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Opposing Settlements While Supporting Injustice: Progressive Jews and the World Zionist Congress

Opinion
on 25 Comments

Every five years, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) convenes the World Zionist Congress (WZC) in Jerusalem. Founded by Theodor Herzl in August 1897 in Basel, Switzerland, the WZO promotes Zionism and Israel, the Zionist enterprise.

For this year’s 38th Congress elections, which begins today, progressive Zionist organizations in the US have joined together for a strong push to encourage people—Jews, that is–to vote for their slate.

The requirements to be eligible to vote in the WZC elections are the following: “Voting is open to any adult Jew who is a United States citizen or permanent resident, pays the $7.50 ballot fee ($5 if you’re 18-25) and signs a statement affirming that they are someone who “views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.”

There are 500 elected delegates, which are divided fairly equally among the United States, other world Jewish communities, and the Jewish community in Israel (where each Zionist political party in the Knesset has a corresponding number of seats). Over 1,500 candidates from 15 slates are running for the U.S.-held seats. Approximately 56,000 US Jews voted in the last election.

The official website of the US election of the WZC says “Vote for your voice in Israel.” The annual distribution of the WZO is $1 billion per year so the elected delegates decide how to spend nearly $5 billion over a five year period and also help determine the leadership and priorities of key Zionist organizations and Israeli institutions– the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency of Israel, and the United Israel Appeal.

To be clear, how the enormous amount of WZO money will be spent in Israel and the occupied territories will be determined ONLY by Jews.

The rationale of the progressive Zionist groups for their participation in the elections is to garner more power and influence to oppose the funding of settlements, support religious pluralism, and put forth a more liberal platform than that promoted by right-wing Zionists. Sound appealing? It may at first, but, in fact, the overall impact of such participation is deeply harmful.

The ideology of the WZO and the WZC is that Israel belongs to the Jews of the world and that, therefore, Jews outside of Israel deserve the right to determine policies, sit on boards, and direct funding and resources that, among other things, control the day to day lives of Palestinians. Israel, together with the WZO and other Zionist institutions, have a long history of privileging Jews at the extreme expense of Palestinians. Beginning with the Nakba, when 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their land and homes during Israel’s creation, Palestinian citizens of Israel have continued to be treated as third-class citizens subjected to racism and anti-democratic policies and actions, as well as ongoing intimidation and harassment. Palestinians in the occupied territories have routinely endured ongoing land theft, home demolitions, military checkpoints, arbitrary arrests, torture, and administrative detentions without trial or charge, and have no say in what happens to them.

Yet, progressive Zionists in the US are encouraging Jews in the US to participate in the WZC elections and to take advantage of their “right” to influence Israel’s institutions and policy decisions, rather than refuse to participate in a system that hands them a “right” that is not theirs. Through their participation, they also lend legitimacy to the institution itself. Let’s assume that, as a result of progressive Zionists asserting influence, some funds are directed to positive initiatives (which is a big “if” given how the WZC is well-known for its lack of transparency or any semblance of democratic process). However, even were this to happen, the consequences of one’s participation in this endeavor—that is, the endeavor of the WZO, WZC, and world-wide Zionist movement—are to serve and reify the exclusionary systems of apartheid and oppression that have maintained Jewish dominance and control in Palestine/Israel since 1948 and denied Palestinians their most basic civil, human, and national rights, including the right of return to their homes and land.

The problems inherent in the WZC are numerous, but the deeper point is an analogy that illustrates the fundamental problem with the WZO itself: Imagine if a white organization, or an umbrella organization of white groups, said they were going to invest millions of dollars into the US economy and institutions and that any white person in the US who registered and adhered to their principles (that is, adherence to a system privileging whites) could have a say about how the money was spent. That means no indigenous or Black people in the US could join–only white people. And what if some liberal/progressive white people decided to join with the intention of being able to control where some of the money would go (they might direct it to civil rights and other good causes, including many that could benefit those who weren’t white). But, of course, even if some of the money went to good causes, these progressives would still be part of—and would have signed a pledge in support of– a white supremacist organization and ideology that privileges white people over all others. This is not an exact analogy of course, and I also appreciate that that it’s hard to imagine a white organization with this ideology that progressives would join under any circumstances. But that makes me ask even more, why is there not the same reaction about participating in a racist, exclusionary institution like the WZO?

