Dror Morag, the secretary general of Israel’s Meretz Party (someone whom many of us knew as secretary general of the World Union of Meretz), reports on his November tour of South America:
During November, I participated in a series of conventions in Latin America. The
events took place in an important period in the Zionist calendar, with the Memorial
Day to Yitzhak Rabin and the 94th anniversary to the Balfour Declaration. I was sent
to the journey as a member of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, to a special
convention in Buenos Aires, aimed at learning of the Jewish life in the region and
strengthening the local communities. On November 14th, we commemorated the
Balfur Declaration and held a ceremony in honor of the victims of the suicide bomb
attacks in the Israeli embassy (1992) and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association
building (1994). The two aforementioned memorials remind us of the long and
sorrowful journey we are going through since the foundation of the State of Israel.
The two dates are linked together to our reality as a society and cultural group
aspiring for lasting peace and development, understanding that only regional peace
will lead the State of Israel and the Jewish People to lasting security and stability.
During my journey, I visited Jewish communities in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.
Visiting these countries, I also met left-wing politicians and local media and presented
the Party’s and the Israeli Left’s position to the general public.
In Uruguay, I met a small but well organized Jewish community. It is a mostly
secular community maintaining strong links with Israel. The local Meretz group
promotes Jewish humanistic thinking and activity from the ‘Mordechay Anilevitch
House’, the center of activities for liberal Jews in Uruguay. The house hosts Jewish
holiday ceremonies and banquets, inviting in families and individuals unable to
enjoy the holiday spirit due to meager economic situation of having no family to
share the dinner table with – some of them had not commemorated a holiday for
10 years. The local Ken [branch] of Hashomer Hatza’ir is very active and creates important
Jewish educational framework for youngsters who do not affiliate with the official
community institutions. The most remarkable phenomena I encountered in Uruguay
is the special efforts conducted by Hashomer Hatza’ir guides [scouts] and the bogrim [youth]: Some of the young members live as far as an hour’s drive outside the capital, and away
from the Ken, and yet, the guides and the bogrim make a remarkable efforts to drive
them to and from their houses and the Ken. These youth has no other connection to
Judaism or to Zionism. Encountering a secular humanistic Jewish stream makes feel
comfortable with their Jewish Identity.
The flight to Argentina was postponed by 6 hours due to a strike. The workers
of Aerolíneas Argentinas, the national flight company are going through a long
struggle protesting their poop wages and conditions. In the Socialist spirit, I waited
patiently for takeoff. During the first two days in Argentina I participated in a
Meretz-Hashomer Hatza’ir continental Seminar with representatives from Argentina,
Uruguay and Chile. Together we analyzed the situation of the Latin-American left and
discussed possible ways to expand our activity. We agreed upon strengthening the
ties between our movements in countries around the region and stronger connections
between Hasomer bogrim and Meretz. I was deeply impressed by the quality and
character of the bogrim and their commitment to shaping the youth which lives
outside of the official community institutions. During the Seminar we held two panels
about the Middle East and the social Protest in Israel with more than 200 participants.
The keynote speakers were Rany Trainin and I.
The Tzavta house in Buenos Aires is an impressive institution which holds a
variety of activities all week long. The ‘Crown Jewel’ is a newspaper, ‘Nueva Sion‘,
widely published all across Latin America and presenting left-wing Zionist views.
The main event, JAFI Board of Governors, lasted three days in which the BOG
members learned of JAFI activity and various groups and organizations working in
the framework of the Jewish community, and offered their help. During this visit
I received the chance to present Meretz agenda to the local media and agree upon
cooperation with Argentinean left-wing parties.
My flight to Chile was also postponed by 6 hours, a result of the same strike. I hope
for an improvement of the wages and conditions of the workers; until it is done, I do
not recommend flying with Aerolíneas Argentinas.
In Chile I met an impressive group of Meretz members. Leading them is an
enthusiastic woman who speaks fluent Hebrew and gathered around her a significant
activist group. During my visit Meretz activists had organized a large demonstration
with vast media coverage against an event honoring one of the formers heads of the
Pinochet regime. The group holds large events all year long and aspires for dialogue
with the countries Palestinian community. Hashomer Hatza’ir Ken is located at a
remote neighborhood, but is a historical landmark, hosting an underground newspaper
printing during the dictatorship period. The dozens of youth active in the Ken
conducts impressive educational activity and hold a lot of programs in Israel. A group
of strongly committed Bogrim is leading the Ken and inspires everybody with their
During my visit to Chile I participated in a students’ demonstration, a part of a large
protest movement very similar to the protest movement here in Israel. The Chilean
government understands the importance of this movement and holds a dialogue with
the students’ leaders. I believe that their fundamental demand for equal education and
lowering book prices (average of $50 per book) will succeed, in light of the citizens’
commitment to march in the streets and make a stand.
The Chilean left is strongly critical towards Israel, sometimes delegitimizing the State
of Israel. Some streams in the extreme left ridiculously claims that Hamas attacks were
orchestrated by Bibi Netanyahu in order to get elected. As a Zionist Left movement, we face an almost impossible task in promoting our agenda. In a variety of media interviews I put forward our stand, differentiating legitimate criticism against a bad and racist government from de-legitimating Israel as a Zionist-Democratic state. We must sharpen these differences which enable Israel to preserve its position among other nations and are the best answer to Anti-Semitism. Although the difficult stances, I found here socialist partners in the Chilean Parliament, members of the Socialist
International and sharing common values.
Concluding my journey, it is clear that our stands offer an ideological alternative to
the Israeli right, and enable us to receive wide support abroad, thus sending a clear
message to the current Israeli government. Our strength lies in dedicated groups of
activists of Meretz and Hashomer, and increases in light of their moral and ideological
depth. We must remember that many Jews and non-Jews around the world count on
us to work towards a more just and moral Israel; an Israel which will be embraced by
the international community.
Secretary General of Meretz and Member of the Zionist Executive Board