UNITED NATIONS (Dec. 21)
Israeli Ambassador Yosef Tekoah yesterday accused Jordan of “falsehood and distortion” regarding freedom of worship and the protection of holy sites, and stated that “Jordan’s record in those matters, during the 19 years’ occupation of areas on the West Bank, including part of Jerusalem, is notorious.” In a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, Tekoah denounced a letter written Dec. 11 to Waldheim by Jordan’s Ambassador to the UN referring to Israel’s desecration of the Machpela cave in Hebron which is regarded as a holy site by Arabs.
The Israeli diplomat stated that the Jordanian letter “deliberately ignores the fact that the Hebron site is holy also to Judaism” because it contains the tombs of the Patriarchs of the Jewish people. Tekoah recalled that during the Jordanian occupation “Jews were deprived of this right as they were barred from all other Jewish holy sites” and that Jordanian authorities permitted the desecration of numerous sites holy to Judaism.
Tekoah also charged that it is “typical of the method of defamation adopted by Jordan” that the letter raised again, “by devious innuendo, the slanderous lie” concerning the fire in the El Aqsa Mosque, an act committed by a mentally disturbed non-Jew from Australia. “In fact,” Tekoah noted, “the Mosque was saved by the joint efforts of Israeli and Arab firemen.”
The Israeli envoy, who asked that his letter be circulated as a document of the General Assembly and the Security Council and forwarded to the Commission on Human Rights, declared: “The Government of Israel rejects with repugnance the Jordanian habit of introducing religious matters into political issues in order to stir up passions for political ends.” He added that Israel will pursue its policy of ensuring freedom of access to and worship at holy sites under its administration, including the area of the Machpela cave.