United States, Britain Urge Israel to Permit Return of Refugees Displaced by War

The United States called today upon Israel to enact a “greatly expanded program” for returning to the West Bank Arabs who were displaced by the Arab-Israel war of 1967. Appearing before the United Nation’s Special Political Committee, the U.S. Ambassador J. Russell Wiggins expressed the hope that Israel, “in advance of permanent peace,” would make possible the return of “most of the persons displaced by the 1967 war.” The committee today resumed deliberations on the question of renewing the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), due to expire next year. “As another winter descends upon the refugees, surely their plight will touch the hearts, move the minds and overcome the fears of Israel and inspire an act of generosity and confidence that will give the whole world an example of humanity and magnanimity,” Mr. Wiggins declared. Mr. Wiggins said that the June, 1967 war had resulted in some 175,000 UNRWA registered refugees fleeing their homes and camps. He said further that 350,000 persons were also displaced for the first time.

Both Mr. Wiggins and Great Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, who also appeared before the committee, urged the renewal of UNRWA’s mandate.

Lord Caradon also called for steps “allowing the new refugees to go home.” He recalled proposals to solve the refugee issue made by Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban in the General Assembly on Oct. 8 but said that “they and other proposals will be up for consideration in the course of consultations directed to the solution of the long-term problem in the search for an overall political settlement.”

The British diplomat said that “nothing is more urgent” than to forestall the misery of the post-1967 refugees – “many of them in the hills of Eastern Jordan – that winter is sure to bring. He said that the “newly displaced persons” should be allowed to return to homes and UNRWA camps, schools, clinics and other facilities near Jericho and to other permanent accommodations on the West Bank.

Israel’s Ambassador Yosef Tekoah, who had not intended to speak in today’s session, was given permission to appear to reply to an attack on Israel by Ambassador Adnan Tarcici of Yemen. Mr. Tekoah, In the course of his reply, told the committee that “had there been no Arab war of aggression in 1948, in defiance of the UN, there would have been no refugee problem. Had there been no continued Arab warfare against Israel ever since 1948, the refugee problem would have been solved a long time ago. Had there been no Arab aggression in 1967, there would not have arisen the problem of persons displaced by the renewed hostilities. Had Arab warfare ended with the cease-fire of June, 1967 and not continued unabated in the Jordan Valley,” its population “would not have become the victims of renewed Arab aggression.” The Israeli envoy said the Arabs, “having caused the refugee problem.” cannot now shirk the responsibility for solving it by terminating the war and making peace with Israel.” Mr. Tarcici accused the “Zionists in Palestine” of practicing “apartheid.” He blamed the “Zionists” for “three successive aggressions” and said that the Arab refugees had been expelled from their homes by Israel.

The committee followed its procedures of 1966 and 1967 and granted permission to four members of the “Palestine Arab Delegation” to appear at its hearings. It made clear that such permission did not imply recognition of that organization. The request on the delegation’s behalf had been made by Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Arabs were recognized as private Individuals.

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