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World Zionist Congress votes on several resolutions which oppose Israeli government's judicial reforms

Three days of voting concluded yesterday

World Zionist Organization Executive Chairman Yaakov Hagoel at the 125th anniversary event for the First Zionist Congress. (Photo: World Zionist Organization)

The World Zionist Organization concluded its voting responsibility on several resolutions on Tuesday, following three days of online voting for various issues proposed during the special World Zionist Congress session in Jerusalem last month.

Several of the votes were hailed as ‘wins’ for progressive groups.

Among the proposed resolutions was one that called for preserving the Law of Return in its current form, a resolution which was reportedly intended to mildly criticize the government’s proposed judicial reforms to be more inclusive of Israel's LGBTQ community.

The World Zionist Organization (WZO) is an international group founded in 1897 at the initiative of Theodore Herzl at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. The organization was created to help establish an ancestral homeland in Israel for the Jewish community, as well as to organize World Jewry. This became especially relevant in light of differences in legal rights for Jews in various nations across the globe at the end of the 19th century.

The WZO  is composed of several Zionist groups from around the world.

Following the first Zionist Congress in Basel, as part of the organization's basic constitution it was decided that the WZO would organize a Zionist Congress at least every four years.

The World Zionist Congress, which met in Jerusalem in April, was a special gathering to accommodate its inability to meet physically during the COVID pandemic. During that meeting, it was decided to hold an online vote for three days in May regarding various resolutions proposed during the gathering.  

Most of the resolutions adopted were proposed by center-left or left-leaning factions of the Congress.

With the growing Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox political movement in Israel, which has traditionally disparaged other forms of Judaism, there was clear pushback from diaspora (worldwide) Jewish groups. Many of those groups are comprised of members from Conservative or Reform Jewish traditions.

Israel’s Ministry of Interior currently will only recognize a conversion to Orthodox Judaism. This policy has been opposed by many diaspora Jewish groups, particularly in the United States. One of the newly-adopted resolutions states that “the Zionist Congress opposes the cancellation of recognition [by the State of Israel] of Conservative and Reform conversions.”

The Zionist Congress also voted on a resolution “to remind the government of the State of Israel that Jews around the world are deeply committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, as well as the danger posed to this relationship stemming from the promotion of the government's plan to weaken the judiciary.”

While the resolution does not take a clear position on the proposed judicial reforms, it is widely seen as favoring opposition groups.

A similar resolution appeared to support the ongoing the judicial reform negotiations in its statement that “the Zionist Congress believes that change in the State of Israel's judicial structure can only happen through broad public agreement, as the outcome of true and open dialogue and as part of a process of healing social rifts across all of Israeli society.”

A right-wing member of the World Zionist Congress told the Jerusalem Post that “these resolutions are only declarative” with no legal weight, adding that “there is a Knesset in Jerusalem, and it should make the decisions on these issues.”

The WZO tends to be more politically liberal than the broader Israeli society, and the voting in the special Congress emphasized the importance of keeping dialogue between Israeli Jews and Jews of the diaspora.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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