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Waldheim Rejects Clerics’ Request to Stage Hunger Strike in the UN

December 26, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim Tuesday night rejected a request by three rabbis and two nuns to permit them to stage a hunger strike at the UN on behalf of the American hostages in Iron and four Catholic women murdered in El Salvador.

The request had been made in a telegram to the Secretary General earlier this week in light of the fact that he granted permission to Mayors Fahd Kawasme of Hebron and Mohammed Milhim of Holhoul to hold a hunger strike on UN premises to protest their expulsion by Israeli authorities.

One of the rabbis, Avraham Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Waldheim’s response was hand-delivered to him by a UN messenger early Tuesday evening while he was attending a wedding in Brooklyn. It was contained in a letter signed by Clayton Timbrell, Assistant Secretary General for General Services, and stated in part:

“As you are no doubt aware, the expulsion of these mayors has been the expressed subject of three separate resolutions of the Security Council which considered it imperative that the mayors be enabled to return to their homes and resume their responsibilities.”


Weiss said “I categorically reject” Waldheim’s argument. He told the JTA that his group, the newly formed Ad Hoc Committee of Clergy Opposed to Terrorism, will continue to pursue the matter vigorously with the UN. He said it has not been decided yet what form of action would be taken but that it may include further representations to Secretary General’s Office and approaches to the U.S. Mission to the UN.

Responding to Timbrell’s letter, Weiss pointed out that “The American hostages have also been the subject of numerous resolutions in the UN. The reaction of the Secretary General points to the hypocrisy and double standard of the UN.”

Weiss charged that “Two mayors who have encouraged terrorism and are guilty of instigating the murders of two Jews from New York in the attack in Hebron (last May) where six were murdered have been granted unique treatment in the UN while expression of concern for the American hostages has been denied. We will not tolerate nor accept any decision which allows the freedom of demonstration for the two PLO supporters while denying the same right of demonstration for the American hostages and Jews murdered in Hebron, “Weiss said.

In addition to Weiss, the Ad Hoc Committee consists of Rabbis Kenneth Hain of Congregation Orach Chaim of Manhattan and Reuven Gradner of Young Israel of Scarsdale; and the nuns, Sister Race Thering, professor of education at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and Ann Patrick Store, vice president of the National Coalition of American Nuns.


Meanwhile, the two mayors, who began their hunger strike inside the UN last Friday following the unanimous adoption of a resolution by the Security Council calling on Israel to permit them to return to their homes, ended their action yesterday. Their decision to do so followed an appeal by Waldheim and U.S. Ambassador Donald McHenry, who is this month’s Security Council president, and several Arab delegates. Waldheim told the mayors that he would, continue his efforts to have the Council resolution implemented. The mayors said they would continue their hunger strike at an undisclosed place.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Trattner said the plight of the two mayors had been discussed with Premier Menachem Begin of Israel. The U.S. concern was reportedly expressed by Samuel Lewis, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and by Sol Linowitz, President Carter’s special envoy to the Mideast.

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