The World Zionist Congress meets every five years to decide on a range issues, affecting policy decisions across Israel and the Diaspora. Last Friday, a coalition of right-wing ultra-Orthodox parties created an alliance to ensure control over the funds and appointments of the WZC, excluding all non-Orthodox groups.
The World Zionist Congress (WZC) has been described as the “Parliament of the Jewish People”. The Congress meets every five years to decide on a range of funding and policy issues, including the heads of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Jewish National Fund), Keren Hayesod-UIA (United Israel Appeal), and the Jewish Agency. These are bodies which not only distribute a billion dollars, but are responsible for policy decisions across Israel and the Diaspora.
Traditionally, the balance of roles within the WZC has been distributed between the various streams of Jewish life including Orthodox and non-Orthodox groups, in recognition of the diversity across the Jewish world, with each group receiving votes based on the number of their members. This year in the USA, a new ultra-Orthodox party emerged called “Eretz Hakodesh” (“The Holy Land”), receiving enough support to tip the balance of WZC votes to the right. Eretz Hakodesh champions “traditional religious values and Jewish rights in the entire Land of Israel” (implying support for Israeli annexation of the West Bank). Eretz Hakodesh has set out positions which do not allow any room for other streams of Judaism. It is already projecting a “my way or the highway” approach.
On Friday, a coalition of right-wing ultra-Orthodox parties created an alliance to ensure control over the funds and appointments of the WZC, excluding all non-Orthodox groups. This included the Haredi parties, who hold almost no votes, but appear to be manipulating the situation.
Fortunately, bodies with votes who usually are neutral on such issues, Hadassah and B’nai B’rith, have indicated that they will not support the Orthodox-only proposition. The position of WIZO, Maccabi Olami, and Naamat remain to be seen. Members of those bodies should act to day to call on their leaders to preserve an inclusive and respectful World Zionist Congress.
At stake is the heart and soul of Zionism. Stay tuned.