Zionist Congress Defines Tasks of Movement; Asks for Special Status in Israel
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Zionist Congress Defines Tasks of Movement; Asks for Special Status in Israel

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The 23rd World Zionist Congress completed its major work today by adoption of a declaration defining the tasks of Zionism and unanimous adoption of a resolution calling on the State of Israel to grant the World Zionist Organization special status in Israel as the representative of the Jewish people in all matters relating to their participation in the upbuilding of the Jewish State.

The resolution also asked for consultative status on activities conducted in the interests of the state in Jewish communities outside Israel. The Congress left for future determination promulgation of a new “Jerusalem Program redefining the ultimate aims of the Zionist movement.”

Adoption of the statement, “The Tasks of Zionism,” was marked by heated controversy as right and left-wing elements combined in an attempt to force the Congress to adopt a maximalist position.

The declaration, adopted by the Congress by a vote of 286-o, with the right-wing Herut Party abstaining, declares that “the task of Zionism is the strengthening of the State of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles in Eretz Israel and the fostering of the unity of the Jewish people.” The statement declares that the program of work of the World Zionist Organization shall be:

1. Encouragement, absorption and integration of immigrants and Youth Aliyah, stimulation of settlement and of economic development, acquisition and development of land as the property of the people.

2. Intensive work for haluziut (pioneering) and hachshara (pioneer training).

3. Effort on a large scale for the mobilization of funds for the purpose of carrying out the tasks of Zionism. Encouragement of private capital investment.

4. Fostering of Jewish consciousness by the propagation of the Zionist idea and the strengthening of the Zionist movement, imparting the values of Judaism, Hebrew education and the spread of the Hebrew language and mobilization of world opinion for Israel and Judaism.

5. Participation in the effort to organize and intensify Jewish life on a democratic basis and maintenance and defense of Jewish rights.

The declaration was based on a formula proposed by Dr. Nahum Goldmann. The Revisionists and Herut delegates on one hand and Mapam delegates on the other, launched an offensive against the majority statement of the tasks of the Zionist movement. Maximalist demands that this task be described as “the redemption of the Jewish people through the ingathering of exiles” had been deleted from the declaration. The majority proposal listed the “ingathering of exiles” as one of the three fundamental tasks of Zionism but without describing it as the instrument for the redemption of the Jewish people.

This same controversy had raged for six days in the Congress’ Commission on Fundamental Problems, largely because of the opposition of many American and British Commonwealth delegates, crossing party lines, who objected to the implication of the maximalist demand that the Jews of those countries are also exiles.


Ezra Shapiro, of Cleveland, chairman of the Commission on Fundamental Problems which submitted the majority resolution to the Congress, said that within the Commission, there had been unanimity almost from the first on the question of special status in Israel for the Zionist movement but that this had not been the case with regard to the “Jerusalem Program.”

It was finally decided to abandon the attempt to draw up a statement of ultimate aims of the movement, he said, and concentrate on a statement of the tasks. It was also decided, he said, to draw up a statement of the areas of work confronting the Zionist movement for submission to the Congress. A third decision, for a call to Jews throughout the world to rally In carrying out these tasks, he said, had been referred by the Commission to the new executive to be elected by the Congress.

Dr. Itzhak Gruenbaum asked, after the vote had been taken, whether the tasks of the Zionist movement would be listed on the shekel, the certificate entitling holders to vote for delegates to the World Zionist Congress. Dr. Goldmann, president of the Congress, replied in the negative since, he said, this formula was the task and not the aim of the Zionist movement. The Basle Program, adopted by the first Congress in 1897, would remain on the shekel, he said.

Dr. Goldman then explained that personally he was for the redemption of the Jewish people as the true aim of Zionism but the Congress had shown statesmanship by avoiding a definition of aims, which was longer and more difficult, and concentrating, instead, on tasks. The debate on the aims of the movement, he said, could continue until a fortunate formula were found.

Three years after the establishment of the Jewish State, he stated, it was not yet possible to formulate the ultimate aims of the Zionist movement and these could not be formulated by a majority vote. “There is nothing to be ashamed of,” he added. “The controversy and debate was wholesome and useful. We accomplished a great job. American Jews have always been asked for money and came through beautifully. Now we shall ask them for children and I am confident they will come through after much education and effort.”


In the debate on the statement of tasks of the Zionist movement, Dr. Gruenbaum charged that the majority proposal was a “cancellation” of Zionism. The majority proposal, if labelled “tasks of the Zionist movement,” he said, might be “half-acceptable” but it is a “cancellation of Zionism” when it is described as the task of Zionism as such. Zionism has not been achieved, territorially or democratically, he said, so long as less than 2,000,000 Jews lived in Israel and 10,000,000 were still

Meir Grossman, Revisionist leader, in an attack on the majority proposal said that the Jewish world, which had been awaiting a statement of aims and program would not be impressed by a statement of tasks. Addressing himself to the American delegates, he said: “Why are you afraid to query Jews and non-Jews on the aims of Zionism and its final fulfillment? No one will charge you with disloyalty. Why hide behind words?”

A strong attack on the proposal was made by Eliezar Peri, Mapam spokesman, who said that his party would vote for the majority proposal if its own amendment were defeated, in order to advance the Zionist cause. He complained, however, that the majority failure to state the aim of Zionism to be the redemption of the Jewish people was a “reduction of the image of Zionism. Just as the Basle Program was revolutionary, he added, so must an equally revolutionary program emerge from the Jerusalem Congress.


The Congress adopted a series of resolutions dealing with Jewish education and culture, pointing out that “these cultural activities shall be based on the spiritual inheritance of the Jewish people and upon the values of halutziut (pioneering) and its personal realization in Israel.”

The program outlined in the resolution for the Jewish Agency Department of Education and Culture for the next year includes the training of teachers for overseas countries, establishment of model educational institutions in various overseas countries, stimulation of public interest in establishment of Hebrew day schools, Hebrew summer camps for children to be established in Israel and overseas, and the establishment, in cooperation with the Israeli Government, of an “institute for Israeli culture” to serve as a cultural link between Israel and Jewish community overseas.

The Congress expressed the wish that in schools where Yiddish is taught along with Hebrew, “this language should also be used for the purpose of inculcating Jewish raluss and promoting knowledge of the people and land of Israel.” The Congress voiced ### appreciation to Dr. Chaim Greenberg, of New York, the head of the Jewish Agency’s education and culture department, to his staff and to the staff of the Kol Zion Laonla, Jewish Agency broadcasting services from Israel.

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