Deir Yassin Remembered

(Continued from page one . . . )

Member Organizations of the World Unions

The World Unions include all of the various political parties in the State of Israel. There is no political party in the state of Israel which may run on an anti-Zionist program. None. Not Meretz or any of the Communist parties or any of the combined Jewish-Arab political parties. Professor Israel Shahak states, "The principle of Israel as a Jewish State was supremely important to Israeli politicians from the inception of the state and was inculcated into the Jewish population by all conceivable ways. When in the early 1980s, a tiny minority of Israeli Jews emerged which opposed this concept, a Constitutional Law (here he means a Basic Law, since Israel has no constitution bf), was passed in 1985 by an enormous majority of the Knesset. By this law no party whose programme openly opposes the principle of a Jewish state , or proposes to change it by democratic means, is allowed to participate in the elections to the Knesset." (emphasis mine). Shahak is adamantly opposed to this law on principle. He continues, "I myself strongly oppose this constitutional principle. The legal consequence for me is that I cannot belong, in this state of which I am a citizen, to a party having principles with which I would agree and which is allowed to participate in Knesset elections." (Jewish History, Jewish Religion, by Israel Shahak. Pluto Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1994. p. 3).

Additional member organizations are The World Confederation of United Zionists, which in the USA is composed of Hadassah, The American Jewish League and B'nei Zion.

At the beginning of this paper, I deliberately put in a quote from a film called The Manchurian Candidate, which addressed the issue of the psychological conditioning of an individual, more commonly known as "brainwashing". Hadassah is in fact the largest Zionist organization in the world in numbers of people as dues paying members. The women and men who are members of either Hadassah or Hadassah Associates, the men's group, understand the organization to be an organization that is concerned with charity and with health maintenance through support of certain hospital programs. And this is true. Many however, as I mentioned in the anecdote I told before, are completely unaware of the Zionist nature, or the Zionist program of the organization. I'd just like to say at this point that I bear no personal animus towards the women who join Hadassah, and please don't think I'm picking on Hadassah. I'm using that organization, which is one of the members of the World Union, as an example because it has "name brand" association, and it is as I said the largest Zionist organization. All of the organizations have mission statements in which parts of either the Jerusalem Program or the Duties of the Individual Zionist, are articulated.

In it's mission statement, Hadassah states, "Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. Members are motivated and inspired to strengthen their partnership with Israel, ensure Jewish continuity; and realize their potential as a dynamic force in American society. Founded in 1912 (by) Henrietta Szold, dedicated to Judaism, Zionism, AND the American Ideal." Here one might want to question the nexus between Zionism and the "American ideal", however as many have found out, it is best not to. The mission statement continues that Hadassah is "committed to the centrality of Israel promotes the unity of the Jewish people enhances the quality of American and Jewish life through its education and Zionist youth programs. "

Hadassah has an online newsroom in which one is free to view its Press Releases.

Among the most recent ones were "10/26/99 Hadassah Urges Congress to Include Wye Funding in Foreign Aid", and "9/14/99 Hadassah Urges Disney Not to Cancel Israeli Exhibit at Epcot", and my own personal favorite, "5/25/99, Bridging the Gap: Egyptian, Jordanian and Moroccan Dentists in Israel."

Included in its projects are the JNF and Youth Aliyah, Israel Bonds, Major Gifts, Planned Giving and Estates, Project Fund Raising and Partnership with Israel Children's Books.

The Men's Auxiliary, Hadassah associates was created in 1966, "to financially support medical development at the Hadassah Medical Organization". In 1994, the National Committee of H. A.'s was formed to "encourage men to take a more activist role in increasing enrollment and fundraising activities". The membership is listed at 25,000 and aside from the medical and healthcare aspects, Hadassah Associates is defined as being involved in the following area, "Youth programming for Young Judea and Youth Aliyah."

Now if a man enrolls as an Associate he receives the following benefits:

handsome Associate pen set and lapel pin"

"Hadassah magazine, upon request"

"The Advisor", the Associates newsletter"

"Insurance Plan tailored especially to Hadassah Associates."