Participating in the WZC elections under the banner of progressive values effectively whitewashes the WZO’s impact on Palestinians. Such participation also violates the Palestinian-led, global call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), which is one of the most effective and ethical ways to join with Palestinians in the struggle for justice. Participating in these elections doesn’t begin to tackle Israel’s unjust, apartheid system and its underlying Zionist ideology, but, rather, feeds that system and ideology and gives them more roots.

Donna Nevel

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a founding member of Jews Say No!, Facing the Nakba, and Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism (JAAMR), and is a member of JVP-South FL.

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25 Responses

  1. eljay on January 21, 2020, 9:55 am

    … Yet, progressive Zionists in the US are encouraging Jews in the US to participate in the WZC elections and to take advantage of their “right” to influence Israel’s institutions and policy decisions, rather than refuse to participate in a system that hands them a “right” that is not theirs. Through their participation, they also lend legitimacy to the institution itself. …

    Progressive Jewish Zionists are Zionists – it should come as no surprise that they want Jews to support Zionism. No group of supremacists ever appealed to their racial or ethnic fellows to oppose or defeat them and their hateful and immoral ideology.

  2. Misterioso on January 21, 2020, 9:57 am

    How can any Jew with an IQ over room temperature fall for this Zionist bilge?

    Screaming reality:
    Zionism is racism; Zionism is fascism; Zionism is theft; Zionism is a horror story for the indigenous Palestinians; Zionism and its consequences are a betrayal of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis; Zionism is over 71 years of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole, i.e., “Israel” is still dependent on massive US taxpayer provided financial aid and Washington’s protection in the geopolitical arena. The good news is that ever increasing numbers of people in the U.S. and around the world, young and old, including Jews, are becoming utterly disgusted with and enraged at “Israel.” All so predictable!!

  3. Mooser on January 21, 2020, 1:02 pm

    “and signs a statement affirming that they are someone who “views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.”

    Gee, being “Jews as such” got a lot less important all of a sudden.

  4. Mooser on January 21, 2020, 1:07 pm

    ” Imagine if a white organization, or an umbrella organization of white groups…”

    …said that all ‘white’ people in Europe could vote in US elections, too?

  5. jon s on January 22, 2020, 5:41 am

    I recommend voting for the Reform slate, or “Hatikvah”.

    • Mooser on January 22, 2020, 12:38 pm

      “I recommend voting for the Reform slate, or “Hatikvah”. “Jon s”

      You recommend that American Jews should vote in Israel’s elections?

      • echinococcus on January 23, 2020, 12:53 am

        Mooser, I think he is recommending that the almost-to-rabid anti- Zionist Mondoweiss readers vote for a genocidal Zionist invader political party. Like selling pork sausages in Kiryas Joel.
        A heroic risk-taker, your Yankee Johnny.

  6. Donna Nevel on January 22, 2020, 9:22 am

    I was asked by someone what I recommend instead of participating in these elections so I wanted to briefly share some of my thoughts here. I think we should continue doing what JVP and other groups do that are acting in solidarity with Palestinians: Support the Palestinian call for BDS; work with Palestinians on projects that center them and their rights (to have full equality, to return to t heir lands and homes, etc). Don’t participate in structures that, in any way, privilege Jews over Palestinians, promote systems of apartheid, lack accountability to Palestinians, and/or exclude them from any/every area of decision-making. Listen, reflect, and enact genuine solidarity. That is the opposite of participating in these elections.

    • jon s on January 22, 2020, 11:39 am

      Two points:
      The Palestinians also have an organization -the PLO- which includes Palestinians in Palestine and abroad. Not identical to the Zionist movement but there are similarities.

      BDS is primarily a campaign of anti-Israel activists in the West and does not benefit the Palestinians. Indeed the Palestinians themselves don’t boycott Israel.

      • Mooser on January 22, 2020, 12:40 pm

        “the PLO- which includes Palestinians in Palestine and abroad. Not identical to the Zionist movement but there are similarities.”

        ROTFLMSJAO!

        “Indeed the Palestinians themselves don’t boycott Israel.”

        Ha-ha-ha, what a sense of humor you have “Jon s”

      • oldgeezer on January 22, 2020, 1:31 pm

        Moronic comment jon s. The Palestinians can’t boycott Israel. BDS is primarily western people of gokd conscience who boycott at the request of Palestinians who are denied their freedom and rights by the outlaw state of Israel.

      • Talkback on January 22, 2020, 2:48 pm

        jon s: “BDS is primarily a campaign of anti-Israel activists in the West and does not benefit the Palestinians.”

