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Documents Show Israel Pressed for UN Study of Plight of Jews in Arab Lands

April 24, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Diplomatic sources noted today that the exchange of correspondence between Secretary-General U Thant and Israel and the Arab states, cited in his report yesterday on plans to send a new mission to the Middle East to study treatment of civilians and prisoners of war revealed an intensive effort by Israel to ensure United Nations examination of the treatment of the Jewish minorities in the Arab countries.

The resolutions adopted last year by the Security Council and the General Assembly on the humanitarian questions did not specifically mention the Jewish minorities and when the Secretary-General’s special envoy, Nils-Goren Gussing, tried to make a first-hand study of their situation in Egypt and Syria, he was blocked by the authorities.

In a letter to the Secretary-General reaffirming Israel’s willingness to cooperate with a new UN representative to study the situation of the civilian population in the areas occupied by Israel in the June war. Ambassador Yosef Tekoah pointed out that “the Government of Israel has taken note of the Secretary-General’s assurance that his representative will, inter alia, look Into and report to the Secretary-General on the situation of the Jewish communities in the Arab countries situated in the area of conflict, who were affected in the wake of the June 1967 hostilities.”

In his reply to this letter, Mr. Thant did not confirm this understanding in so many words but reiterated the original terms of reference of the new mission which made no reference to the Jewish minorities in the Arab lands and cited “the scrupulous respect of the humanitarian principles governing…the protection of civilian persons in time of war” as specified in the Geneva Conventions.

Diplomatic sources said that one effect of the announcement of the new mission might be to confine discussion on the Middle East in the forthcoming General Assembly session to the specific issues covered by this mission rather than range over the whole issue.

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