NEW YORK (Jun. 17)
Twenty-five Catholic and Protestant leaders have written to President Nixon, Secretary of State William P. Rogers and United States Senators and Congressmen to urge that Washington permit the sale of the U.S. jet aircraft sought by Israel. The messages were coordinated by the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J. Thirteen of the Christian leaders signed a letter stating that they “feel morally impelled to urge you to make unmistakably clear to the Soviet Union that America will not sit by feebly while Russia unilaterally alters the regional balance of power, thereby encouraging Arab military advancement, threatening the security of Israel and risking great power confrontations.” They said that “A firm stand at this critical moment will be the strongest assurance against a further slide into a more dangerous global conflict.” The 13 included Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher, Fr. Edward A. Flannery and Sister Rose Thering of Seton Hall; Prof. A. Roy Eckardt of Lehigh University; and representatives of the National Council of Churches, Temple University and the Catholic Theological Union.
Msgr. Oesterreicher, director of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies, said in a separate telegram to Secretary Rogers that “Our continued inactivity would have disastrous consequences for Israel and, indeed, the entire Middle East.” He said he had been “disappointed and disturbed” at the U.S. “failure” to vote against the Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s raid into Lebanon but not mentioning Arab terrorism. (U.S. Ambassador Charles W. Yost abstained on that vote.) “After the murderous ambush of an Israeli school bus by Arab terrorists,” Msgr. Oesterreicher continued, “I am indignant and deeply hurt because U.S. seeming indifference encouraged murderers…I implore you…to move the President to act and act now.” Similar pleas were sent by seven members of the Georgia Council of Churches and five ministers of the United Church of Christ in Georgia. The Rev. William H. Harter of the Middle East Committee of the National Council of Churches, one of the signers of the 13-signature letter, sent a separate letter to President Nixon stating: “I see no hope for concord unless Israel is given the weapons and material needed to counter aggression and unless we. as the most powerful nation in the world, plant ourselves firmly in Russia’s path. It is a Christian moral responsibility of the highest and most pressing order to ensure the safe existence of Israel and of the Jewish people, and to foil Soviet chicanery which is victimizing both Jews and Arabs in the region.”