        Lie Nr. 1 . Because BDS was launched by Palestinans and with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organizations.

        jon s: “Indeed the Palestinians themselves don’t boycott Israel.”

        Lie Nr. 2. The do boycott if they can, butit’s the occupier’s interest to make the occupied economically depedent from the occupier. For example:

        “… 82% of Palestinians working in Israeli settlements stated they would like to quit these jobs if alternative employment were available in the West Bank.[71] Omar Barghouti said that the fact that “tens of thousands” of Palestinians work in settlements is the direct result of Israeli policy. For decades Israel has been “systematically destroying Palestinian industry and agriculture, confiscating our most fertile lands and richest water reserves, and imposing extreme restrictions of movement preventing many from reaching their workplaces”.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott,_Divestment_and_Sanctions#Effects_of_business_boycotts_on_Palestinian_employment

        So when Israel steals water from the Palestians and resells it to them for high prices, it’s obviously not possible to boycott still stolen water supply. Grand Theft Israel.

        When are you going to answer my questions to you in respod to your commen?
        https://mondoweiss.net/2020/01/peace-is-out-good/comment-page-1/#comment-962363

        What do you mean by “two state solution” in detail?
        Do you endorse human rights and international law for Nonjews?
        Do you think that not the denial of justice, but the call for justice is “extremist”?
        Which fundamental rights of Jews should be violated to achieve peace, if you claim that peace is more important than justice?

      • jon s on January 24, 2020, 3:15 am

        Old geezer, talkback,
        I made the point that BDS does not benefit the Palestinians. I don’t subscribe to the zero-sum notion that what’s bad for Israel is necessarily good for the Palestinians, and vice versa. Take the tourism industry (which has just had its best-ever, record-breaking year!). Imagine that the BDS campaign would seriously harm tourism. What would be the impact on the Palestinian economy? On the thousands of Palestinians whose families depend on them making a living as guides and drivers, in restaurants and hotels and so forth?

        I understand that you acknowledge the fact that Palestinians don’t boycott Israel. Not that they wouldn’t want to , the problem is that they can’t, realistically. Could they abstain from selling to Israelis? Buying from Israelis? Working for Israelis? Israelis and Palestinians are destined to share this land and their economies will always be connected. I would love to see the Palestinian economy develop and prosper and be more independent but right now they don’t have a seaport or an airport – and you think that boycotting Israel is a rational option? The Palestinians are not stupid.

        Talkback, as to your questions:
        The 2 state solution is now at the center of an international consensus, really amazing considering the starting point when we first thought it up way back after the Six Days War.
        It’s based on two states coexisting in peace, based on the pre 67 borders with some mutually agreed adjustments. The precise details need to be negotiated and agreed upon.
        Do you endorse human rights and international law for Nonjews? Yes
        Do you think that not the denial of justice, but the call for justice is “extremist”? In some circumstances, yes.
        Which fundamental rights of Jews should be violated to achieve peace, if you claim that peace is more important than justice? In the future 2 state solution, a good part of the Jewish historic homeland will not be part of the Jewish state. Hebron and Nablus (Shechem) and Gaza won’t have a Jewish population . Many Jews see that kind of arrangement as a violation of fundamental rights, part of the Jewish homeland being “Jew-free”. But I would accept it.

      • Talkback on January 24, 2020, 8:51 am

        jon s: “I made the point that BDS does not benefit the Palestinians.”

        You just made a claim that Afrikaaners made in South Africa under Apartheid , which is basically that Apartheid is economically good for those who are oppressed and exploited. So what? It’s hillarious how much Hasbara in general resembles South African Apartheid propgaganda:

        Israeli propaganda is recycled from the dustbin of South African history
        https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181203-israeli-propaganda-is-recycled-from-the-dustbin-of-south-african-history/

        Meanwhile under Israeli Apartheid:
        Israeli occupation cost Palestinian economy $47bn in 18 years, says UN
        https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israeli-occupation-cost-palestinian-economy-477-billion-seventeen-years-un-report

        jon s: “I understand that you acknowledge the fact that Palestinians don’t boycott Israel. ”

        Nope. I wrote that they do, if they can. One quick example:

        Palestinian Boycott of Israeli Products Begins in West Bank, Activist Says
        “Most West Bank shops no longer carry the products of six major Israeli food companies, as a boycott triggered by rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions is taking hold, a boycott leader said Sunday.”
        https://www.haaretz.com/palestinian-activist-boycott-of-israeli-products-begins-1.5330804

        jon s: “… but right now they don’t have a seaport or an airport.”

