U.N. Security Council Hears Israel’s Complaint Against Egypt
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U.N. Security Council Hears Israel’s Complaint Against Egypt

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Israel won a significant victory today at the United Nations Security Council when an attempt by the Arabs to post-pone discussion on Israel’s complaint against Egypt’s seizure and detention of the Israel vessel “Bat Galim” and against Egyptian restriction on the passage of ships trading with Israel through the Suez Canal, was defeated, and Abba Eban, chief of the Israeli delegation to the UN, was called upon to present his case at today’s session.

The effort to have Israel’s complaint tabled until there is a report from the Israeli-Egyptian Mixed Armistice Commission on the seizure of the Bat Galim was made by Dr. Charles Malik of Lebanon, spokesman for the Arab countries at the Security Council, of which he is a member. He was backed mildly, but not very effectively, by the delegates of Nationalist China and Colombia. The delegates of the United States, Britain, as well as of the Soviet Union, sat silent in the face of Dr. Malik’s plea aimed at preventing Israel from presenting its case.

Ambassador Eban, in a lengthy address attacking Egypt’s blockade of the Suez Canal against Israel, called upon the Security Council to: 1. Reemphasize its previous resolutions affirming Israel’s right to “innocent passage” of shipping through the Suez Canal; 2. Condemn and criticize Egypt for its “hostile act and false reports” in connection with the seizure of the Bat Galim and its crew; 3. Help bring about immediate liberation of the ship and its crew; 4. See to it that such violation of international law by Egypt does not occur again.


Mr. Eban referred to the Bat Galim incident as nothing more than an illustration of Egypt’s continued disregard of international law through the blockade of the Suez, He outlined the various resolutions passed by the United Nations on this subject. He demolished Egypt’s claim to being technically at war with Israel, by referring to the terms of the armistice agreements of 1948.

Firmly Mr. Eban told the Council: “Israel intends to bring cargoes freely into and out of its ports. My government will not recognize in word or deed Egypt’s right of visitation, search or seizure.”

Egypt’s version of the Bat Galim incident, was called by Mr. Eban a “most extraordinary and monstrous libel,” a “fiction.” He said that Egypt could not prove that there was any-firing by the Bat Galim, that there were any casualties “by land or sea,” and that the entire “fiction” was a product of the Egyptian ministry of propaganda.

Dr. Malik had made the point while trying to postpone substantive discussion of the entire subject that “nothing new” has happened in regard to the Suez blockade situation since last March except for the Bat Galim incident about which, he insisted, “there are two diametrically opposed versions.”

It is true that nothing new has happened except the Bat Galim incident, Mr. Eban stated, but something old, he maintained has continued — at least 90 percent of Israel’s traffic has been kept from its ports by Egypt’s “acts of intervention and discrimination.” He told the Council that Israel’s trade by sea has become a mere trickle.” He said that the blockade has had an “incalculable effect on Israel’s economic condition and has been and is a threat to the peace and security of the Middle East.”


Dr. Mahmoud Azmi, Egypt’s permanent representative at the United Nations, who followed Mr. Eban, told the Security Council that although Egypt recognizes that the Suez Canal must be open for passage for all ships of all nations, the security of Egypt must nevertheless be considered. He reiterated the assertion that the vessel Bat Galim was seized because it allegedly fired on Egyptian fishermen.

In starting his reply, Dr. Azmi, who pleaded that the matter be left to the Mixed Armistice Commission, disclosed some heretofore unrevealed facts about the status of the investigation now being conducted by the Israel-Egyptian Mixed Armistice Commission. According to Dr. Azmi, three UN observers — one American, one Swedish and one Danish — started their probe last Sunday. On the first day the UN observers interviewed Egyptian authorities at Suez. On Monday of this week, he said, the UN team interviewed the Israeli sailors in Cairo.


Following Israel’s and Egypt’s presentation of their cases, the Security Council adopted a Brazilian motion to postpone further discussion of the matter until after the Security Council has received a report from the Mixed Armistice Commission. Various delegates at the Council commended Mr. Eban and Dr. Azmi for the “moderate” presentations which they made.

A number of delegates, including the American, British, French and New Zealand representatives, said that they had not supported Dr. Malik’s earlier plea for postponement because they wanted to hear what both sides had to say in the matter. After these explanations were made, the postponement was unanimously agreed to.

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