Special to the JTA Israeli and Jewish Women Hope to Avert Confrontations at Ngo Forum
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Special to the JTA Israeli and Jewish Women Hope to Avert Confrontations at Ngo Forum

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Israeli Labor Party Knesset member Tamar Eshel is leading approximately 40 women from Israel at the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) gathering here which is meeting in conjunction with the world conference ending the United Nations Decade for Women.

In addition, Eshel is spearheading a group of Jewish women from all over the world in an attempt to avert the confrontations that marked the earlier conferences in Mexico City in 1975 which contained the “Zionism is racism” resolution and in Copenhagen in 1980 which accepted a “radical” resolution on the Palestinians.

At a meeting yesterday in the Nairobi Synagogue Community Center, 200 Jewish women and a handful of men met to develop strategy on how to handle hostility toward Jews and Israelis. It was decided to send groups of Jewish and Israeli men and women to workshops that could be potentially explosive. Many of these individuals have attended pre-conference meetings in Israel, Europe and the United States that were specifically designed to help them respond to attacks.

Many Jewish women are participating this time, Eshel said, with the intention of offsetting any attacks by Arabs, Communists and other groups that are not friendly to Israel. Nonetheless, Eshel said she is skeptical about the effectiveness of these plans. Theory and reality are worlds apart, she noted. Furthermore, the PLO and other delegations sympathetic to their cause far outnumber those sympathetic to Israel.


But Eshel said it is important for Israel to attend these conferences. “If we didn’t attend this meeting, we would be doing the best service to our enemies,” she said. “They want to oust us from all meetings and to make us pariahs. They want to question whether we belong to the family of nations. We have an opportunity to raise our voice, to give our side of the story” by attending the conference.

Jewish organizations represented at the 10-day NGO conference, which began yesterday and will overlap the official UN Decade for Women conference which begins July 15 and ends July 26,include Hadassah, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Na’amat/Pioneer Women, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, National Council of Jewish Women, WIZO, the New Jewish Agenda, and Jewish groups from Europe.


Meanwhile, the Jewish community here has opened its doors to the Jewish delegates attending both the official United Nations Decade for Women conference and the Non-Governmental Organizations gathering. In addition to volunteering the synagogue as a meeting place for all delegates, the community has extended its hospitality to those who have had difficulty finding accommodations.

This problem arose when the Kenyan government overbooked all of its hotels and then demanded that NGO participants vacate their hotel rooms for the official UN conference delegates. The NGO delegates were told they would be placed in university dormitories in Nairobi and in the surrounding suburbs.

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