        You forgot to mention that the Apartheid oppressor deliberately destroyed both and prevents the income of material to rebuild them. So Gaza (City) is only left with a small port for its fishing-boats and Palestinian naval police which is under Israel’s illegal blockade.

        jon s: “The precise details need to be negotiated and agreed upon.”

        You know very well, that Israel is not and has never been interested to have a souvereign state of Palestine by its side, but only a Palestinian Bantistan. You didn’t respond to the article I linked:
        “Hendrik Verwoerd in Jerusalem

        The “two state solution” for Israel and Palestine will be the culmination of the same political vision that motivated apartheid South Africa.”
        https://africasacountry.com/2017/12/verwoerd-in-jerusalem

        So my question was what do you mean when you say “rwo-state-solution”? Does this entail a souvereign Palestinians state with total control of its territory, air space and borders with no Israel occupation force inside its borders (in particular in the Jordan Valley) and with its own army? In other word, everything that Israel claims for itself to have to be a souvereign state?

        jon s: “Yes.”

        I understand that you acknowledge that the UN General Assembly reaffirmed countless times (almost if not annualy) the Palestinian’s right to return (which is a human right as defined in the UN Charter) or compensation and that the Security Council called upon Israel to rescind its illegal annexation of Jerusalem, to dismantle its illegal settlement in occupied territories and that it reaffirmed allready in 1980 the necessity to end its prolonged occupation (witthout any precondition). Additionally the International Court of Justice affirmed that the “security barrier” on Palestinian territory has to be dismantled, too.

        So what would be left to negotiate according to you for Israel to recognize a souvereign State of Palestine?

        jon s: “In some circumstances, yes.”

        In what circumstances is the call for justice extremist and not its denial? Please give an answer that is universally applicable, which means also for Jewish calls of justice.

        Me: “Which fundamental rights of Jews should be violated to achieve peace, if you claim that peace is more important than justice? ”
        jon s: “In the future 2 state solution, a good part of the Jewish historic homeland will not be part of the Jewish state.”

        Sorry, but there is no right to this “good part of the Jewish historic homeland” to be part of a Jewish state. To the contrary. Israel – like any other state – has no valid legal claim to any territory beyond the borders in which it proclaimed statehood. And it proclaimed statehood along the borders recommended in the partition plan, excluding Jerusalem. The de facto annexations beyond these proclaimed borders into areas was actually a violation of Palestinan claims. (For the sake of argument, I will not argue here that the establishment of Israel was a denial of Palestinan independece and justice as much as a violation of the territorial integrity of Palestine.)

        So no, that wouldn’t be a violation of the rights of Jews.

        jon s: “Hebron and Nablus (Shechem) and Gaza won’t have a Jewish population. Many Jews see that kind of arrangement as a violation of fundamental rights, part of the Jewish homeland being “Jew-free”.”

        Regarding Gaza it was Israel that withdraw its illegal settlers. Regarding Hebron or Palestine in general the Palestinian side is not asking Jews to move, but that they could stay as Palestinians (and I guess revoke Iraeli citizenship.). The just cannot stay as Israeli settlers.

        Fayyad: Jews Can Be Equal Citizens in Palestinian State
        “Palestinian PM says Jews who choose to stay and live in Palestine will enjoy same rights as Arabs do in Israel.”
        https://www.haaretz.com/1.5073429

        But even if Palestine would demand all illegal settlers to be removed from its soil withouth granting those who are interested Palestinian citizenship that wouldn’t be a denial of justice of those Israelis who settled in the territories under Israeli occuatpion. They don’t even have a right to even live there and their presence is as well as their settlements are a violation of the law of occupation.

        So no again, that wouldn’t be a violation of the rights of Jews either.

        So when you demand the denial of justice to achive peace, you only seem to demand a denial of Palestinian rights. Don’t ou think that this is “extremist” instead of a call for justice?

      • eljay on January 24, 2020, 9:17 am

        || jon s: … Which fundamental rights of Jews should be violated to achieve peace … ||

        None.

        Jewish is a religion-based identity. The choice to embrace it does not change the fundamental rights – or responsibilities – of those who have made that choice.

        In other words, all people are entitled to and should respect justice, accountability and equality.

