NEW YORK (Jan. 15)
Rep. Bella Abzug (D.NY) strongly rejected today a claim that there was an anti-Semitic or anti-Israel trend in the women’s liberation movement. “I know of no evidence of it and if there were evidence, it (anti-Semitism) would be crushed,” she told some 100 women attending a day-long conference on Zionism sponsored by the American Zionist Federation at the America Israel Friendship House.
Abzug, a leader of the feminist movement, was challenged on the anti-Semitism issue after she spoke about the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City which she attended as an official Congressional observer. She said the clause in the “Declaration of Mexico” calling for the elimination of Zionism was not a feminist measure but was adopted by delegates who represented governments, not women, at the United Nations-sponsored conference in Mexico City.
Several women told Abzug that they had found anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist ideology expressed at local feminist meetings. They charged that Judaism was being blamed for oppressing women.
LEADERS CONDEMNED ANTI-ZIONISM
“I have never seen or heard what you described,” Abzug replied, noting that she has a strong consciousness both as a woman and a Jew and would recognize any anti-Semitic trend. She said there are probably anti-Semites in the women’s movement just as there is in society as a whole but stressed that the movement’s leaders such as Karen DeCrow, president of the National Organization of Women, have strongly condemned the anti-Zionist moves by the United Nations General Assembly.
Faye Schenk, president of the AZF, said if the women who raised the question found an anti-Semitic trend in local organizations, it was up to them to oppose it personally on the local level. Rachel Jacobs, executive director of the Americans for Progressive Israel, said it is her experience that it is usually Jewish women who, at local feminist groups, reject their Jewish background. She urged the women to “examine yourselves and see why your sister or daughter ” rejects being a Jew.
Abzug said that “World Plan For Action” which was adopted at the Mexico City conference was a good plan and should not be condemned along with the separate “Declaration of Mexico.” “What was bad at Mexico City,” she said, “was the use of power politics to force the adoption of the Declaration of Mexico, which was the first UN condemnation of Zionism, along with apartheid, colonialism and other forms of oppression.”
She noted that many women delegates were unhappy with the anti-Zionist resolution, which only Israel and the U.S. opposed, but were captives of their government’s orders. “It was deeply resented as a manipulative action that intruded on a conference called solely for the purpose of considering the status of women.”
Abzug and Schenk urged efforts to rescind the anti-Zionist resolution at Mexico City and the ones later adopted by the UN General Assembly. Mrs. Schenk called the anti-Zionist statements of the “Declaration of Mexico” an “ugly blemish” on the International Women’s Year. She called on women to fight these “nefarious doctrines” by which the UN has been “polluted” by the very racism which was synonymous with Nazism.
Dr. Marie Syrkin, editor of Herzl Press, said that when women join a movement, they become interested in national and world problems. “In the case of Zionism, a woman who may begin with merely a philanthropic interest in her local chapter of Hadassah inevitably enlarges her horizon to embrace an interest in the larger issues of the Middle East, American politics and the play of power politics,” she said.
Other speakers at the conference, which was called “Zionism and Social Progress-Women for Zionism,” were Sarah Morris, executive director of the American Histadrut Cultural Exchange Institute; New York City Commissioner on Human Rights, Eleanor Holmes Norton; and Major (Res.) Milka Ben Ari of the Israeli Army.