Preparing for the Zionist Congress

The more than 900,000 registered Zionists in the United States will be voting by mail this month for the 152 American delegates to the 29th World Zionist Congress which starts in Jerusalem Feb. 20.

Moshe Kagan, assistant chairman of the American Zionist Federation Executive who heads the AZF election committee which is conducting the election in the U.S., said the ballots will be mailed out Dec. 12 by the American Arbitration Association which is supervising the balloting and must be returned to that organization by Jan. 3.

However, Kagan said an informational booklet that is also to be mailed to voters will not carry the platforms of each of the eight slates competing in the election as originally planned because of a dispute between the United Zionists Revisionists of America and the Zionist Organization of America. The booklet had been planned as a means by which all the slates could have reached all the eligible voters with their messages.

The decision not to include the platforms was made by the election committee last week with only the Americans for Progressive Israel in opposition. That group has appealed to the World Zionist Congress Court in Jerusalem to reverse the decision. A Revisionists spokesman said his group is also opposed to the move.

COURT SUITS PENDING

The Revisionists, meanwhile, are going ahead with their suit filed earlier in a New York State civil court seeking to have the ZOA remove from its proposed platform insert the pictures of Israeli Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman. A Revisionists spokesman said his organization is linked with Herut in Israel of which Begin is the head and Weizman is another top member. He said that the ZOA is linked to Israel’s Liberal Party. Israel’s ruling Likud is made up of Herut and the Liberal Party.

The ZOA statement on the suit said that the ZOA used the pictures of Begin and Weizman along with Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich, the leading Liberal Party member in the government, and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan “to express affinity with the new government in Israel. Any Zionist movement with a similar position is entitled to make the same statement. The Revisionists are confusing the Likud coalition with the Herut Party.

The Revisionists spokesman said the reason his group did not take its complaint to the AZF Tribunal here or the Zionist Congress Court in Jerusalem was that when it took another complaint to the Congress Court before the last World Zionist Congress five years ago, the Court took so long in acting that nothing could be done before the Congress was held.

The same reason was given by David Weingarten, an Orthodox Brooklyn businessman and columnist for the Jewish Press, who occupies the eighth slate on the ballot. He has gone into the New York courts to get the election committee to allow him to name seven more candidates on his ticket which is called The New Coalition.

Weingarten got enough signatures on a petition to require the election committee to put him on the ballot. But it has refused to allow him to list the other seven names on the grounds that they should have been listed on the petition, an argument which he rejects. But he now says he may have made a mistake in going to the New York court and should have taken his case to a Beth Din instead. He said he will not appeal if the court rules against him.

Kagan said the election is going ahead although it is possible either suit could force a delay.

100 PERCENT ELECTION APPROVED

The Zionist Congress was originally to have been held in January or February 1976. But when several groups challenged a decision not to hold elections for delegates, the Congress Court ruled that elections must be held. The Congress was delayed to allow time to prepare for them.

The U.S. election committee originally wanted only 55 percent of the delegates elected with the other 45 percent, 69 delegates, selected by the various Zionist organizations based proportionally on the number of members in each group. But this was challenged in the Congress Court and the Court ruled that all 152 delegates must be elected.

However, the vote will be for slates only, with the number of delegates given each group based on the proportion of votes they get. The slates are in order of their ballot listing: Hadassah-Bnai Zion-American Jewish League; Labor Zionist Alliance, Pioneer Women, Friends of Labor Israel; Zionist Organization of America; Progressive Zionist List (Americans for Progressive Israel-Hashomer Hatzair); Religious Zionist Movement; Herut-United Zionists Revisionists of America; ARZA-Association of Reform Zionists of America and The New Coalition.

Kagan meanwhile expressed surprise at the little interest shown toward the election in the American Jewish community. He noted that the World Zionist Congress will have 530 delegates and will be the “parliament of the Jewish people.”

This will be the most democratic election in American Jewish life, Kagan noted, with nearly a million people selecting representatives. However, Kagan said he suspects that each of the slates might increase their own publicity within their limited budgets in the final weeks. He said this might create more election excitement.

NEXT STORY