Rebecca Lesses

Rebecca Lesses

Associate Professor and Jewish Studies Coordinator, Jewish Studies
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences
Faculty, Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Faculty, Women's and Gender Studies

Richard Wilson column 1

This was probably written on June 18, 1967, for the June 19 issue of the Des Moines Register. I have corrected spelling errors but otherwise left the text as I found it. This is the text of the telex that was sent to the newspaper. One interesting detail is that he does not refer to the "Six Day War," but to the "8-day war." Apparently the name was not fixed until later.

Wilson – for Sunday news columns – New York, N.Y. – As a spectacle the opening session Saturday of the United Nations general assembly on issues in the near east was a flop. Soviet Premier Alexie N. Kosygin is no match for Nikita S. Krushchev, whose antics in 1960 alternately charmed and frightened the world assembly.

            The opening of the emergency discussion was a grim and spiritless duel between the United States and Russia on procedural questions under the figurative cloud of a Chinese hydrogen bomb. It was as if the Chinese were saying to the world leaders in New York: “Look what’s really happening in the world.”

            Unlike his flashy predecessor, Premier Kosygin can’t draw a crowd. No heads of state and only nine prime ministers, mostly from communist countries, joined him at the opening session. Maybe there will be more later if the session warms up.

            What the United States and Russia, the latter through second parties, are arguing about is whether the emergency session shall be confined to Russia’s demand that Israel liquidate its victory over the Arab states and pull back to where it started from; or, shall the whole range of mideast problems be discussed in the emergency session. The U.S. speaking through Ambassador Arthur Goldberg wishes to discuss the whole mideast problem, perhaps even the creation of a new peace-keeping force.

            That embarrasses Russia because it seems to be using the very method it previously has opposed (the socalled uniting for peace resolution) under which a U.N. intervention in the mideast was previously wangled by the western powers.

            Russia, and the Arab states, claim that is not the case at all and another provision of the U.N. charter is being relied on. In any case, all they want from this emergency session is a ringing condemnation of Israel as the aggressor and a return to its position before the 8-day war got under way.

            This would the opinion of the organized world scourge the capitalist and imperialistic circles of the west for failing to stop and for giving tacit approval to Israel’s lightning war.

            The impression remains that what Kosygin is really trying to do is to assert his leadership against the decadent forces of the west as the spokesman for world communism. China’s explosion of a hydrogen bomb mocked that pretense by Kosygin. Observers here thought the explosion was deliberately timed and noted that for the first time the government of Red China publicly announced its nuclear feat.

            U.N. Secretary General U Thant, who runs in bad luck while the great powers carry on their duels, deplored the Chinese action in rather reserved tones.

            Procedures in the emergency session probably never will be clarified and the issues will undoubtedly get down to whether one specific resolution or another is adopted. The serious debate is scheduled to begin Monday when Ambassador Goldberg will argue once again what he proposed in the U.N. Security council. This calls for “viable arrangements” for the withdrawal of military personnel, renunciation of force, and “the maintenance of vital international rights and the establishment of a stable and durable peace.”

            Just what that means in terms of free and innocent passage in the Gulf of Aqaba, Israel’s position in all of Jerusalem, and the operation of the Suez canal, is yet to be seen.

            The emergency session met for an hour or so Saturday morning to hear Goldberg assert that the United States, though it opposed the calling of the session on Russia’s initiative, will participate in it with the explicit understanding that every proposal that was before the security council is now before the general assembly. “The only legitimate conceivable purpose for this session is to search for reasonable, just and peaceful solutions to the situation in mideast.”

            Representatives of Jordan and Saudi Arabia objected to that procedure while Premier Kosygin with Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko at this side listened impassively. Nobody seemed much interested in the Russian leader, dubbed “Kosy” by the headline writers of the saucy New York Daily News. Nobody paid much attention when “Kosy” hopped out of his car to hoof it up Third avenue from East Fifty-fifth to East 67th street to the headquarters of the Russian delegation after arriving here early Saturday morning from Paris.

            If Kosygin bothered to read the New York News he would see the newspaper’s welcome to the Russian delegation: “Well, the unhappiest of visits to these Red jerks and they can’t go home too soon to suit us.”

            The guessing here is that the emergency session will last a couple of weeks and that neither Russia nor the United States will get their way about the middle east.

            Basically at issue what concessions either country can get Israel to make in pulling back from advanced positions won by its military prowess. That is the practical aspect of the matter and before it is all over Israel may not be very much pleased by either of the giant powers.

            Secretary of State Dean Rusk is coming to the meeting Monday but there is no word here for president Johnson’s plans. If Kosygin makes a big bid here for world leadership it is considered reasonable that Mr. Johnson will also wish to make his presence felt.

            Kosygin, who has no flair, has not made a very strong beginning. This may be all the better if the heads of the two super powers decide to meet and talk not only about the mideast but their other problems in the world.

            Goldberg, at least, was hopeful. He noted that Kosygin had been quoted as saying, “I am going to New York with the sole aim of finding a peaceful solution.”

            “If that is indeed his sole aim,” declared Goldberg, “he will find the United States prepared …. to consider all proposals with an open mind in fervent desire for peace in this troubled area….”

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