Undoubtedly the offer of a free pen is tempting. I haven t been given a pen as a present since my Bar Mitzvah. Yet in truth the real reason that most people join Hadassah is their comprehensive insurance plan. This happens to be a very smart thing on the part of the organization, because there are of course many people in the US who are either uninsured or underinsured for health care. Hadassah does much of its work in the field of health related issues, and the simple fact is that many people join Hadassah, in order to take advantage of this. That in fact is their sole relationship with Hadassah. Yet by joining, they are defined under the rules, as Zionists. One of the ways in which the WZO has been attempting to put forth its agenda, which is the maintenance of The State of Israel as a Jewish State, a supranational state to which anyone in the world who is Jewish (with a few exceptions) may claim immediate citizenship, and to foster an attachment to the philosophy of Political Zionism among Jews has been to blatantly use Hebrew terminology from the religion of Judaism. Although, some people equate Zionist philosophy with the Jewish religion, they are in no way coterminous. Furthermore, as a reaction to the UN General Assembly Resolution which called Zionism a form of Racism, the 29th ZC reacted by declaring Zionism as "the liberation movement of the Jewish People", and affirmed that the State of Israel was the central entity of "The Jewish People". TERMINOLOGY I believe that words have power. It is obvious that the founders of the WZO the vast majority of whom were secular believed the same thing. The majority of these early Zionists, found Judaism anathema, and as the Basel Program of 1897 stated, "the aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law". Yet in order to gain acceptance among the Jewish community at large, it would be necessary to somehow equate Zionism with Judaism. This was initially done and is still done through the power of language.

Let's examine some of these words and phrases.

"The Jewish People" Humpty Dumpty was right. When you make a word, or phrase, mean that much, you should pay it extra. What is "The Jewish People"? On a number of occasions, most notably in the case of Brother Daniel, the Israeli supreme court had to decide "Who is a Jew?", a conundrum that rears its head in the Jewish state every decade or so. The key battle going on in Israel at the current time is not only who is a Jew, but more importantly as far as the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements in North America are concerned, "Who is a Rabbi?" The Knesset recently had to amend the Law of Return because Israel found itself in the uncomfortable position of even defining for itself "Who is an Israeli?" This was a result of the Sheinbein extradition case. Just to recall this recent event Israel refused to return to the United States, and specifically to the State of Maryland, a young man accused of brutally murdering an acquaintance of his. To avoid prosecution in the United States, his father, who had been born in Mandate Palestine but left just after the establishment of the State of Israel, had him flee to Israel for asylum under the Law of Return. The Sheinbein youth was born in the United States, had never been to Israel, never spoke Hebrew and was never an active participant in any particularly Jewish activities. Yet because of a loophole in a Basic Law of Israel which is discriminatory on its face, the request for extradition was refused. He was tried and convicted in Israel after confessing to the murder and is now in an Israeli prison. All legal experts agree that the sentence meted out for this premeditated murder and subsequent dismemberment was far less severe than what would have been handed down in Maryland, the proper venue for trial. This matter severely strained relations between Israel and the United States, pointed out the absurdities inherent in The Law of Return, and as a result the loophole was closed.

Now, whether one accepts the Hebrew Bible, The Tenakh, as myth or truth, one sees that "The Jewish People" as a corporate entity were a relatively recent development. None of the people in the stories of the book of Genesis were Jews, not Adam or Eve, Noah or any of his sons, no one on the list of those who were begat and those who were begotten, and not even Abraham. Abraham was the first Hebrew, he was not a Jew. Moses and all of those who left with him from Egypt during the Exodus as described in the book of the same name, were either Hebrews or people who followed along with the Hebrews. At the time in the Bible of Saul, David and Solomon, the Hebrew tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were Israelites. David was a Judean, and for a brief span of less than 100 years, he and his successor King Solomon, his son, united the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. When the northern Israelite tribes were "lost" after conquest by the Assyrians, the remaining southern kingdom comprised of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin were the only ones left in any kind of autonomy. When the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple in Jerusalem and expelled many of the inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah, those who wound up in "Babylonian Captivity" became known as JEWS. From that time on, with a brief intercession by the Hasmoneans, also known as the Maccabees, defining Jewish as a nationality became more and more tenuous, and those who were defined as Jews were those who maintained the Jewish religion, as opposed to the dominant religion of Christianity and later, Islam. Of course, throughout history, many Jews converted to other religions, and were no longer Jewish people, but became Christian people or Muslim people or even pagans.

Even in the independent central Asian kingdom of Khazaria, which existed for more than three hundred years from the 8th through the 11th Centuries, where the King and his court adopted Judaism as the official state religion, and many of the common people did as well, the nationality was that of Khazar while the professed official state religion was Judaism.

