the Nazis who had inflicted all those sufferings and horrors upon them.”

Such equation, he said, “is unreasonable, beneath reason. How can it be possible for anyone to make such an equation? Most earnestly, I appeal to all delegates–I appeal to all my fellow delegates, please refrain from any such statements. They are beneath us.”

Mr. Lennung had spoken with such feeling that the Syrian delegate, Salah el Dine Tarazi, felt compelled to say that the Arabs do not condone the Nazi atrocities, but still insisted Israel was practicing Nazism. Mr. Comay thanked the Danish representative for his remarks, telling him how Israel “appreciates most profoundly” the attitude of Denmark toward its Jews during the war as well as Denmark’s position since the war.


At the meeting of the Special Political Committee last night, the Lebanese delegate, Nadim Dimechkie, injected into the debate the assassination of the late Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator, during the Palestine war, who had been assassinated in Jerusalem. The Lebanese also brought up the so-called “Lausanne Protocols” of 1949 to “prove” what he called another facet of “Israeli criminality.” He claimed that the Security Council had, in 1949, twice condemned Israel for the Bernadotte murder.

Mr. Comay, exhibiting the anger he felt, went after these canards hammer and tongs. The Israeli permanent representative challenged Mr. Dimechkie to produce those alleged Security Council resolutions which presumably “condemned” Israel in the Bernadotte case. The Lebanese answered he would produce the documents “tomorrow morning.” “Don’t bother to wait until tomorrow,” replied Mr. Comay. “I have them here.”

Mr. Comay then proceeded to read the two Council resolutions of 1949 and challenged anyone to find the words of alleged “condemnation.” There were no such words. There was jeering laughter not only in the galleries but also on the floor of the committee chamber.

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