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Billy Graham Says He Did Not Intend to Criticize Israel

January 23, 1973
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The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, the Protestant evangelist who is a close friend and spiritual advisor of President Nixon, says that he intended no criticism of Israel when he said in a recent newspaper interview that 500 civilians were killed in Israeli air raids on Syria. The claim, originally made by the Damascus government, has been branded a “lie” by Israel.

Dr. Graham told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the White House yesterday, after he participated in the inaugural worship service, that “What I meant was that all wars are bad. Innocents get killed wherever they take place–in Biafra, the Sudan, anywhere. He expressed surprise that his remarks to New York Times reporter Edward B. Fiske last Friday were interpreted as critical of Israel.

A statement issued yesterday by the Workmen’s Circle in New York, assailed Dr. Graham for having repeated the unsubstantiated Syrian claim of civilian casualties and compared it to North Vietnam’s claim of civilian casualties under U.S. bombing.


Dr. Graham, who was asked by Fiske of his feelings toward the U.S. saturation bombing of the Hanoi-Haiphong area during Christmas week, said: “If I understand correctly from North Vietnam they had 300 or so civilian casualties, which is about one-half of what the Syrians say they had last week from Israeli bombs. It’s all over the world, this business of civilians being killed.” On Jan. 4, the North Vietnamese said that a preliminary survey had shown that 1318 civilians died and 1261 were wounded in Hanoi alone in the Dec. bombing.

The Workmen’s Circle statement, issued by Harold Ostroff, president, and William Stern, executive secretary, called Dr. Graham’s juxtaposition of Hanoi’s and Damascus’ civilian casualties claims “a gratuitous act of hostility and incitement against a country (Israel) which has a desire to live in peace with its neighbors” but “is forced to defend itself against unprovoked attacks against its people and its communities.”

The statement continued, “It is time that the Rev. Graham and those who may share his distorted view in comparing Syrian casualties already repudiated by Israel with those claimed by North Vietnam were brought into focus with events as they are. For all of Dr. Graham’s pious attacks on violence both at home and abroad, Syrian terror against the children of Israel and their elders never seem to evoke his concern.” Dr. Graham is understood here to be on cordial terms with Israeli leaders.

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