Traditionally, Jewish people were those who were segregated from mainstream societies when these things occurred, not because of an ethnicity but because of a profession of faith. By any definition of what constitutes an ethnic group, certainly Northern and Eastern European Jews, the Ashkenazim differ in many ways from the Iberian Jews and the Arab Jews, the Sephardim, and are entirely different from the small groupings of Indian and Chinese Jews and certainly from Ethiopian Jews, formerly known as the falasha, which is actually a pejorative term.

The early Zionists certainly recognized that the Jews were not a nation, for their intent was to reconstitute a Jewish state, a nation for Jews. Jabotinsky referred to "the new Jew", the Hebrew, as distinct from those he found around him in Russia whom he derogatively referred to as "Yids". One of the historical problems with the concept is that in the East, in the Russian empire, and subsequently in the Soviet Union, Jews were in fact considered a nationality within the empire by the state. Since many of the early Zionists, perhaps a majority, were from Russia, the idea of the Jews as a people or a nationality was carried with them to Palestine. Prior to the French Revolution and even during the increase in the racist form of Jew hatred of the 19th Century, "the Jewish People" were considered to be "those of the Hebrew religion" as they were referred to in Polite Society. Indeed, a proposal to change the name of the Reform movement in the United States and Canada from its 19th Century designation as The Union of American HEBREW Congregations was turned down at a past biennial convention.

In the original Pittsburgh Platform of the UAHC, of 1885, it states, "we consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron (meaning the Levitical priests), nor the restoration of any of the laws (those found in the book of Leviticus) concerning the Jewish state."

And yet, in his seminal work, Der Judenstaat, Herzl asserted the Zionist dogma that "We are a people One People". Ein Volk. Volkism, Herenvolkism.

In an essay titled "Zionist Ideology: Obstacle To Peace", Rabbi Elmer Berger goes into great depth over the concept of "Jewish People" vs. "THE Jewish People". This essay can be found in the book Anti-Zionism, Analytical Reflections edited by Roselle Tekiner and Norton Mezvinsky.

After a warmly received presentation which I gave at the East Meadow Jewish Center on Long Island, a man who stated he had lived in Israel for over twenty years asked me a question. He prefaced it by saying that he had listened to everything I had said, and that I was knowledgeable but that "I was completely wrong". He then proceeded to ask me, "Are the Jews a nation, or a religion?" Well, since he gave me a choice, I took a guess, I replied "A religion?" "You are wrong" he answered. So I then asked "Then why are we in a synagogue?"

aliyah The word "aliyah" is not a neutral term, such as the word for which it substitutes, "immigration". Rather the word aliyah is a loaded term, deliberately picked for its religious significance. Aliyah literally means "to go up" or "to ascend". It is taken from the common ritual practice in synagogues around the world, where an individual is accorded the honor of being "given an aliyah (pronounced here ah-LEE-a, as opposed to the immigration term pronounced AL-eee-YAH)" which is to go up to the bima (the raised platform in the sanctuary) and read from the Torah scroll (the five books of Moses). This ascent to read from the Torah is of course an honor in a religious setting. The person making the aliyah is an "olim."

Yerida by contrast, emigration from Israel is this, and "yordim" or emigrants are looked down upon in certain circles as being deserters to "the cause". Now in synagogue the phrase is a neutral term, and merely refers to what one does after having said the requisite prayers during the aliyah. At the current time, the estimate is that there are at least 500-750 thousand "Yordim" in the world, or in real terms about 1/10 of Israel's Jewish population, which in fact, the government counts IN its census.

Keren Kayemeth L Israel (The following is taken from the book, The Jewish National Fund by Walter Lehn with Uri Davis, p.24) The KKL is in fact the same thing that the rest of the world knows as The Jewish National Fund. That of course is the organization which most people think exists merely to engage in the forestation of Israel. This notion will be disabused later on. There is however a religious significance to the Hebrew phrase for the fund, which is not a direct translation. Lehn and Davis state, "the name of the JNF warrants fuller notice. The English Jewish National Fund and the German Juedische Nationalfonds are clearly translation equivalents; similarly in other languages, except Hebrew. In Hebrew the name is qeren qayemet le-yisrael, popularly transliterated Keren Kayemet L Yisrael, or (by the JNF) Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (hence the abbreviation KKL, also found in the literature), which means "Perpetual Fund/Capital for Israel", thus not a translation of the name in other languages. The Hebrew phrase qeren qayemet was taken from one of the prayers for the daily morning service, beginning with elu devarim, these are the things, and listing deeds of which the performance yields rewards for the doer both in this life and in the life to come; the reward in this life is the interest , while the principal remains (ha-qeren qayemet) as a reward in the hereafter. For the Orthodox Jew, this association helps to mask the secular and national objectives of the JNF" which will be discussed later.

