NEW YORK (Nov. 1)
The Supreme Court of the World Zionist Organization on Friday ruled in favor of two Zionist groups and against three others who contested the process by which American delegates were elected this spring to the 31st World Zionist Congress.
In ruling here Friday, the court accepted appeals of the election procedures brought by the Zionist Organization of America and Bnai Zion, but rejected appeals, brought by the Religious Zionists of America, Americans for Progressive Israel and Students for Israel.
All five groups brought appeals against the Area Election Committee (AEC) of the American Zionist Federation, which conducted elections in May to determine representation at the Zionist congress, which convenes in Jerusalem on Dec. 6.
Some 210,957 American Jews participated in the May elections and on the basis of the returns, 152 mandates were apportioned to eight of nine competing slates representing various Zionist ideologies across the political spectrum.
The appellants were critical of a verification procedure adopted by the AEC which sought a more accurate count of eligible voters from the various ideological slates of the American Zionist Federation. In the process of tabulating votes, the AEC penalized organizations for voter eligibility discrepancies.
In their appeals, the RZA, API and Students for Israel maintained that they were each entitled to a larger share of the mandates than had been determined by the AEC procedure. (RZA received 14 mandates, API got one and the Students for Israel did not win any.) In addition, the RZA contended that the independent company hired to examine voter records, Equifax, collaborated with AEC officials in falsifying its findings.
In ruling against the appellants and for the AEC, the court said that it is the duty of a constituent body to attack election methods before the election, and not after.
Reading from the 19-page judgment, the court president, Justice Moshe Etzioni, said, “We would add that the conception of waiting for the results of an election before attacking the election method is, in our opinion, against public policy and inconsistent with the fair conduct demanded of a public voluntary body.” Etzioni continued, “We are of the opinion that the election method laid down by the AEC was sound and reasonable and constituted ‘a method consistent with generally accepted democratic principles….’ “
The justice also defended Equifax, saying its essential findings remain intact.
In the API appeal, the decision hinged on whether or not the court would accept the propriety of the organization’s membership rolls at the time of the election. The court agreed with the AEC and Equifax, saying that API had turned contributions to the organization into “artificial memberships for election purposes,” thereby violating election rules and the spirit of a recent call to Zionist organizations to add new members to their ranks.
The appeal of the Students for Israel was dismissed after the court determined that a nominating petition signed by 4,500 students did not justify an additional slate, since the students were not Zionist organization members as spelled out in election rules.
The court, however, did accept the ZOA and Bnai Zion appeals and, without further comment directed that they not be penalized by the AEC.
In his concluding statement, Etzioni said that the court expressed “the hope that after the coming congress the whole procedure for determining membership of all types will be throughly examined….”
Etzioni also urged that eight outstanding mandates be divided between the RZA and API slates. He did not specify how they were to be divided.
The original assignment of mandates to the various Zionist slates was: Mercaz (Conservative), 20; Hadassah-Bnai Zion-American Jewish League for Israel, 48; Zionist Organization of America, 12; Students for Israel, 0; Association of Reform Zionists of America, 33; Herut, 9; Americans for a Progressive Israel, 1; Religious Zionists Association, 14; and Labor, 15.
The two other justices serving on the Zionist Supreme Court were Judge Asher Felix Landau and Judge Zvi Cohen. The panel delivered its ruling at the headquarters of the American Zionist Federation.