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Jewish Women Go Public About Israel

Jewish women’s reactions to the traumas of everyday life in Israel range from unconditional support to outright condemnation of the government’s policies.

One entity, a political coalition of 11 major Jewish women’s organizations, brought together this year by Orthodox feminist Blu Greenberg, includes women across the Jewish spectrum, from American Jewish Congress’ Committee for Women’s Equality to the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. One Voice: Jewish Women for Israel is involved in political action. In June, for example, the women organized a telephone chain to members of Congress, thanking members for their support of Israel.

Madeleine Brecher, national vice president of the National Council of Jewish Women, and co-coordinator of One Voice, noted that the coalition includes all the mainstream women’s organizations, such as Hadassah and Women’s American ORT. “Talk is that we represent one million women,” Brecher said.

According to its mission statement, One Voice stands “in solidarity with the State of Israel and its people.” Brecher said that there were certain subjects that could not go into the statement because they might offend some members. For example, Brecher said, the issue of the settlements never came up. “We work via consensus,” said Brecher.

But other Jewish women see Israel’s occupation of West Bank land as a major issue. For example, The Jerusalem Post reported in October that when a group of New Jersey women on a “solidarity mission” met with Labor Party Knesset member Yael Dayan, Dayan snapped back, “Solidarity with what?” She scolded them for supporting policies of Ariel Sharon’s government. Meanwhile the pacifist group Women in Black, which was formed in 1988 by a group of women in Israel to protest the occupation, now with branches all over the world, including Yugoslavia, has been organizing weekly vigils in New York for the past year.

“Ariel Sharon has taken the violence of occupation to depths we could not even imagine a year ago,” said Naomi Braine, a member of Women in Black. “We’re challenging hard the assumption that it is the Jews who are the victims here.”

“Unfortunately, many of the Jewish women publicly maligning Israel are misinformed about the historical and legal realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Ricki Hollander, a senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which monitors anti-Israel bias in the media.

Hollander was speaking in her own behalf not for CAMERA. “It is disturbing that some people use their Jewishness to lend credibility to their attacks on Israel.” Women in Black, which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000, represents views that many consider far left of center.