U.S. May Boycott Un-sponsored Women’s Conference in Nairobi if Israel, Zionism Are Attacked

The 1985 World Conference on Women, a United Nations-sponsored gathering to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, risks a boycott by the United States if there is any repetition of the politicization, characterized by attacks on Israel and Zionism, that marred the two previous international conferences in Mexico City in 1975 and Copenhagen in 1980.

That warning was given here by Jean Gerard, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), who addressed an international conference of Jewish women here last week. The conference was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and B’nai B’rith Women.

Gerard said the U.S. has worked so far in preparatory meetings for the Nairobi conference to “Keep the agenda free of contentious political items.” The Nairobi conference will be the culmination of the United Nations Decade of Women–1975-1985.

If preparations for the conference are “unduly politicized, the U.S. will very likely not attend,” the American envoy told 160 Jewish women leaders representing Jewish organizations in 16 countries. The women gathered here for a conference on “Politics and Anti-Semitism in the Women’s Movement: The Road to Nairobi.” Its purpose was to prepare to counter the anticipated attacks on Israel and Zionism in Nairobi next year.

Kenneth Bialkin, ADL national chairman, told the gathering that “the politicization of the Decade of Women has been a setback for human rights.” He described it as an effort to use these forums for “political opportunism” rather than substantive enhancement of women’s rights.

Abraham Foxman, associate national director of the ADL, who heads its International Affairs Division, told the delegates that there had been “physical and mental assaults on representatives” at the Copenhagen conference four years ago which included grabbing microphones from the hands of pro-Israel speakers.

Ambassador Gerard said there was “even more anti-Israel, anti-Western rhetoric” at Copenhagen than at Mexico City. She said the U.S. was forced to vote against the entire plan of action for the second half of the Decade of Women because of the anti-Israel bias.

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