Bourguiba, Israel Peace Advocate, Boycotts Arab Summit Meeting

The heads of 12 Arab states met in Casablanca this evening for the opening of a summit conference. But discussions on military plans against Israel and other matters began without President Habib Bourguiba, of Tunisia, who boycotted the meeting. Some reports said that he was boycotting the meeting because he received no guarantee that he would not be attacked for his conciliatory attitude toward Israel. The Tunisian President clashed earlier this year with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser on this issue and over relations with West Germany, after that country agreed to exchange ambassadors with Israel.

The conference today had before it, however, a memorandum from President Bourguiba demanding a basic reorganization of the Arab League, to put an end to its use as an instrument of Nasser’s foreign policy. Reports from Tunis today indicated that Morocco and Algeria promised to support President Bourguiba’s demand.

In the memorandum, which was addressed to King Hassan II of Morocco, President Bourguiba said that his country would boycott all further activities of the Arab League so long as it remained under Egyptian domination. The Bourguiba message was reported to have caused considerable concern to the other Arab chiefs of state assembled for the conference.

(in London, the Guardian reported from Beirut today that there have been “growing indications that Egypt was looking for a convenient opportunity through which the summit may wash its hands of the water diversion scheme altogether.” The newspaper asserted that Nasser was not prepared to risk war with Israel in the foreseeable future.)

In preparation for the conference, all Jewish employees, at the hotels at which the Arab delegates are staying, were ordered to take “leave of absence” for the duration of the parley. The Moroccan authorities reportedly ordered this measure in order to avoid “possible incidents.” The officials explained that “should something go wrong, we do not want the Jews to be blamed for it.” The Moroccan authorities apparently fear a repetition of the anti-Semitic incidents which followed Nasser’s visit to Casablanca four years ago.

The Moroccan officials have also barred from the conference Jewish Journalists representing foreign information media, who reportedly were asked not to enter the conference building or the hotels where the delegates are staying. The measure has apparently been taken at the request of the Egyptian secret service, and also for propaganda purposes. Arab League officials reportedly do not want “Jews to report on the differences over Palestine liable to break out during the conference.”

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