WASHINGTON (Jan. 26)
The French Ambassador to the United States appealed to “pro-Israel Jews” Friday not to organize boycotts against France or demonstrations in front of French diplomatic and consular offices in the U.S. Ambassador Charles Lucet said that such activities were “in appropriate” and “would in no way settle matters…Our sole desire is a return to peace.”
M. Lucet’s appeal was contained in a letter in reply to the Jewish Nazi Victims Organization of America, Inc., which had protested the de Gaulle embargo. He said that France sympathized with the survivors of Nazi persecution, but he denounced Israel’s Dec. 28 reprisal raid on Beirut Airport, which prompted the embargo, as a “disproportionate” response to a Dec. 26 terrorist attack on an El Al airliner in Athens that could lead to a very serious extension of the conflict. He denied that France had “appropriated” money Israel paid for embargoed planes and other equipment–some $100 million–and said his Government has made it clear “that when the time comes–and it has not as yet–we intend to handle the request for a refund according to normal commercial law and usual international practice”. The Israel Government up to now has made no request for a refund.
In another development, the American Jewish Congress announced that it was cancelling all group trips to France and flights on Air France, the French national airline. According to AJ Congress president Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, the boycott stemmed from an a “avalanche” of letters from members urging the organization to eliminate France and French services from its tourism programs. Rabbi Lelyveld said the AJ Congress was not a travel agent in the commercial sense but arranged overseas programs “as extensions of our general programmatic interests.” He claimed that the AJ Congress was the biggest factor in organized Jewish group travel abroad. He said that last year some 8,000 members visited Europe and Israel under AJ Congress auspices, more than 1,100 of whom flew at least part of the way by Air France.
In a related action Rep. John M. Murphy, a Democrat whose constituency lies in Brooklyn and Staten Island, called on the U.S. State Department to intervene with the French Government to lift the embargo on Israel. Rep. Murphy said the embargo constituted a “a direct breach of contract with Israel and can only encourage Arab terrorists.”