The three Israels When one speaks of "Israel" what is one speaking of? Zionists take pains to make sure that the concept of the three Israels merges into one.

  1. Am Yisrael "The People Israel" Briefly, Jews. Those people who claim religious descent either by birth or by conversion, to the patriarch Jacob, who was renamed after the nocturnal wrestling match with the angel of God. Israel means "God wrestler".

  2. Eretz Israel "The Land of Israel," the biblical "Promised Land" which God promised first to Abraham and then to succeeding patriarchs culminating with the prophet Moses. The extent of the Promised Land is a matter of much contention, with some maximalists maintaining that it extends from "the Nile to the Euphrates".

  3. Medinat Israel "The (Modern) State of Israel" created on May 15th 1948 by the Declaration of Establishment using as its pretext UNGA resolution 181( Partition Plan) of Nov. 29th 1947. These three "Israels" are delineated in the D of E. of May 14th 1948 which states in its opening paragraph: " ERETZ-ISRAEL was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books" and continues, "On the 29th November, 1947, the UNGA passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel this recognition by the UN of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable." Thus "ACCORDINGLY WE, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE'S COUNCIL, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ERETZ-ISRAEL .BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL".

One can observe how all of the above religious notions become intermixed with purely nationalist notions, in "The Jerusalem Program", the adherence of which is required by all organizations desiring membership in the WZO, and "The Duties of the Individual Zionist" declaration.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, the function of the WZO as the Jewish Agency for the Yeshuv needed to be redefined since the state now assumed the functions which had been heretofore conducted by the JA within Palestine on behalf of the Jewish community there. In order to facilitate this new relationship between the State and the WZO/JA it was necessary to establish two laws in Israel,

  1. 1952 BASIC LAW: WZO/JA STATUS LAW - "The State of Israel recognizes the WZO and the JA as the authorized agencies which will continue to operate in the state of Israel for the development of settlement of the country, the absorption of immigrants from the Diaspora and coordination of activities"



We are discussing the structure of the WZO, but what in fact is the WZO? The entry in The Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel (Herzl Press and MacMillan 1971) states that the WZO is the "Worldwide official organization of the (Zionist) movement, founded on the initiative of Herzl at the 1st ZC .Originally known as the Zionist Organization (ZO), it came to be called the WZO, which name was officially adopted in 1960" at the time of formulation of its own constitution.

The WZO itself gives a slightly different definition on its own website which is much more politically charged. That document states that "The WZO was the main instrument of THE JEWISH PEOPLE on the road to the ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL. Until the establishment of the State, The Zionist Executive acted as the government in the making . It worked for THE REBIRTH OF JEWISH NATIONALITY within the Jewish people, and in the field of ALIYAH and JEWISH SETTLEMENT in ERETZ ISRAEL. It also conducted an extensive campaign among world statesmen in order to obtain political recognition for the Zionist aims. Its efforts led to the publication of THE BALFOUR DECLARATION in 1917, in which the British Government expressed its sympathy for the Zionist aspiration regarding the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, and to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948."

Now with the exception of that last phrase in the last sentence with regard to the Balfour Declaration, both descriptions are accurate to a degree, with the former being a bit more objective than the latter. Both definitions studiously omit for the casual reader, the legal relationship between the WZO/JA and the government of the state of Israel. With regard to the latter, it should be noted that there are certain concepts incorporated within the self-description which are subject to debate, discussion and analysis. These concepts include (a) The Jewish People (b) Jewish Nationality (c) Aliyah (d) Eretz Israel.

A full discussion and analysis of these four concepts, although touched upon, is once again beyond the scope of this paper. The concept of "The Jewish People" as a corporate entity is fully discussed in an essay by Rabbi Elmer Berger titled "Zionist Ideology: Obstacle to Peace" which may be found in a collection of essays in a book entitled Anti-Zionism, Analytical Reflections (ed. by Tekiner, Abed-Rabbo and Mezvinsky. Amana Books, 1988). This concept is also considered in the work by W. T. Mallison Jr., Prof. of International Law at Georgetown U., in his book The Palestine Problem in International Law and World Order published by Longman in 1986.

