Thant in Contact with Israeli, Iraqi Envoys As Protests Mount on Possible Executions
Menu JTA Search

Thant in Contact with Israeli, Iraqi Envoys As Protests Mount on Possible Executions

Download PDF for this date

United Nations Secretary-General U Thant was in contact over the weekend with the ambassadors here of Iraq and Israel over the reportedly imminent execution of seven alleged Israeli spies in Iraq, two or three of whom are believed to be Jews. The seven were convicted by a military tribunal in Baghdad last week and the Iraqis indicated that the death sentences would be carried out probably tomorrow. The UN spokesman declined to give any details of Mr. Thant’s intervention. The Secretary-General intervened unsuccessfully with the Baghdad regime last January when 14 men, nine of them Jews, were sentenced to death. The hangings were carried out publicly in Baghdad and Basra despite Mr. Thant’s pleas. He subsequently issued a statement deploring the action.

Mr. Thant’s action came as the State of Israel, human rights agencies and Jewish organizations throughout the world sought to mobilize world public opinion to force Iraq to halt further executions.

The World Jewish Congress in New York appealed again today to Mr. Thant to intercede urgently with the Iraqi Government to prevent the executions. In Geneva, the WJ Congress asked the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, now in session there, to act without delay to prevent the executions. In London, the Right Rev. Carl Witton Davies, chairman of the executive committee of the Council of Christians and Jews, cabled the President of Iraq, asserting that executions such as the one of last Jan. 29 were “a defiance of all civilized standards” and urging that further executions be halted. William Simpson, chairman of the international consultative council of the Organization for Christian-Jewish Collaboration, also cabled a plea “in the name of international justice and in the interest of world peace.”

In Stockholm, the Jewish community made an appeal to the Conference of Nordic Foreign Ministers, currently in session there, to intervene with Baghdad to prevent the scheduled executions. The community also asked that the Nordic states–Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland–announce their readiness to accept the Jews from Iraq. In Copenhagen, the Israel-Denmark Friendship League sent a delegation to ask the Danish Government and Parliament to intervene. Outstanding political leaders, including a former prime minister, signed a petition submitted by the League.

In Washington, Dr. William A. Wexler, president of B’nai Brith, appealed to Secretary-General Thant to “use every means at the disposal of the UN” to halt the scheduled executions. Similar appeals were sent to Pope Paul VI, to Secretary of State William P. Rogers, and to the International Red Cross. In Sao Paulo, the Confederation of Brazilian Jews cabled the UN Secretary-General urging his full efforts to prevent further executions.


Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Republican minority leader, told a Jewish delegation from New Jersey over the weekend that he would ask President Nixon and Secretary of State Rogers to use American diplomatic channels to pressure Iraq into permitting the Jews there to emigrate. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iraq; its interests in Baghdad are represented by Belgium and Iraqi interests in Washington, by India. The delegation reported that both New Jersey senators, Clifford Case (Rep.) and Harrison Williams (Dem.) promised to seek all possible efforts by the U.S. to bring relief to Iraq’s Jews. The delegation visits were made before it was known that more executions had been scheduled in Iraq. In a meeting it had with the 15-man New Jersey Congressional delegation, it received assurances that the Congressmen would seek to have Camp Kilmer opened for Iraqi Jews if they were permitted to emigrate. The camp was used for Hungarian refugees in 1956 and later for Cubans.

In Tel Aviv, Minister Without Portfolio Menachem Beigin, in a rally at Tel Aviv University, appealed to the world to put an end to the hangings. He said Israel was grateful to the countries that have agreed to receive Jewish refugees from Iraq. In London, Terence Prittie, correspondent of the Guardian, warned that the Iraqi Government was believed to be contemplating fresh punitive measures against the Jewish community in Iraq which he described as “already shockingly persecuted.” The new measures, he said, were likely to be based on the contention that all Iraqi Jews were potential spies in the service of Israel. He asserted that “it looks now as if the whole Jewish community of Iraq is going to become the object of persecution as persistent and ruthless as that of the Nazis.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund