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Focus on Issues Preparations for Nairobi Conference

July 10, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

More than 200 Jewish women and men, representing major international Jewish organizations will be going to Nairobi, Kenya, next week in an effort to prevent the United Nations End of the Decade Conference on Women from becoming an arena for anti-American and anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist propaganda.(See story, P.I.)

Organizations in this country and abroad have prepared a host of programs and educational activities to counteract the nefarious propaganda expected at the 10-day conference beginning July 26 from Arab, Soviet and Third World delegates. Preparations by the organizations have been going on for some time so that the strident anti-Israel rhetoric and resolutions equating Zionism with racism, which marked the previous two earlier Women’s Decade conferences in Mexico City in 1974 and in Copenhagen in 1980, do not occur in Nairobi.

In both the Mexico City and the Copenhagen conference, discussions on the goals and achievements of women all over the world were sidetracked and distorted by divisive political rhetoric and anti-Israel resolutions. But American and West European delegates this year are determined to keep the discussions at the Nairobi conference centered on the goals and achievements of the Women’s Decade.


“The governments of the United States and Western Europe have insisted that the conference avoid divisive political issues more appropriately addressed in the UN’s political bodies,” declared Richard Maass, chairman of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee. “Unfortunately, Arab and Soviet bloc governments seem intent on injecting into Nairobi the issue of Palestinian women, singling it out for special attention despite the many truly problematic situations women face in many parts of the world.”

To avoid having the issue of Palestinian women turn into a battering ram against Israel and to place this issue in its proper framework and perspective, Maass announced the publication of a book-length study on Palestinian women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, written by Dr. Mala Tabory, a legal scholar and social scientist.

The study, which will be distributed by the AJCommittee to participants in the conference, used a variety of sources, including interviews with women in the West Bank and Gaza, according to Sidney Liskofsky, program director of the Institute, to challenge assertions made by the UN Secretariat’s Report on Palestinian Women, the background document for discussion of this issue at Nairobi.


“The UN report, “Liskofsky said, “unfairly criticizes Israel, and assumes Israel is always to blame for unsatisfactory conditions, real or imagined.” The UN report, he noted, “admits that it is not the product of original or independent research. It relies on prior UN documents, which themselves reflect anti-Israel bias.”

The AJCommittee Institute’s study found that:

* Since 1967, infant mortality in the West Bank and Gaza has dropped by 50 percent, leaving it 400 percent lower than Saudi Arabia’s death rate.

* Palestinian workers, men and women, are free to join Israel’s labor federation, the Histadrut, and a total of 31 unions operate openly in the West Bank and seven in Gaza.

* Illiteracy among women in the West Bank dropped by 26 percent and in Gaza by 28 percent since 1967, putting these women ahead of women in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

* Health services and conditions have undergone extensive improvement in the past 18 years, and the West Bank and Gaza have been freed of malaria.


In other activities by Jewish organizations at the Nairobi conference, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, which is sending 10 delegates, will stage exhibits, show films and distribute material on themes dealing with education of economically disadvantaged people, combatting racism, developing understanding among peoples, and Israel’s contributions to Black Africa.

According to the ADL, this will be an effort to put the Middle East and international issues “into perspective and to keep the conference focused on its real agenda — the achievements of the UN Decade for Women in relation to the issues and problems that concern women all over the world.”


The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is sending three delegates to the conference who will seek to enhance the situation of women in the world, according to Barbara Leslie, Non-Governmental Organization observer to the UN for the NCJW and a delegate to the Nairobi conference. “We are going with great hope but we know it won’t be easy,” she said.

Shirley Joseph, former NCJW national vice president and a delegate to the conference, said the objective will be “to keep the work of the conference from being diverted by extraneous politicization,” as it was during the Copenhagen conference where women’s issues were “distorted by divisive political rhetoric and irrelevant anti-Israeli resolutions.”

Joseph added: “We are particularly interested in involving women in decision-making positions globally, and in including women in economic development. Too often, in underdeveloped countries, as they become industrialized, the men go off to the cities to work, and the women are left at home to do back-breaking labor on farms. We would also like to see attention paid to sufficient nutrition for women — particularly in view of their child-bearing function.”

The NCJW will also present its Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) at a conference workshop on early child care. HIPPY is designed to train poor mothers to teach their four-to-six year old children at home skills needed for school success.


A booklet, “Prepare Yourself for the Women’s Conference in Nairobi,” published by the Jewish Women’s Organization of Norway in cooperation with the ADL was presented to the 20 Norwegian delegates at a meeting in the Oslo Jewish Community Center and was sent to 95 Norwegian participants and to their counterparts in Sweden and Denmark.

In Holland, a meeting for all women conference participants was called by the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) to prepare them on the subject of the oppression of Palestinian women.

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