The concept of a Jewish nationality as an international polity may also be found in the above mentioned works, and additionally in the following:

JUDAISM OR JEWISH NATIONALISM, by Elmer Berger (Bookman Assoc., 1957); JEWISH STATE OR ISRAELI NATION?, by Boas Evron (Indiana U. Press, 1995) and, THE CONTROVERSY OF ZION, Jewish Nationalism, The Jewish State, and the Unresolved Jewish Dilemma, by Geoffrey Wheatcroft (Addison-Wesley, 1996).

The last two concepts defined by the WZO, ALIYAH, and ERETZ ISRAEL, are loaded terms as previously mentioned and go to the heart of this presentation on the effect of the WZO on Jews and the religion of Judaism. Both terms are religious terms, and although Political Zionism was never a religious movement, it has adopted much terminology from Judaism in order to legitimize itself in the eyes of Jews.

The WZO ,deliberately uses religious terminology and attempts to establish them as "facts on the ground", in the same way that the State of Israel has used that phrase in its continuing aggrandizement over all of the land of the former Palestine Mandate.

As for the Balfour Declaration itself, which is regarded as the international document which was sought by Herzl and the Zionists as recognition of the above concepts to establish a legitimacy over the claim to Palestine; "sympathy" is a bit disingenuous. In the actual wording of the Declaration, "His Majesty's government VIEW WITH FAVOUR, the establishment in Palestine of A national home". The British government never "viewed with favour" the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. As a matter of fact, when the matter was voted upon, in the form of UNGA resolution 181, at the two-year-old United Nations, The United Kingdom pointedly abstained from the vote. Moreover within the Balfour declaration itself are two caveats, which Zionists often like to overlook:

{a} "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or

{b} the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country".

In 1897, the Zionist Organization defined itself as "the body comprising all Jews who accept the Zionist Program (as spelled out in the Basel Program at the 1st Zionist congress)". Note that in 1897, the ZO defined Jews as Jews and not as The Jewish People.

The concept of forming a Zionist organization was put forth at the Basle Congress by Max Bodenheimer (1865-1940), a lawyer from Cologne, Germany and a supporter of Herzl. On 8/30 he made a speech to the Congress in which he outlined organizational, financial and administrative suggestions in detail, including the suggestion of the formation of a bank. (The Jewish National Fund Walter Lehn & Uris Davis, 1988 Keegan Paul, p.16)

Lehn and Davis state that "Bodenheimer's insistence on the establishment of a Zionist organization and a Jewish bank as the first order of business was clearly in line with Herzl's ideas. In Der Judenstaat, Herzl had forseen the need for two executive agencies: a Society of Jews and a Jewish Company, the former eventually realized as the WZO and the latter as a bank, the Jewish Colonial Trust Ltd." (ibid)

Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism was the first president of the WZO from 1897 until his death in 1904 at the age of 44. During his tenure, The Jewish Colonial Trust was established (1899) as well as the JNF/KKL (1901). During his tenure the first of the "World Unions" was also established; the Mizrahi. At the time of its establishment in 1902, however, it was a separate union and not a part of the Zionist Territorial Unions, the Zionist roof organizations, uniting all Zionist groupings within each country.

David Wolffsohn succeeded Herzl as the second president of the ZO, from 1904 to 1911, and the seat of the ZO was transferred to Cologne, where Wolffson resided. During Wolffsohn's tenure, The Palestine Office was established in Jaffa, as well as the Palestine Development Corporation, both under the control of one of the members of the Zionist Executive, Arthur Ruppin. In 1907 another separate union, Po ale Zion was founded. It was in 1909, that the village of Tel Aviv was also established, next to the Arab city of Jaffa.

Otto Warburg, an international financier and banker and scion of the Warburg family, followed Wolffsohn as president. He held the position from 1911 to 1920, during which time "Practical work in Palestine" was emphasized. This practical work meant the purchasing of land and the establishment of Jewish colonies there.

