NEW YORK (Mar. 2)
President Georges Pompidou of France failed today to keep an appointment with an American Jewish delegation and did not even notify the delegation in advance that he would not be available for the scheduled meeting. A joint statement by Dr. William A. Wexler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Philip Hoffman, president of the American Jewish Committee, said the delegation was “appalled at this act of discourtesy.”
The delegation, which had gathered from all parts of the country, was waiting for M. Pompidou at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel when it was informed by a radio reporter that the French President was not coming to the hotel to meet them but had gone directly to the United Nations where he was to have lunch with Secretary-General U Thant. Representatives of the delegation called M. Pompidou’s party which confirmed that the President would not meet the Jewish leaders. After the Jewish leaders insisted on the meeting, French officials called back and proposed they meet instead with Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann. The delegation declined.
Dr. Wexler termed M. Pompidou’s action “an affront not only to the American Jewish community but to the gracious traditions of the people of France.” Asked whether M. Pompidou’s failure to keep the appointment was because of his resentment at the demonstrations which greeted him in Chicago, Westchester Airport and elsewhere, Dr. Wexler professed ignorance as to the reasons. But, he said, M. Pompidou seemed to be disturbed by the fact that Jews all over the world were worried about Israel and appeared to take the position that “the Jews, after going through the Holocaust, have no right to worry about the two and a half million Jews in Israel.”
JEWISH LEADERS HAD WANTED TO DISCUSS ARMS EMBARGO AGAINST ISRAEL WITH M. POMPIDOU
The joint statement said that “had M. Pompidou not rescinded his invitation after we had gathered to meet with him, we would have urged him to lift the arms embargo against Israel and to deliver to Israel the 50 Mirage jets bought and paid for. President Pompidou’s anti-Israel, pro-Arab policy shocks the many friends of France, for we recall the genuine sympathy and friendship extended by the French public to Israel in the past. It is gratifying to know that even now, the majority of Frenchmen repudiate their government’s one-sided policy and share our apprehension over the course pursued by the Pompidou regime. The joint statement stressed that “this course jeopardizes the cause of peace in the Middle East and encourages Arab refusal to accept a cease-fire and to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel.” The statement appealed to American Jews, “despite M. Pompidou’s rudeness,” to act in “an orderly, peaceful and non-violent manner” in demonstrations here.
French sources said that Mme. Pompidou had been so frightened by demonstrators in Chicago Sunday that she refused to attend the U Thant luncheon. Extraordinary police precautions were taken by the New York police and the United Nations Security guards. Police barriers were placed all around the hotel and the United Nations was converted into a veritable fortress as thousands of demonstrators, most of them school youngsters, paraded across the street or in Hammarskjold Plaza. M. Pompidou and his party were smuggled into the UN through the garage. Among the guests at the UN luncheon were Prof. Rene Cassin, Nobel Peace Prize winner, former president of the French Council of State and a leading figure in the French Jewish community. Mr. Thant and M. Pompidou spent an hour in private conference before their luncheon. A UN spokesman said the entire conversation was on the Middle East situation. He termed the talks “cordial and fruitful.” Later, when M. Pompidou came down to the Security Council chamber, he spent a few moments in separate conversation with the ambassadors of each of the Big Four powers.
The Pompidous and their party were reported critical of the police, particularly in Chicago, for failing to keep demonstrators out of their immediate vicinity and M. Pompidou was said to have registered a strong protest with the State Department. President Nixon’s unexpected decision to fly to New York to attend the dinner tonight in M. Pompidou’s honor was described as an effort to soothe M. Pompidou’s ruffled feelings and to dissociate the government from the demonstrations. Jewish leaders commented that French presidents, and particularly M. Pompidou, had enough experience with strikes and demonstrations at home not to be unduly distressed by them, particularly when they were carried out in such an orderly and peaceful manner as the Jewish demonstrations during the Pompidou visit.
MEETINGS THROUGHOUT NEW YORK HELD ON EVE OF POMPIDOU’S ARRIVAL TO CITY
Mayor John V. Lindsay had previously announced he would not be able to attend the dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria tonight in honor of the Pompidous. The New York State chapter of the Jewish War Veterans said today it had “refused to knuckle under to White House pressure” and cancel a membership meeting at the hotel tonight. The meeting was scheduled several weeks ago, a JWV spokesman said, and Washington began to apply “great pressure” a week ago for cancellation of the meeting.
At a protest rally at Hunter College last night, sponsored by il major American Jewish organizations, the 2,200 persons attending adopted unanimously a resolution assailing French policy as “anti-Israel,” “pro-Arab” and “one-sided.” The resolution stated: “We heard him (M. Pompidou) call for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, and to settle the refugee problem (in his speech last week to the joint session of Congress), but we heard no parallel call to the Arab states to come to the negotiating table, to end their consistent demand for the destruction of the Jewish state, to control the terrorists who prey on civilian life in the air and on the ground, or to play their proper role in the solution of the refugee problem.”
Yesterday, some 200 youths picketed the French Consulate in New York, carrying signs reading “France Kills Freedom” and “Israel Must Live.” After half an hour, they shifted to the French Cultural Services Center, five blocks away. There were additional rallies in Queens. Rabbi Meyer Cohen, executive director of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, in a telegram today to Pres. Pompidou, called French Mid-East policy “hostile” and “one-sided” and said that “this situation constitutes tragedy for Israel and tragedy for France.”