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Fund-raising Drive for Settlers Sparks Fire Within Jewish Agency

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A fund-raising drive for Israeli settlers in the administered territories has sparked a clash among leaders of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization.

At the center of the controversy is Jacques Kupfer, a member of the WZO’s executive committee and chairman of the French Zionist group affiliated with Israel’s Likud opposition party.

According to a Jewish Agency spokesman, Kupfer distributed more than 30,000 leaflets on behalf of the French campaign for the settlers, who are opposed to Israel’s accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Jewish Agency is the chief recipient of funds raised for Israel by the United Jewish Appeal and its global counterpart, Keren Hayesod. Half of the Jewish Agency leadership consists of leaders and representatives of the WZO.

At a heated meeting of the WZO’s executive committee Monday, Kupfer was charged with undermining the organization by calling for contributions to an alternative campaign that would drain money from the UJA and Keren Hayesod.

Making the charge were two members of the executive committee from the Labor Party, Uri Gordon and Yehiel Leket.

They said it was impossible for Kupfer to continue to represent a Zionist institution while going against it, the Jewish Agency spokesman said.

According to the spokesman, Kupfer’s fund-raising material warned: “Israel and Jerusalem are in danger. If you want to ensure that your money is not going to reach the PLO, contribute to the Fund for Saving Israel.”

‘NO CONTRADICTION’ TO AID SETTLERS

Some settlers have called on world Jewry to oppose the Israeli government’s accord with the PLO by boycotting the UJA.

The UJA and the Jewish Agency are not spending money on economic development activities with the Palestinians and the PLO.

Critics of the Israeli-Palestinian accord, however, argue that philanthropic activities approved by the Israeli government free state money for other activities — among them implementing the accord.

Kupfer was vehemently defended by a Likud supporter on the executive committee, Shlomo Gravetz.

It was perfectly legitimate to raise funds for the settlers in the face of the government’s failure to stand by them, Gravetz said, and there was no contradiction between that and raising money for UJA.

Gravetz said that as far as he knew, Kupfer never told people not to give to UJA.

“The sacred mechanism to support the state of Israel is the regular campaign, either UJA or Keren Hayesod,” said Gravetz, “and there is no way Likud will ever say don’t give money to this.

“On the other hand,” he said, “as a result of the government’s policies (with regard to the) settlers in Judea and Samaria, there is a real problem there, both economically and spiritually.”

The Likud believes in the duty to support them, he said.

“There is no contradiction whatsoever in assisting the regular campaign and giving some money to benefit the settlers,” he continued. He called the incident part of a continuing effort by the Labor Party, “probably in cooperation with the government,” to delegitimize the settlers.

At the suggestion of Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the Jewish Agency and the WZO, Gravetz has requested a letter from Kupfer that clarifies his position and states that he did not intend to undermine the UJA.

In New York, UJA Executive Vice President Brian Lurie said that despite “rumblings here in New York City” about boycotting the UJA, the annual campaign is up 7 percent over last year. He attributes part of the increase to optimism resulting from the peace process.

(Contributing to this report was JTA staff writer Larry Yudelson in New York.)

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