        No group of people – not even “the Jews” – is entitled:
        – to be supremacists;
        – to have a supremacist state; or
        – to do “necessary evil” unto others.

        || … In the future 2 state solution, a good part of the Jewish historic homeland … ||

        Contrary to the delusions of Zionists, geographic Palestine was not and still is not the historic / ancient / eternal / lost / ancestral / one true homeland of every person in the world – every citizen of every homeland throughout the world – who has chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish.

        || … will not be part of the Jewish state. … ||

        “Jewish State” is a religion-supremacist construct. No state – not even Israel – should exist as a supremacist state of any kind.

      • Mooser on January 24, 2020, 12:52 pm

        “good part of the Jewish historic homeland”

        Yeah, it’ll be like splitting up a gold mine!

        And, of course, all of “Jon s” proposals are predicated on US military and financial support at the present or higher levels. And nothing could ever interfere with that, so why plan any other way?

      • RoHa on January 25, 2020, 3:41 am

        Jons shows us the Zionist mindset.
        In the future 2 state solution, a good part of the Jewish historic homeland will not be part of the Jewish state. Hebron and Nablus (Shechem) and Gaza won’t have a Jewish population . Many Jews see that kind of arrangement as a violation of fundamental rights, part of the Jewish homeland being “Jew-free”. 
        It seems he believes that because many Jews think that Jews have a fundamental right to live in and to have a Jewish state in the “Jewish historic homeland”, they do have such a right.

        I’d love to have the argument spelled out in full.

        (Incidentally, to be fair to Nathan (who doesn’t deserve it, but that is how fairness works) I should point out that you have a “would” in the “if” clause here:

        “But even if Palestine would demand all illegal settlers to be removed from its soil … that wouldn’t be a denial of justice..”

        It should be “if Palestine were to demand…”, or, more informally, “if Palestine demanded …”)

      • Talkback on January 25, 2020, 11:40 am

        RoHa: “It should be “if Palestine were to demand…”, or, more informally, “if Palestine demanded …”)”

        Thank you. And I allready knew that. But sometimes the grammar of my native language just takes over and I couldn’t care less, because my focus is more on making a good/valid argument than using the correct grammar rules.

      • Talkback on January 25, 2020, 1:01 pm

        @eljay

        This was my question and not jon s’: “Which fundamental rights of Jews should be violated to achieve peace?” I asked this question, after he wrote shockingly “Leave “justice” to the extremists and fanatics.”

        Thinking about it I would like to ask him now, if he believes that peace could be achieved by violating the Israeli Jew’s right to live or if he prefers an approach that he views as “extremist” and “fanatical” instead.

      • eljay on January 25, 2020, 2:01 pm

        || Talkback: @eljay

        This was my question and not jon s’: “Which fundamental rights of Jews should be violated to achieve peace?” … ||

        Apologies. The formatting he used in his post was sloppy and I couldn’t tell that he was quoting rather than stating.

        || … I asked this question, after he wrote shockingly “Leave “justice” to the extremists and fanatics.” … ||

        jon s is a shining example of the hypocrisy of Zionists: He’s happy to shit all over justice, accountability and equality as long as they interfere with his Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism and his “right” to do “necessary evil” unto others.

        But you can bet your bottom dollar that the moment he needs justice, accountability and/or equality, he won’t waste any time demanding them and he’ll deny he ever did his part to undermine them.

      • Talkback on January 25, 2020, 4:16 pm

        eljay: “I couldn’t tell that he was quoting rather than stating.”

        I allready knew why you couldn’t, no apologies necessary.

      • eljay on January 25, 2020, 6:00 pm

        || Talkback: … I allready knew why you couldn’t, no apologies necessary. ||

        Cool.  :-)

      • RoHa on January 25, 2020, 9:09 pm

        “And I already knew that. But sometimes the grammar of my native language just takes over …”

        I guessed as much. You are not a serial offender. I just pointed it out so that no one could say I was anti-Semitically singling out Nathan’s errors.

        But every time someone puts “would” in the “if” clause, a pedantic fairy kitten dies.

  7. wondering jew on January 22, 2020, 3:53 pm

    JVP – knows how to talk at ( and about) Zionists, but not to Zionists. Ayman Odeh seems to be able to talk to Zionists, even is able to make jokes and elicit laughter from them.

    • eljay on January 22, 2020, 6:09 pm

      || wondering jew: JVP – knows how to talk at ( and about) Zionists, but not to Zionists. Ayman Odeh seems to be able to talk to Zionists … ||

      But not a single Zionist – not one; not even you, y.f. – is able to advocate, support and defend justice, accountability and equality in I-P.

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