This is a report from our colleague, Arieh Lebowitz, on the passage of progressive resolutions of the just concluded Zionist General Council of the World Zionist Organization:
Greetings from snowy Jerusalem, Friday noontime, where the most recent session of the Zionist General Council concluded mid-day Thursday after a range of meetings from Wednesday morning to mid-day Thursday. The ZGC, let me remind you, is the body that generally meets annually, between sessions of the World Zionist Congress, and has representatives of all of the different groups that are represented at the WZCongress.
A number of significant resolutions were passed at this ZGC session, which I am reproducing below for your information. These were initially proposed by members of a united faction composed of the World Union of Meretz, ARZENU (the worldwide association of Reform/Liberal Progressive Zionist organizations, in the USA being ARZA), and the World Labour Zionist Movement (in the USA being Ameinu).
This united faction has been playing an increasingly significant role in the proceedings of the ZGC, and the WZCongresses themselves, as evidenced by the resolutions below — as well as those that the faction representatives were able to block from passage either in committee or in the plenary at which resolutions passing through the ZGC session process were voted upon by all delegates present.
Immodestly, the Word Union of Meretz representatives did a very good job at this session of the ZGC.
Regarding the resolutions below, please note that while they are the English-language versions of resolutions of special significance to us that passed, the official language of the ZGC for the purposes of recording the passage of resolutions is Hebrew, so the Hebrew versions (not reproduced below) are the most authoritative.
>> Arieh Lebowitz
1.5 The Democratic Challenge
Submitted by the World Union of Meretz
The resolution below passed 82% for, 14% opposed, with 3% abstaining (76 votes for, 13 votes opposed, 3 abstentions)
Whereas “Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, brought about the establishment of the State of Israel, and 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.” (In: the Preamble to the “Jerusalem Program”); and
Whereas, the Zionist movement arose as a democratic movement in its essence and conduct, and thus became the first democratic mass movement for the Jewish people after 2,000 years of exile; and
Whereas, the State of Israel became the first state in history that was established from its day of inception as a Jewish and democratic state, while simultaneously pledging itself to the principles of equality in the Declaration of Independence; and
Whereas, the accepted democratic system in most enlightened countries today is ipso facto the guarantor of the existence of Jewish life and Zionist activity in the Diaspora,
The Zionist General Council resolves:
To direct the relevant institutions within the Zionist movement to initiate programs to strengthen Zionist identity founded in the principle of “a democratic and Jewish state.”
1.6 The Settlement Challenge
Submitted by the World Union of Meretz
The resolution below passed 67% for, 30% opposed, and 2% abstaining (61 votes for, 28 against, and 2 abstentions)
Whereas,the Settlement Division [of the World Zionist Organization] has been transformed de factointo the Government of Israel’s operative arm, implementing projects in which the government is interested, while the World Zionist Organization has no authority and/or power and/or judgment call and/or oversight in respect of the Settlement Division’s activity and/or its budget; and
Whereas, in the State Comptroller’s recent report on this matter, it was made clear that the Settlement Division constitutes a “contracting emissary” for the government’s activities and it is incumbent upon it to act accordingly, and, similarly, the Settlement Division has itself acknowledged that it is acting “at the behest” of the Government of Israel in establishing rural settlements (which activities are conducted with full funding from the State of Israel’s budget) and the fiscal oversight of the Settlement Division’s budget is conducted by the Accountant General of the Ministry of Finance; and
Whereas, on the 22nd July, 2007, the government ruled that, “The Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization shall be an operative agency for the implementation of government decisions in the area of settlement, this to include: planning, establishment, population, development and consolidation of settlements… the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development shall be the Minister responsible for oversight of the Division.” (Decision No. #2069), and
Whereas, over the years, the government has even made decisions of principle and supreme importance in relation to the Settlement Division’s activity: whereby, in which framework, as recently as 2009, the government adopted a detailed and wide-ranging decision in respect of setting the “goals and operative objectives of the Settlement Division;” and
Whereas, a few years ago, the government resolved to appropriate the Settlement Division’s independence to set policy in relation to settlement-related activity, and, moreover, the authority to approve the Settlement Division’s budget was placed with the Minister for Agriculture; and a few years ago, the responsibility for the Settlement Division was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Office (Government Decision No. #3336 of 19th June 2011), and
Whereas, in light of all the above, under the present circumstances, the World Zionist Organization is prohibited from exercising its independent judgment in relation to a body under its responsibility and purview. This situation is in clear contradiction to the provisions in management law that clearly state the importance and critical need for oversight of administrative decisions, which acts to guarantee the rule of law in its most substantive sense.
