The Zionist Congress Court yesterday overturned last July’s decision by the Zionist General Council not to hold elections for delegates to the 29th World Zionist Congress scheduled to open here Jan. 17. The Congress Court, headed by Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau, sharply admonished the General Council and its chairman, Labor MK Yitzhak Navon, for by-passing the democratic process.
The World Zionist Organization Executive was expected to decide by tomorrow whether to postpone the Congress in view of the court’s decision. Yosef Almogi, WZO Executive chairman, said the court order would be obeyed. WZO leaders believe the Congress cannot possibly be convened before January, 1978 if elections must be held in all 30 countries represented.
The Congress Court disagreed. It said it was not at all impossible to hold elections in the countries where they have not been held in time for the Jan. 17 opening. But, the court added, “Even if the Congress is postponed, that is the price that must be paid so that the constitution of the WZO will not be made a fraud.”
Last July, the Zionist General Council decided by a vote of 47-12 with 16 abstentions that if 90 percent of each country’s Zionist elections committee approved a single slate of delegates, elections need not take place in that country. The stated reason for the change was the cost of holding elections. The mailing and processing of ballots was estimated at $1.25 million.
MUST REMAIN A. DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT
There was strong opposition to the General Council’s decision at the time, mainly from the younger leadership of the WZO. The General Zionists abstained and it was finally agreed to waive elections only for the 29th Congress. The matter was taken to the Congress Court by the WZO’s counsel who said he had not been allowed to appear before the General Council to present legal objections to its decision. In its ruling yesterday, the Congress Court criticized Navon for refusing to hear the attorney’s legal objections.
The ruling, which was unanimous, stated that “The Zionist Movement has been a democratic movement since its beginning and its organizational tools–the WZO and its institutions–were created according to its constitution and democratic principles.”
Thus, the court warned, “A movement that ceases to move and closes itself in from whoever wants to take part in setting its directions loses its dynamism. The WZO must not become a federation of professional Zionists.” The court added that “At these times, when Zionism is attacked on all sides by the enemies of the Jewish people, it is especially important that the movement retains its image as a movement that honors democratic principles.”
Seven of the 30 countries to be represented at the next Zionist Congress decided to hold elections while 11, including the United States opted to waive them. The other countries were to have decided this month.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.