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Ecosoc Votes 14-10 to Retain Cbjo in Consultative Status; B’nai B’rith Hails Vote

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The United Nations Economic and Social Council today voted 14-10 with three abstentions to retain the consultative status of the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations (CBJO) as a non-governmental organization. The vote constituted a defeat of Soviet-Arab bloc efforts to deprive the CBJO of its status or to delay a decision. The primary target of the Soviet and Arab delegates was B’nai B’rith, one of the three constituents of the CBJO, which, they charged, was an agent of Israel. In a statement issued to newsmen after the vote, B’nai B’rith expressed gratification at its outcome and declared that it would “continue to expose” anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and “speak out for Israel’s right to a just and secure peace.” The CBJO was supported in the voting by the United States, Britain and France. The vote however was not a clear-cut victory for B’nai B’rith and its partners in the CBJO–the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

The motion adopted contained a Pakistani amendment, accepted by the United States, which gives the Economic and Social Council the right to invoke a suspension of status at any time the Council considers the CBJO to be engaged in the kind of activities that have been charged against it. This, in effect, placed the CBJO on “parole” and opened the way for the Soviet-Arab bloc to continue its efforts to have its status suspended. Paradoxically, Pakistan, which generally supports the Arab-Soviet bloc, abstained from today’s voting. Ceylon, whose delegate defended B’nai B’rith against Soviet charges, voted against the CBJO. Today’s vote was on a recommendation made by the ECOSOC’s committee last February to retain the consultative status of the CBJO, one of eight international Jewish organizations that has enjoyed such status. A last ditch effort by the Soviet-Arab bloc to postpone a decision was stymied last night when a Council vote on whether or not to consider the February recommendation ended in a 10-10 deadlock with four abstentions. A motion by Pakistan to postpone a decision until today was carried 10-7 with eight abstentions. The Soviet-Arab bloc was apparently seeking to stall a vote until it could line up enough Asian and African votes to defeat the CBJO. The CBJO was supported by the United States and Uruguay.

The Soviet delegate said today that his government was absolutely opposed to retention of the CBJO’s status or that of any organization which does not speak from “humanitarian grounds but speaks rather from national grounds.” He charged that the CBJO was an “extreme nationalist group.” The delegate from Ceylon, defending the B’nai B’rith, said he had never heard of a group with “a 100 year history of humanitarian work” being subjected to questions and allegations such as those lodged against B’nai B’rith. The statement issued by B’nai B’rith after the vote said, “The CBJO is gratified by the vote which is more than a vote of confidence in CBJO. It is a repudiation of attempts to impose political censorship in the political community of NGOs. All NGOs will now, in the spirit of the UN Charter itself, feel free to express their viewpoints at the UN. B’nai B’rith will continue its efforts for an effective human rights program. It will also continue to expose, as long as the necessity exists, anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and to speak out for Israel’s right to a just and secure peace.”

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