The Great War, later known as WWI, brought a halt to the activities of the ZO, during its length. The head office, which became located in 1911 in Berlin was separated from the Zionists living in the Allied Countries as opposed to those living in the Central Power countries. In 1915 a liaison office was opened in neutral Holland, in Copenhagen, and in 1917 with the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, the political center of the ZO was transferred to London, where the London Zionist Conference of 1920 was held, the first gathering of the ZO after the war. At this conference large scale settlement activities were begun through the establishment of Keren HaYesod (Palestine Foundation Fund, later called The United Israel Appeal UIA) and

Chaim Weismann was elected president of the WZO, a position he held for eleven years, until 1931. Weismann again became president of the WZO from 1935-1946, thus holding the Presidency of the WZO for 22 years in total. In the interregnum Nahum Sokolow was the president of the WZO from 1931-5.

During the period of Weismann's first tenure as president of the WZO, Sokolow was the Chairman of the Zionist Executive. During Weismann's second tenure as president of the WZO, David Ben-Gurion held the position of the Chair of he Z.E. from 1935 until 1948, at which time he became the Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Weismann, of course, was to become the First President of The State of Israel, a ceremonial position, in 1948.

It is also interesting to note that at the same time that Herzl was president of the ZO from 1897 to 1904, he also simultaneously held the position of Chairman of the Zionist General Council, a feat repeated by Otto Warburg during his tenure from 1911-1920. Arthur Ruppin, who earlier was in charge of the Palestine Office/Palestine Land Development Co. became the Chair of the ZE from 1933-5.

One other name repeats itself in various positions that of Menachem Ussishkin, who held the position of Chairman of the Zionist General Council from 1935-1941, Chairman of the Eretz-Israel executive, a subdivision of the ZE from 1921-1923, and most significantly JNF/KKL chairman for twenty consecutive years from 1922 1941, in which in seven of those years he also held the position of Chairman of the ZGC.

Menachem Ussishkin is not as well known an individual as some of the others who have been mentioned and a brief capsule biography is in order at this point. He was born in Dubrovno, Russia in 1863 and died in Jerusalem in 1941. He was born into a family of pious Hasidic Jews, and received a traditional Jewish education. As a result of the 1881 pogroms he helped found the B'ne Zion society in Moscow in 1884 when he was 21 years old, which was a student association that engaged in cultural activities in the spirit of Jewish nationalism and Zionism. In 1885 he became secretary of the Moscow Hoveve Zion (Lovers of Zion) movement. He also joined a secret order known as B'ne Moshe (Sons of Moses) which was guided by Ahad Ha'am (one of the people) the founder of Cultural Zionism, whose real name was Asher Ginsberg. He visited Palestine for seven weeks in 1891 with his new bride. Ginsberg was there at the same time and published a series of articles, critical of the Jewish settlements established there by Hoveve Zion. Ussiskin at this point broke with Ginsberg.

Ginsberg, although a self-defined "Cultural Zionist", broke with the mainstream Political Zionist movement early on. In fact after the first Zionist Congress, he never attended another one. Yet six years before, based on personal observations, he published a series of essays entitled "The Truth About Palestine". Ginsberg pointed out that large tracts of untilled but arable land were unavailable, the ruling Ottoman Turks had a negative attitude towards the earlier European Jewish colonists of the first Aliyah of 1882, that Palestine was NOT uninhabited, and that the Arabs of Palestine showed no inclination or interest in leaving their homes. He was also critical of the superior attitude affected by these new colonists toward the indigenous population. He pointedly noted:

"We think that the Arabs are all savages who live like animals and do not understand what is happening around them. This is, however, a great error". He was harsh towards the colonists. Although he was perhaps unaware of it, he was comparing the attitude of the Jewish colonists to similar attitudes by the first Pilgrim colonists of North America, and the attitude of 19th century colonials in general for he further stated, based on the conviction that the viability of Jewish colonies depended on the development and maintenance of good relations with the Arabs; he further stated in an almost astonished tone, "Yet what do our brethren do in Palestine? Just the very opposite! Serfs they were in the lands of the diaspora and suddenly they find themselves in unrestricted freedom, and this change has awakened in them an inclination to despotism. They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds; and nobody among us opposes this despicable and dangerous inclination." (Selected Essays of Ahad Ha'am translated by Leon Simon. Originally published in 1912 and 1939 by the Jewish Publication Society, republished in 1981 by Atheneum.)

In the summer of 1896 Ussishkin met Herzl in Vienna, and in 1897 participated in the 1st ZC as its Hebrew Secretary. At the 2nd Zionist congress he was elected to the Actions Committee (later known as the small actions committee), a key position within the movement. From that time on he was engaged in numerous fundraising activities, propaganda, membership promotion, and banking activities on behalf of the ZO. He vehemently opposed the East Africa Scheme, which was put forth by the British Foreign Ministry, and was seriously considered by Herzl and some of his followers.

