Behind the Headlines ‘the Really Scary Thing’ of the International Women’s Conference
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Behind the Headlines ‘the Really Scary Thing’ of the International Women’s Conference

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Frieda Leemon, national president of Pioneer Women, said she “felt threatened and isolated” as a Jewish participant at the world conference of the United Nations Decade for Women in Copenhagen, which many Jewish groups have said become a vehicle for anti-Israel propaganda almost from the start.

For Lemon, whose 55-year-old organization supports a network of community centers and social services for Jewish refugees around the world, the conference never addressed important women’s issues. It ended July 31 by voting 94-4 for a “plan of action” which listed Zionism as one of the world’s main evils, along with apartheid and colonialism.

Leemon, who attended the three-week open forum at Copenhagen University which paralleled the main conference, said she expected anti-Israel propaganda to come out of the conference when she chose to go as Planner Women’s representative. But what she never expected, Lemon said with some anger during an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, was the widespread influence of the Palestine Liberation Organization home out in the proceedings.

“What I didn’t know was the amount of strength that the PLO had gained in the world,” Leemon said. She added that many Jews in the forum section wanted to talk with Arab women, only to be told by a PLO representative: “To you we will talk with weapons; to the rest of the world we’ll talk with words.”


Third World, Communist and PLO representatives at the forum, which 8000 persons attended, expressed fierce anti-Jewish sentiment, Lemon noted. There was “a very well-organized coalition of anti-white, anti-American and anti-Israel” representatives, and she said the frequent walk-outs and anti-Jewish public statements may have been organized in advance. “Nobody wanted to listen,” she said of the pro-PLO delegates. “They come there with pre-conceived notions.”

There were other problems, according to Leemon, besides the constant political attack on Israel. Among them was the inordinately high cost of food, which led a number of mainly Third World women, who were poor and slept in tents nearby, to plead for funds for food. A conference newspaper, “Forum 80,” reported that many of the women were barely subsisting on bread and water by the fourth day.

“I’d call it the ‘Copenhagen experience’ rather than a conference,” she explained. “It was not an experience I would want to repeat soon.” Even so, Leemon was quick to add she doesn’t believe the conference’s outcome will have a significant influence on the rest of the world.

But it did point up the isolation of Israel from the international community, and the expanding influence of the PLO, still bent on the destruction of the Jewish State. “That was the really scary thing,” Leemon said.

(Tomorrow: Interview with Bernice Tannenbaum, president of Hadassah.)

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