Israel Protests to UN Against Arab Use of Mosque Fire to Inflame Passions

Israel protested in the United Nations today against the “unpardonable…attempt” by some Arab governments “to inflame religious passions in the Moslem world” in the aftermath of a fire that severely damaged the El Aksa mosque in East Jerusalem last Thursday. The Israeli protest was contained in a letter from Ambassador Yosef Tekoah to Sr. Don Jaime de Pinies, of Spain, this month’s President of the Security Council. A similar letter was addressed to Secretary General U Thant.

Mr. Tekoah charged that the Arab governments were trying to exploit the occurrence “for political and propaganda purposes” and to “whip up hatred between the members of the two ancient and related faiths of Islam and Judaism.” He said that “Such conduct can only exacerbate still further the unhappy conflict in the Middle East.”

The Israeli Ambassador’s letter noted that the El Aksa mosque and all other Islamic shrines in Jerusalem “is controlled, administered and safeguarded solely by the Wakf, the appropriate Moslem religious authority.” He detailed the efforts made by the Arab and Jewish fire brigades in Jerusalem to confine the fire to one wing of the mosque thereby saving the rest of the structure. He also noted that at the Israel government’s request, the Israeli Supreme Court appointed a five-man panel to investigate the causes of the fire. Two of its members are Arabs, a Christian and a Moslem.

“On the basis of information supplied by Moslem watchmen in the employ of the Wakf, who were on duty at the time, the Israel police have arrested a suspect, a visitor of Australian nationality. His trial will be public, and open to observers from any country,” Ambassador Tekoah wrote.

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