Workmen’s Circle Criticizes Begin’s West Bank Policies

The Workmen’s Circle, the world’s largest Jewish fraternal labor order, criticized Premier Menachen Begin’s West Bank policies at its 80th jubilee national convention here and called for “meaningful autonomy” for the Palestinian Arabs but with adequate safeguards for Israel’s security. It declared the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital non-negotiable.

The convention also upheld the principle of full support for any Soviet Jew who wishes to immigrate to the United States, even if he leaves the USSR on an Israeli visa.

Those policies were embodied in resolutions adopted yesterday by the 1000 convention delegates and in the acceptance speech by Israel Kugler, a professor of social sciences at New York City Community College, who was elected president of the Workmen’s Circle.

ANXIETY OVER RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

The resolution on the Middle East situation stressed the organization’s historic bonds of friendship with Israel and its support for the Camp David accords, but expressed “anxiety” over more recent developments. The resolution stated: “Against the background of the progress thus far made on an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, three recent developments are a source of anxiety to many Israelis and friends of Israel.

“These are, the instability of U.S. support of Israel, growing acceptance of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the democratic world, and even in some Social Democratic circles, and the policies of the Begin government which make it appear to be more committed to retaining control of the West Bank than in arriving at a permanent peace.”

Referring to Camp David, the resolution said: “We believe the opportunity for the attainment of peace to be a long awaited and precious one which must not be lost. It must include meaningful autonomy for the Palestinians and adequate safeguards to Israel against military or terrorist dangers following such autonomy.” The resolution also said “Jerusalem must be the capital of Israel and this should not be a negotiable item.”

ISSUE OF SOVIET JEWS

The resolution upholding the right of all Soviet Jews to leave the USSR if they wish to, stated that “The Workmen’s Circle convention also takes of stand against the attempts of certain Jewish leaders and political factions to attempt to limit the number of Soviet Jewish immigrants allowed to enter the U.S.”

In his acceptance speech, Kugler said “For those Jews who wish to leave the USSR, we shall continue to provide succor and assistance. Despite the fact that many of them leave with Israeli visas as the only document permitting escape, most decide to settle here in the U.S. Nevertheless, these Jews must not be treated in any manner but that of open-hearted welcome and support. Furthermore, we must insist that the U.S. allocate sufficient visas for Soviet Jews to come to these shores. It is the basic right for any human being to immigrate to any place on this earth.

Kugler also called on the Israel government to establish the “co-equality of Yiddish as a language (of) the State of Israel along with Hebrew.”

MESSAGE FROM CARTER

In a message from the White House, President Carter greeted the delegates to the convention “to applaud your record of accomplishment.” Carter stated, in part: “Commemorating also the centennial of mass Jewish immigration to the United States, you can be proud of your pioneering efforts in promoting self-help, in strengthening the free labor movement and in encouraging the growth and development of Jewish cultural institutions throughout the world.”

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