As if we don’t have enough trouble with the enemies of Zionism, Jewish infighting appeared to have reached a low point at last week’s meeting in Jerusalem of the World Zionist Congress.
Here’s what a few delegates had to say about what they experienced at the congress, which sets policy for the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization (don’t ask me what they actually do):
From Jacob Wytworkink and Liam Getreu, in the Jerusalem Post:
Both sides of the aisle engaged in a style of debate that would have disappointed Herzl and the other great leaders of our movement.
After hours of debating and voting on Zionist education, aliya and youth leadership, the question of the US-Israel relationship was raised, and the possibility of the World Zionist Organization calling for a total freeze on construction in the territories. This controversial vote – an issue we passionately disagree with each other on – prompted the right-wing bloc to storm the stage and denounce the body as undemocratic.
It was unfortunate to see that the Left responded in kind, with dozens of people on stage yelling, screaming and name-calling. Microphones were snatched, the stage was exploited for partisan bickering, and it seemed as though the next step would involve punches being thrown. The entire plenary had descended into chaos; it was hardly what either of us had expected from our first congress.
From Rabbi Gerald Skolnik, in the N.Y. Jewish Week:
One would think that, given what is going on now in the world regarding Israel, this might be a golden opportunity for Zionists from around the world to come together and express solidarity with Israel, and to give serious thought to what it means to be a Zionist when the rest of the world vilifies Israel. I didn’t see too much of that. What I saw was a lot of proverbial mudslinging…
At one point, I literally walked out of the proceedings, because I realized that being there was actually doing spiritual harm to my feelings about Jews and Israel, and that surely isn’t why I went to Israel. I went to feel proud of being a Zionist, and to meet and work with others who are committed to what I consider to be a sacred cause, at a very critical time for Israel. I wouldn’t say that I lost my Zionism there; God forbid. I can’t imagine that happening- ever. But it certainly wasn’t my proudest moment as a Zionist, or as a Jew.
Hadar Susskind of J Street saw things otherwise:
Originally asked to serve as Vice Chair of the Settlement Committee at the Congress, I was promoted to the role of Chair when the previous Chair of the Committee (who was part of Avigdor Lieberman’s party’s delegation) quit when confronted with a much broader range of views in the room than he and his allies on the right had expected. He took a number of his political associates with him.
Despite the rancor that resulted in the Chair’s departure, what followed adhered to the best ideals of what Theodore Herzl had hoped the Congress would represent — a full and reasoned conversation about how to carry out our people’s dream for a state of our own in our historic homeland.