Zionist Council Grappling with Controversial Proposal from Dulzin

The Zionist General Council, the supreme body of the World Zionist Organization between Congresses, opened a week-long session here with a call from President Chaim Herzog to the delegates to take time out from the five-star hotel circuit and visit development towns “where Zionism is actually happening.” He urged the delegates to “see for yourselves what Zionism is all about.”

The delegates, however, will have little time for touring during their week-long session. They will have to grapple with a controversial new proposal from WZO chairman Leon Dulzin intended, he says, “to revolutionize” the Zionist movement.

As a result of high-level internal studies in which Zionist leaders from Israel and abroad participated, Dulzin is proposing that representation to future Zionist Congresses be exclusively based on democratic elections. There are to be no more inter-party deals allocating the numbers and affiliations of delegations from various countries. That has been the practice in most Zionist Federations, including the United States.

AN ISSUE OF DEMOCRACY

The recommendation and proposal follow years of criticism, in Israel and abroad, which focussed on the lack of true democracy within the Zionist movement. But the new proposal is opposed mainly by Hadassah, which claims that the change should apply in Israel as well as overseas. But the proponents counter that the Israeli representation to the WZO — 38 percent — is totally democratic, since it is based on the results of the last previous Knesset elections.

The proposal needs a two-thirds majority of the Zionist General Council to become part of the WZO constitution. Dulzin is “confident” of attaining it, despite the opposition of the General Zionists.

REDEFINITION OF QUALIFICATIONS PROPOSED

Dulzin has also proposed a redefinition of the qualifications required of Zionist leaders. They would include a personal commitment to aliya, and personal implementation of Jewish and Hebrew education for the leader and his or her children.

Dulzin conceded in an interview that it would be hard to enforce such requirements. But he insisted that the definition of a Zionist must be tightened in this exhortative way because it would carry a moral force that would in time percolate through the movement.

Hitherto, Zionist activism has been conditional merely upon commitment to the Jerusalem Program, which Jewish organizations and individuals worldwide have had little difficulty in undertaking. One of the provisions of the Jerusalem Program is the recognition of the centrality of Israel in Jewish life.

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