Therefore, the Zionist General Council resolves:
1. To conduct a comprehensive and in-depth clarification of issues related to organizational purview between the World Zionist Organization and the Settlement Division.
2. To appoint a special internal auditor within the World Zionist Organization who will examine the conduct of the Settlement Division over recent years.
3. To issue instructions of an immediate implementation of complete transparency in relation to all the Settlement Division’s activities and their financial costs.
4. Since the Settlement Division is defined as one of the WZO’s institutions,
the Zionist General Council hereby resolves to restore the authority and complete control over the Settlement Division to the WZO.
1.11 The Settlement Department
Submitted by: Arieh Lebowitz and Judy Gelman, on behalf of the Hatikvah Slate in the USA.
(Arieh, a World Union of Meretz representative to the ZGC, is an activist in Partners for Progressive Israel; Judy, a World Labour Zionist Movement representative to the ZGC, is an activist in Ameinu)
The resolution below passed 74% for, 24% opposed, and 0% abstaining (75 votes for, 25 against, and 1 abstention)
Whereas, the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization has for a number of years been almost entirely funded by, and operating under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, and not funded by funds raised by or donated to the WZO; and
Whereas, there is no method for either the duly elected Executive Committee members of the WZO or the duly elected members of the Knesset to provide oversight over the operations of the Settlements Division of the WZO; and
Whereas, neither leaders of factions of the WZO nor Knesset members have been provided with comprehensive, accurate and timely information on the budget, finance, and activities of the Settlement Division of the WZO,
Be it resolved that:
The Division must operate under generally-accepted rules of transparency, including all applicable rules and regulations of the State of Israel for both governmental and non-governmental agencies, such that leaders of the factions of the WZO will, if they so ask, be provided with comprehensive, accurate and timely information on the budget, finance, and activities of the Settlement Division.
Be it further resolved that:
The Division must operate under generally-accepted rules of transparency, including all applicable rules and regulations of the State of Israel for both governmental and non-governmental agencies, such that leaders of all Knesset factions will, similarly, if they so ask, be provided with comprehensive, accurate and timely information on the budget, finance, and activities of the Settlement Division.
And be it also resolved that this resolution will go into effect within three months after its passage.
2.5.Any Expressions of Racism or Hatred of Foreigners or Those who are Different are a Fundamental Contradiction of the Values of the Zionist Movement
Submitted by: Arzenu
The resolution below passed 77% for, 22% opposed, and 0% abstaining (75 votes for, 22 against, and no abstention)
Whereas,the Zionist movement was founded in order to fulfill the vision of Binyamin Zeev Herzl to build a national home for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael; and
Whereas,on the 5th Iyar 5708 [14th May 1948], the Zionist movement brought about the establishment of the State of Israel through the declaration of Independence, as expressed in the Scroll of Independence; and
Whereas,in the Scroll of Independence, the Zionist movement expressed its profound commitment to equality, through declaring that: “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration (Aliyah) and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions”; and
Whereas,this profound ethical and moral commitment was also expressed in another paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which states: “WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the up-building of the State, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”; and
Whereas, in Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution of the World Zionist Organization states that:
“The Jerusalem Program, as defined by the Zionist General Council 34/3 in 2004, is as follows:
Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, brought about the establishment of the State of Israel, and 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.”; and
Whereas,Article 30 of the WZO Constitution endows the Zionist General Council with the authority to decide upon all budgetary and financial matters, either itself or through the Permanent (Standing) Committee on Budget and Finance,
The Zionist General Council 36/5 resolves as follows:
1. All institutions connected with the Zionist movement and the Zionist Federations shall take active measures to condemn, denounce and eradicate any direct or indirect expression of, or allusion to, racism.
2. The Zionist General Council calls upon the Government of Israel to initiate vigorous action against any expression of racism and work together with the Zionist movement, as well as through the allocation of designated resources, to further educational programs that aim to inculcate the axiomatic value, whereby any expression of racism, hatred of foreigners and those different from oneself are in fundamental contradiction to the values of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel.
3. The Zionist General Council calls upon the Israel Knesset and the Government of Israel to refrain from legislative action that might have a detrimental impact on the sensitive and delicate balance between sectors of Israeli society, in the manner expressed in the Declaration of Independence.