Hadassah Convention Focuses on Human Rights and Women’s Issues

Coinciding with Women’s Suffrage Day, the opening session of the 70th national convention of Hadassah last Sunday focused on human rights and women’s issues and how Hadassah has dealt with these questions.

Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Ca.) and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Meir Rosenne, delivered the keynote speeches before more than 2,500 delegates and guests who attended the ceremonies at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.

The outgoing Hadassah national president, Frieda Lewis of Great Neck, N.Y., reported that her organization will remain committed to women’s rights, and said that in meetings with President Reagan she was assured that the 1985 UN Final Conference of the International Decade for Women will not take on the political shadings of past U.N. meetings.

“We in Hadassah, view the Nairobi Conference as a top priority. In essence, this conference is a mic rocosm of our purpose: to assure and improve the rights of all women everywhere, wherever they live,” Lewis said.

While Cranston addressed the advances of women around the world, his speech also delved into conflicts in the Mideast and how the threat of nuclear arms is probably more threatening there than any other place in the world.

“The administration policy of pouring arms to the Arabs and Israelis alike poses a tremendous strain on Israel’s economy,” he said, “Israel must then spend whatever is necessary to maintain the quantitative edge” in the Mideast arms race.

Cranston explained why he continually supports Israel in the arms race, beginning with his losing battle over selling AWACS to the Saudis, a Senate battle he called the toughest he ever fought. “Why are we pandering to the Saudis?” he queried. The Saudis, he said, provide money to the Iraqis, who give money to the Syrians, who in tum supply Iran — “all enemies of Israel.”

The world stake in the Middle East goes for beyond the precarious peace of today, Cranston maintained, because “there’s a danger the next conflict in the Middle East will be with nuclear weapons.” Any use of nuclear weapons in that part of the world would only “trigger a U.S.-Soviet nuclear war that could destroy us all. If we created these weapons, we can certainly control them.”

ROSENNE: ISRAEL REMAINS COMMITTED TO PEACE

Greeted by Israel flags, Rosenne thanked Hadassah members for their work over the years, including “40 years ago when this 13-year-old boy went to a youth aliya center and never thought then that 40 years later he’d pay tribute to Hadassah and say thank you for all you’ve done.”

Rosenne changed tone quickly as he tumed to Israel’s national scene and how his country remains committed to finding a lasting peace. He outlined how Israel has remained flexible in light of accusations otherwise from around the world.

Referring to the oil fields of the Sinai peninsula which were retumed to Egypt as part of the Camp David agreements, Rosenne said there was no precedent in modern history for a country returning so much wealth. “We did it because one human life is more important than what we pay for oil,” he said.

But more than that, since the signing of the accords, no Arab country has joined in the peace process, a fact Rosenne emphasized because “had the Arab world been interested, they would have seized the opportunity” to join the talks. So instead, “we are accused of being stubbom and intransigent. But we can’t negotiate with ourselves; we must have partners,” he said referring to the Arabs.

‘MUST DEAL WITH CRAZY STATES’

The veteran diplomat said the problem can be solved in the future, “but in our area, we must deal with crazy states,” he asserted. Rosenne said while Israel was condemned three years ago when she took a “terrible risk” bombing a nuclear reactor in Iraq, today “three years later, Iraq uses gas in the war against Iran” and the incident is ignored.

Prior to the opening session, Rosenne said in an interview with the Northem California Jewish Bulletin that “part of our economic problem stems from the fact that we gave back the Sinai as part of the Camp David agreement. We now spend $2.5 billion on oil that used to come from the Sinai.”

The Ambassador also said that Israeli relations with the United States are excellent and “have never been so good compared to previous years. The United States and Israel don’t always agree on everything and we’ll always have some differences of opinion, but the fact is that the U.S. is still the only major power to take part in the Middle East peace process.”

IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS TO HADASSAH

Charlotte Jacobson, convention chairman, focused on how women’s rights have always been important to Hadassah members, stemming from its earliest days. “The nomination of the first woman candidate for one of the highest offices in the U.S. government comes as no surprise to Hadassah members, who remember with pride that our founder, Henrietta Szold, also won recognition as a leader in an era where women certainly were not accepted on the basis of their abilities and talents,” he said.

The session also included a moment of remembrance for the oppressed Jews of the Soviet Union, Syria and Ethiopia plus the chanting of Ani Ma’amim by Cantor Itzhak Emanuel of Congregation Ner Tamid of San Francisco and the sounding of the shofar by Barbara Goldstein, who chairs Hadassah’s education department.

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