U.S. Statement on Deportations Prompts Protest Letter to Reagan

An influential American Jewish leader has written to President Reagan to express deep concern over the tone of U.S. objections to Israel’s policy of expelling Palestinians accused of instigating riots in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In a telegram sent Friday, Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that the United States should not lose sight of the fact that the individuals being deported are harming their own people.

Copies of the telegram were also sent to Secretary of State George Shultz and Vice President George Bush. The Conference of Presidents represents the heads of 46 major American Jewish Organizations.

Abram’s telegram refers to an unusually harsh statement made last week by Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead that “damage to our bilateral relations will occur” unless Israel reconsiders its recent decision to deport 25 Palestinians.

The statement was made in confidence to Oded Eran, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. U.S. officials later said they regretted that the statement had been made public.

Emphasizing that Israel resorted to deportations in order to quell riots and restore order, Abram said in his message to Reagan:

“No one is being deported to life-threatening situations — or to Siberia, or even to alien countries. They are being deported to places where they have colleagues and, presumably, freedom — places where they may even continue to harass Israel.

“All of us know,” Abram continued, “that in other countries, including those who are instigating the outcry against Israel, the people deported would be in prison, labor camps or shot.”

The Jewish leader affirmed that it is “the right of the United States to criticize Israel and of Israel to differ with the United States.” But he said when the two countries differ, it should be done, as is the case among NATO allies, “in an atmosphere of friendship and frankness.”

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