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Lines of Communication

Coping with Copenhagen

Dear LILITH Editors:

The article on Copenhagen was of particular interest to me. I was there, officially representing B’nai B’rith Women (not listed by your reporter as being in attendance) at the Forum, and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations at the official UN Conference. I was one of the conveners of the Jewish Women’s Caucus, actually chaired its first meeting, and am one of the three American representatives on the Steering Committee which attempted to coordinate the activities of the Jewish women, to insure coverage of critical sessions and committee meetings and to act as a clearing house. I was present at some of the events described in the article and at equally frightening and disturbing sessions not described.

The article is to a great extent, quite accurate. However, even though most of us were traumatized, shocked, and at times, even frightened, not too many of us resorted to tears, nor did we falter when speaking about the Conference. To the contrary, most of us determined to make sure that the Jewish community at least, and to some extent the Christian community (who were receiving a different kind of report) learned about the events at Copenhagen, the anti-Israel and anti-American attacks, the weaknesses and the bias exhibited in UN practices and by UN employees, some of which we knew but which were highlighted in Copenhagen, etc. Therefore, many of us spent many months after our return speaking to various groups, Jewish and non-Jewish, writing reports, articles, etc.

We are also determined to be better prepared for the next UN World Conference, currently tentatively scheduled for 1985 in Nairobi. Some preparatory meetings have already been held, to plan strategy and prepare for that time. As Chair of the Jewish Women’s Caucus, I have met with the Leadership Conference of National Jewish Women’s Organizations and the Ad Hoc Task Force on the UN of the National Jewish Community Relations Council. We have formed a 3-part committee and are planning a program of outreach, education, support from the Jewish community (which we did not have to any great extent before), coordination of efforts, cooperation with other NGOs, etc. In addition, the Steering Committee of the Jewish Women’s Caucus which operated in Copenhagen, has also been discussing and planning for a preliminary strategy meeting of this international committee, again to be better prepared and more again to be better prepared and more knowledgeable the next time, to have better and more material, to make contact and have more cooperation from non-Jewish sources in other countries.

It is a large order. Whether or not it is effective, it will at least be better than the feeble efforts prior to Copenhagen.

by Betty Shapiro Chair, Jewish Women’s Caucus, Washington, D.C.

Dear LILITH:

I just read the article on the UN Conference in Copenhagen, “Sisterhood is powerful unless you’re Jewish…” (#8). I was very moved by the piece, especially since I had not had the opportunity to discuss my feelings with other feminists who attended. I was there as a journalist, and was staying with friends who lived in Copenhagen, and thus didn’t socialize much with other Jewish feminists. Each night I would return to my friends’ home and tell them about the conference, and even though one friend was an American Jewish woman, she couldn’t believe the anti-Semitism was as rampant as I described.

• While we were in Copenhagen, the PLO bombed a bus taking Jewish children to camp in Belgium. The Israelis quickly called a press conference (after they were not allowed to speak in the official session). The PLO countered immediately with their own press conference…saying they did not take responsibility for the attacks as “they never attack outside the occupied territories.” There were at least 20 American women in the room when this was said…but our fear was so great after 18 days of non-stop hate that no one said, what about Munich? What about Entebbe? Even the journalists dared not speak— or did they believe the PLO?

• I was conducting a radio interview with an American feminist who has researched the subject of sexual slavery. In answering why she brought the issue to the UN Conference, she said, “Just as women who have nothing to eat will never be free, and just as women whose homes are being bombed every night by Israeli planes will never be free until this stops, so women who are sexual slaves will not be free until we end their slavery. ..” I turned off my tape recorder and proceeded to do a bit of consciousness-raising on the spot, and she said, “Oh, I was just using the Palestinian woman as an example because I’ve been hearing it so much this week. You can just strike it out of the tape.”

• The president of Bolivia was in Copenhagen at the conference, and it was nice to see that a few countries had women in high offices. However, while she was away, there was a coup in Bolivia and she wasn’t even sure she could return to her country, and certainly not as president. In discussing the circumstances, one woman said, “the coup occurred because the American ambassador to Bolivia is Jewish.”

by Miriam Goodman, San Francisco, CA

Dear LILITH:

I was especially moved by the Copenhagen article. But something about it troubled me. We’re told that the author uses a pseudonym because the article is “controversial and painful.” First of all, what on earth is controversial about pointing out anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism where it is rampant? Of course it’s painful. But what is the author afraid of? There may be good reasons for the anonymity, but it makes you wonder, and it serves to undermine a lot of the legitimate anger of the piece.

by William Novak, Somerville, MA