Special Interview the 30th World Zionist Congress Will Differ from Its Predecessors

The 30th World Zionist Congress, opening here December 7, will be different from previous Congresses in one immediately noticeable respect: inter-party politics will be almost non-existent. There will be no smoke-filled rooms, no caucuses in the corridors, no marathon last night arguments and the white smoke at dawn on the last morning to announce that the new Zionist Executive has finally been put together.

All this, says Kalman Sultanik, chairman of the World Zionist Organization department organizing the Congress and chief planner of the Congress, will be avoided. It will perhaps mean less press coverage and less of a “sportive” interest in the Congress; but it will mean more time and energy to focus on the real issues that should preoccupy Zionists at their “parliament of the Jewish people” that convenes every four years.

The political horse-trading, Sultanik explains, will all have been done in advance. For instance, the parties have already resolved between themselves that Leon Dulzin of the Liberal Party wing of Likud will remain for another term as chairman of the WZO Executive, and Akiva Levinsky of Labor will remain as treasurer, (See earlier story in October 15 Bulletin). By the time the Congress convenes, the other 16 pasts on the WZO Executive will also have been allocated in informal inter-party consultations, Sultanik promises.

Even the political struggles within the parties over who gets what job will be over within three days: On December 10 the new Executive will be elected, leaving a full week free for substantive discussion, such as education and aliya.

But permeating every plenary and committee debate will be the awareness that, as Sultanik put it, the Jewish people in many parts of the diaspora are facing the worst period in decades in terms of anti-Semitism and kindred challenges.

POLITICAL ARGUMENTS THAT ARE BOUND TO SURFACE

The political arguments that daily tear apart Israel itself and interested Jews abroad are bound to surface at the Congress, too, Sultanik predicts. Addresses and question periods with top ministers and opposition figures will surely provoke lively debate among the 750 delegates and 200 observers from 34 countries.

The WZO leaders are hoping that the Congress will not coincide with publication of the inquiry commission’s report into the Beirut massacre, for, in the political storm that is bound to be triggered by that, the Congress would be pretty much submerged from a media point of view.

There had been thoughts of postponement, but, says Sultanik, it was decided to go ahead as scheduled because to postpone would have meant to wait a whole year, inevitably setting back the momentum of processes within the Zionist movement and the Jewish Agency (the “Caesaria process” notably, which provides for a steady drawing-together of the Zionist and non-Zionist halves of the Jewish Agency).

As to the substantive issues facing the Congress. Sultanik says the two major headings under which debates and activities of the gathering will take place are; world Zionism, the Jewish State and the Jewish people; and a program of action for the next four years.

” …. why is it that many Jews, including Zionists, are more influenced by their surroundings than by the Jewish state? Why is it that they usually react as Americans, or Frenchmen, or Argentinians — even when discussing Zionist or Israeli problems?” Sultanik asked.

He seemed to be hinting here at recent reactions, that have gravely disturbed Zionist and Israeli leaders, to the effect that Mideast policies have resulted in a rise in anti-Semitism and even terrorism against the Jews of the diaspora.

Sultanik continues: “Not enough Jews have visited Israel. Less than 10 percent of American Jews have done so up to now (last year 120,000 American Jews visited, compared to 160,000 non-Jewish Germans).”

The Zionist delegates will also be asking themselves, says Sultanik, how to project the WZO in diaspora Jewish consciousness. Often, he finds on his travels among Jewish communities worldwide, WZO activities are welcomed and appreciated — but people are unaware that these activities are provided by the WZO and attribute them to the Israel government and or to the local Jewish Federation or community.

NEXT STORY