December 20, 1981. Troubling word from Poland this day. The Military crackdown on Solidarity spread from Gdansk to Warsaw and throughout the country. New restrictions were put in place, including the banning of all foreign media. Communication to the West was cut and news reports had to be smuggled out by hand to Paris and other cities in order to be fed to the rest of the world.
The move brought a storm of condemnation from the rest of the world. Demonstrations of solidarity with Poland were being held from Paris to Chicago to Tokyo. Whether this wave of protests would do any good was unclear. One thing was certain; the genie was out of the bottle, and putting it back in was more difficult than first imagined. The story was far from over though, as the movement was gaining momentum despite the crackdown.
But there was other news this day. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met for more than an hour with U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis and then convened a cabinet meeting to discuss what was expected to be extensive reactions to the Reagan Administration response on the Israeli annexation of the occupied Golan Heights of Syria. There was widespread anger in Israel over the suspension by Washington of the Strategic Cooperation agreement because of the annexation. The Israelis argued that one thing had nothing to do with the other. It was expected that, at the end of the Cabinet meeting, a statement on the Israeli reaction would be forthcoming in the coming hours.
And the London Observer reported that PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat escape an assassination attempt the previous week. The newspaper did not disclose the source for its story, reported gunmen made the attempt in Beirut. The report indicated it was part of a challenge to Arafat’s authority from within the PLO executive committee; part of a squabble over the Saudi-Arabian plan for peace with Israel.
And that’s a small slice of what went on this rather turbulent day, as reported by CBS Radio News hourly broadcasts on the morning of December 20,1981.