Presidents Conference Deplores Syria’s Release of Arab Hijackers

The release this week by Syria of two Arab terrorists who hijacked an Israel-bound TWA jet to Damascus on Aug. 29 while two Israeli passengers remain in Syrian custody was deplored today by Rabbi Herschel Schacter, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

In a telegram to United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, Rabbi Schecter said that the continued detention of the two civilians was “inexcusable” and that UN efforts to demand their release “must be unremitting and re-intensified.”

The two hijackers freed Monday were Leila Khaled. 21, and Selim al-Eisawi, both members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It was announced in Amman that they had returned to their “Che Guevara” unit at an undisclosed base in Jordan.

“The impotence of the UN in securing the release of the two kidnapped victims is deeply discouraging,” the rabbi said, adding: “The fact that the innocent victims of air piracy remain in detention while those guilty of the crime of hijacking have been freed is a shocking commentary on the UN’s failure to exercise whatever moral and political influence remains to it.”

(The Washington Post today condemned Syria for releasing the hijackers while holding captive the Israelis. The newspaper deplored “regional logrolling” by the United Nations which, it said, will lead to Syria’s election next week to a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. “A more unseemly instance of putting politics over principle is hard to imagine,” the editorial said.

(Referring to the release of the Arab commandos, the Post asked: “How can a country claim a shred of self-respect or international standing when it treats the admitted perpetrators of a criminal act as though they were the victims and the victims as though they were the criminals?” The Post noted that the Syrians are trying to “save face” by holding out for an exchange of the two Israeli prisoners for two Syrian pilots who landed in Israel by mistake last year. “But an ex change of legally taken military prisoners for illegally captured civilians who are accused of no crime is repugnant to Israel. Understandably it balks at a step whose effect is to give international pirates a free pass,” the Post said.)

(The Far Rockaway, N.Y. Jewish Community Council said today that it was launching a nationwide effort to obtain 100,000 signatures on a petition demanding the immediate release of the two Israelis. According to Rubin A. Dobin, council chairman, the petition, when completed, will be presented to General Assembly president Angie Brooks. He said Jewish and non-Jewish groups have been asked to enroll in a drive to get the signatures.)

NEXT STORY