NEW YORK (Feb. 21)
The plight of Jews in the Soviet Union and the efforts to develop a peaceful solution to the problems of the Middle East were central themes today of the annual mid-winter conference of the National Committee for Labor Israel. Principal speakers at the luncheon session, attended by 800 delegates, were Leon H. Keyserling, Washington economist and president of the National Committee, and Dr. William A. Wexler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major National Jewish Organizations. A resolution on the Middle East adopted at the conference, stated that with the resumption of talks under United Nations Mideast representative Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring, there was hope “that at long last steps will be taken to attain a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. However, in view of a long history, the conference cannot be without misgivings as to the intentions of Egypt and the Soviet Union, considering the blatant violations of the ceasefire agreement and the constant threats still emanating from high Arab sources against the security and very existence of the State of Israel.” The resolution on Soviet Jewry stated: “This earnest protest of Jews and non-Jews at last has broken the silence surrounding conditions in which the Jews of the Soviet Union must struggle for their survival as a people.”
The resolution noted that the protest had effected a commutation of the death sentence imposed on two of the Jews at the Leningrad trials, but “this act of clemency is not enough to mitigate our growing concern about the fate of three million Jews within the Soviet Union. It is therefore imperative that the protests on behalf of Russian Jewry be continued by the free world, until the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel campaign ceases and until Jews are allowed to emigrate freely to the State of Israel.” In an address to the conference, Keyserling declared: “Only an America which maintains its lead in terms of international power can exert its influence fully toward ultimate and enduring peace. This is the supreme meaning to America’s Jews and non-Jews of the critical situation in the Middle East.” The economic and political resources, and “the potential military strength of the United States, must be exerted in the Middle East and elsewhere.” Dr. Wexler told the conference: “The evolution and growth of the State of Israel is inconceivable without the pioneering effort of Histadrut. Histadrut’s contribution has been in three areas: Developing Israel; attracting to Zionism multitudes of Jewish socialists abroad who have broken with Jewish religious tradition; and enlisting for Zionism and for Israel support of the world labor movement.”
Two representative of Histadrut, the Israel labor federation, told the conference delegates that the constructive task of developing the country goes on despite the no-war, no-peace climate. Uzi Bloch, a Jerusalem attorney and liaison officer of Histadrut and the American trade union movement, stated that the 1,100,000 organized workers in Israel constitute the “backbone of a new democratic society” that is unique in the Middle East. Uri Raviv, director of the Amal network of 32 vocational schools under Histadrut auspices, reported that “technical and vocational” training in the 1970s would receive high priority in the effort to develop a solid social structure and economic base. In a separate report, Dr. Sol Stein, executive vice-president of the Israel Histadrut Foundation stated that in its first decade the Foundation had passed the $20 million mark, and had set a target of $50 million to be reached by 1975.