We would like to share with you some of the ongoing activities that our World Union of Meretz representatives are working on in the framework of the World Zionist Organization.
Pro-Democracy Activism at the World Zionist Congress
This past April, a special session of the World Zionist Congress (WZC) was held at the Jerusalem International Convention Center to mark the 75th anniversary of Israel’s establishment. Thanks to the votes we secured in the 2020 WZC elections (as part of the HaTikvah: Progressive Israel slate), we were able to send a sizeable delegation, which included David Dormont, Gili Getz, Sheila Katz, Jared Jackson, and Arieh Lebowitz. The five were instrumental in leveraging the session to deliver a clear message of support for Israel’s pro-democracy movement.
On the conference floor, delegates marshalled support for a resolution that took direct aim at the Netanyahu government’s plan to undermine the judiciary, emphasizing that the Israel-Diaspora relationship would be in peril if the government refuses to back down. The resolution passed by a wide margin of 368 to 262!
Elsewhere, our delegates were part of a loud and highly-publicized protest against far-right Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, one of the key architects of the government’s antidemocratic agenda. The protest disrupted Rothman’s meeting with his rightwing allies at the WZC, and the MK required a police escort to allow him to leave. Pro-democracy delegates also walked out of Congress deliberations to stage a march of solidarity to the Israeli Supreme Court building, in cooperation with Israeli protest groups.
World Union of Meretz delegate Sheila Katz, who serves as CEO for the National Council of Jewish Women, had the honor of being the first person to address Israel’s central anti-government rally in English. Katz told the tens of thousands assembled in Tel Aviv that the weekly mass protests were an inspiration and had the support of millions in the U.S. and around the world.
While the WZC session was a clear victory for democracy within Israel’s sovereign borders, we regret that one item was absent: There was no similar groundswell of support among Congress delegates for occupied Palestinians’ right to democracy and equality. This aspect of democratic struggle should never be overlooked, and we must continue to make clear in all Zionist forums that democracy does not truly exist if it maintains an undemocratic occupation alongside it.
In 2019, a World Union of Meretz (WUM) proposal was adopted by the World Zionist Organization (WZO) to create a new unit to promote LGBTQ+ activity and foster equality and inclusion. The unit was attached to the WZO’s Department for Social Activism and Tikkun Olam, which is headed by the WUM’s senior representative, Dror Morag. At the recent World Zionist Congress special session, Morag spearheaded a resolution to increase support for and deepen the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community within Zionist movement activity. Despite pushback from the rightwing and religious bloc, the measure was approved, with 354 voting in favor vs. 271 opposed.
Watch Morag rally support for the resolution at the WZC meeting.
Aiding Turkey’s Earthquake Victims
The earthquake in Turkey in February 2023 claimed tens of thousands of lives and turned millions into homeless refugees in severe winter weather. Following the incident, the WZO Department for Social Activism teamed up with Social Delivery, a social/environmental NGO, and the HaShomer HaTza’ir youth movement to collect winter clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags for the survivors, establishing dozens of collection points across the country. The public response was extraordinary.
Click here to see a short video of the volunteers in action at various locales.
Working for Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice
One of the central projects of the Department for Social Activism is the “Mofet Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator”, which supports initiatives promoting social justice and equality. This year, for Mofet’s seventh cycle, department head Dror Morag selected 17 entrepreneurs working to combat the climate emergency and its impact on the poor. In the name of “sustainable Zionism”, the Department chose individuals who are pioneering concepts for socio-environmental change via recycling, environmental education, and other fields.
Advancing Shared Jewish-Arab Society
The Department for Social Activism is also partnering with the Ramla Foundation for Education, Culture, and Development on a program to restore the town’s social cohesion. Ramla is known as a “mixed city”, one of the few locales in Israel with both Jewish and Arab communities. During the Israel-Gaza war of 2021, interethnic violence broke out between them. Last year, a community leadership training program was held in Ramla to produce strong leadership on the neighborhood level, the ultimate aim being to help the two communities forge a shared urban identity and live alongside one another in a spirit of unity, trust, and hope. The cooperation with the Ramla Foundation is continuing this year.