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Zionist Movement Sharply Criticized by Eshkol at Actions Committee

January 9, 1967
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An attack on leaders of the Zionist movement, which reminded listeners of similar attacks made by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, was voiced here tonight by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol at the opening session of the Zionist Actions Committee, which is the highest ruling body of the Zionist movement between World Zionist Congresses. More than 2,000 guests attended the opening session which was also addressed by Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the WZO, and Jacob Tsur, chairman of the Actions Committee.

The Zionist movement, Premier Eshkol said, had passed many fine resolutions which included encouragement of immigration and of Jewish learning. But what had the Zionist movement done to implement these resolutions? Most immigrants come even now from countries where no Zionist movement exists. They were drawn to Israel by factors which have not been inspired by Zionist efforts, including the very existence of the State of Israel.

The Premier cited the fact that of the many tens of thousands of Jewish students, only about 2,000 have reached Israel. He expressed the opinion that even this small number of students were not always influenced by the Zionist movement in the countries from where they came. He also charged leaders of the Zionist movement with “doing little” to expand the network of Jewish day schools and to further Jewish education in their countries. “If Zionist leaders would devote their energy to implementing their own resolutions, then there might be moral force in the advices they are dispensing freely,” Mr. Eshkol said.

Declaring that the existing covenant between the Israel Government and the Jewish Agency loses its meaning unless it is backed by deeds, the Premier said that it is useless just to mention the existence of such a covenant which provides for formal recognition by the Israel Government of the rights of the Jewish Agency. “There has been much criticism of the Zionist movement and it is in your power to refute it,” he told the 107 voting members of the Actions Committee and the 28 “virilist” members who have no voting right.


Dr. Goldmann, in his opening address, said that the present crisis which is now developing in Israel is the worst the country faced during the 18 years of its existence, but the moral and psychological aspects of this crisis are its most disturbing feature.

Criticism in Israel, the president of the World Zionist Organization declared, is enormously exaggerated; the Israeli press is bringing only negative sides of the picture; the population is engaged in proliferating jokes unworthy of the great Jewish sense of humor. “These jokes,” Dr. Goldmann stressed, “are neither funny nor gentle — they are horrid.”

The situation in Israel today, Dr. Goldmann continued, is a result of policies of all previous governments and the blame cannot, therefore, be put on one or another party. The halting of Israel’s economic boom was inevitable and must be borne with good grace, he stated. He emphasized that “at this hour, the Zionist movement, which had founded the State of Israel has a right to advise and cheer up Israel.” He called for solidarity and stressed the fact that Israel is one of the greatest achievements of all mankind.


Turning to the situation in Germany, Dr. Goldmann said the rise of the National Democratic Party in West Germany — which is classified as a neo-Nazi party — cannot be considered a Jewish problem because there are not many Jews today in Germany, but should be a problem for the whole democratic world. At the same time be advised against ignoring Germany because of personal feelings of some individuals.

As long as these feelings remain personal, he declared, they should be accorded every respect, however they should not be exploited for political purposes. He cited the fact that the same people who accept personal restitution payments from Germany often vilify those who execute the difficult task of protecting Jewish interests in their contact with Germans. The Zionist Congress and the Israel Parliament, he pointed out, have decided to recognize Germany, adding that it must be taken also into consideration that Germany has contributed much to Israel’s strength.

Analyzing the Soviet policy on Jews, Dr. Goldmann said that Soviet Jewry is in danger of annihilation because of forced assimilation. Protests by Jewish organizations in various countries, he stressed, have aroused world opinion to the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union and have brought some results, such as the publication of a Yiddish journal, the publication of some Yiddish books, and the translation and publication of Israeli poetry. However, he pointed out, these meager results show only a slight progress, while world Jewry will not be satisfied until the Jews in the Soviet Union are given equal rights with all other elements of the population in the USSR.

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