NEW YORK (Sep. 10)
Trans-World Airlines has defended its actions surrounding the Aug. 29 hijacking of one of its Israel-bound planes to Syria in a letter to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, it was disclosed today. In the letter, Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr., chairman of the board of TWA, said there had been “a certain amount of criticism” of TWA “which we regard as unfounded.” He declared, “From the outset of this act of air piracy, of which we have been the unfortunate victims, we at TWA have regarded it as our responsibility to do everything within our power, as a private corporation, to assist in securing the speedy release of all the passengers” on the hijacked airliner.
Rabbi Herschel Schacter, chairman of the Conference of Presidents, expressed “satisfaction” with the letter and also with what he described as “the vigorous action of the United States Government and Trans-World Airlines in attempting to secure the release of the two Israeli passengers held captive in Damascus.”
Rabbi Schacter was critical, however, of the “impotence of the United Nations and the action of Secretary-General U Thant in opposing plans by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations to launch a world-wide pilots’ strike aimed at freeing the captured Israeli passengers.”
Rabbi Schacter said, “It is serious enough that the Secretary-General has failed to take forthright action in response to the international banditry in which Syria is an accomplice — an act of piracy that poses a threat to every country whose citizens travel by air at home or abroad. But his statement publicly opposing a serious effort to win the prisoners’ release is nothing less than shocking.”
Rabbi Schacter noted that the two Israeli prisoners — Prof. Shlomo Samueloff and Sallah Muallem — appeared on French television Sept. 4 in a taped interview. Both appeared despondent and harassed, Rabbi Schacter said. He also noted that the sound track was “so bad” that it was not possible to ascertain whether the voices heard were those of the prisoners.