The three "Decade of the Woman" United Nations International Conferences were marked by conflicts over attempts to equate Zionism with racism. Abzug helped lead the struggle against this equation, never losing faith in her vision of an all-inclusive global feminism. She believed the anti-Zionist position did not grow out of the women's movement, but was encouraged by divisive, manipulative governments for political reasons.
The controversy originated at the 1975 Mexico City meeting when an anti-Zionist plank was added to its official declaration. Abzug prevailed upon the U.S. delegation to vote against the document, but it was still adopted along with the resolution calling Zionism racist. By the 1980 Copenhagen Conference, anti-Zionist sentiment was even more prevalent and again placed a divisive wedge into the proceedings. Yet Abzug and many others left Copenhagen planning to organize, "extensive dialogues between Jewish, Arab, Israeli, Black and other women."
Increased communication, along with the absolute determination of the women of Kenya to make their 1985 Nairobi Conference a success, lead to a "magnificent" final result. With an "unprecedented showing of independence and strength," women delegates passed a unified document, "Strategies for the Year 2000." And together with leadership by African, Egyptian and US delegates, the resolution equating Zionism with racism was finally deleted.
1. All quotes from Bella Abzug, Speech at B'nai B'rith Meeting, c.1985, Bella Abzug Papers, Columbia University.