The East Africa Scheme is also popularly known as the Uganda Program, but the area where a Jewish colony was proposed was not in what is now Uganda but in what is now part of Kenya. He was the leader of the movement against this program referring to it as "a betrayal of historic Zionism", and organized a faction called Tziyone Zion which demanded that the WZO devote all its efforts to Palestine. Herzl not only backed away from the East Africa proposal but despaired of a break in the movement. After he died in 1904, the scheme was presented to the 7th Zionist congress which voted it down.

In 1906 Ussishkin became chairman of the Odessa Committee. He exerted a great influence on a number of young Russian Jews who became the nucleus of the 2nd Aliya. Under his tutelage the Odessa Committee ceased to assist individuals and rendered support to communal bodies only. It supported the establishment of worker's settlements near existing "colonies" and aided schools, and published periodicals. After the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, he went to Constantinople and set up a Zionist Office there. Because of his association with Turkey, he opposed the formation of a Jewish legion to fight against the Turks, and publicly advocated strict neutrality for Zionism.

Ussishkin was a member of the Jewish delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, and after that settled in Palestine. In 1923 after a personal falling out with Chaim Weismann, he was not re-elected to the Zionist Executive, however as a face saving measure he was elected chairman of the Executive Committee of the Jewish National Fund. Throughout his life he remained steadfast in his belief for the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. (Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, op. cit. pp. 1173-1174 vol.II)

The WZO functions under a constitution which was ratified in Jerusalem in 1992. (see

It consists of 66 Constitutional articles, some of which have been abrogated, and defines the titles and various divisions of the WZO. It also has contained within it Regulations for the Implementation of the Constitution of the WZO.

The Jewish National Fund has and still plays a major role in the aims of the WZO/JAFI through its subsidiaries which will also be discussed in detail. The JNF has been one of the main instruments through which the State of Israel has managed to keep the areas of the former Palestine under Jewish control, and by its own legal covenants, specifically excluded non-Jews from those areas. One of the subsidiaries, established in the 1930s as a means of helping German Jews to relocate, has now taken on a similar function in helping Jews to relocate to the West Bank, in violation of the Geneva IV convention and other international treaties.


Originally known in the early years as the Small Actions Committee, the ZE and the chairmanship of the ZE are to borrow a modern phrase "where the action is". The ZC, purportedly the "supreme body" of the WZO, which meets briefly, once every four to five years, elects the Chairman of the ZE and the members of the ZE. Constitutionally, the ZE is charged with conducting the affairs of the WZO in "Israel and the Diaspora". The ZE handles daily work of the Zionist movement "in the Diaspora", in the Zionist Federations, and as of 1990 with the founding of the Joint Authority for Jewish-Zionist education, administers the Departments that handle this aspect of the WZO. The ZE is divided into the following departments:

Organization and Community Relations

Information (Propaganda)

Students and Academics

Sephardi Communities

Leadership Development


The Rural Settlement Division

The Immigration and Absorption Division

The Division for Manpower Resources

The Authority for Emissaries people who go to Jewish communities around the world and encourage attachments to Israel and immigration to Israel, acting on behalf of the WZO and the JA.

The Constitution of the WZO does not establish a specific number for the members of the ZE. This is left to each ZC in turn, as it sees fit. The 32nd ZC designated in addition to the Chairman, 25 members for the Inner ZE (the former small actions committee) The inner ZE was made up of 5 members from "The Diaspora", 13 holders of portfolios, and 8 members without portfolio. Another 29 members were elected to the Extended ZE, making the total number of members 55.

Because of the obvious importance of the North American Jewish Community, although the WZO Constitution states that the seat of the ZE and its Head Office is to be in Jerusalem, relations between the ZE in Jerusalem and the ZE in the USA have been established by custom.

The Chairman of the ZE of the WZO is also the chairman of the JA executive.

From 1935 to 1948, the Chairman of the ZE was David Ben-Gurion. Thus he was during this time the chair of the executive of the Jewish Agency in Palestine (the Mandatory had designated the WZO as the Jewish Agency in Palestine), and as such was the head of the Yishuv, the Jewish Community in Palestine, which functioned as an embryonic independent government within a government. Prior to this, Ben-Gurion was one of the founders of the Histadrut (The General Federation of Labor), the giant Jewish labor union in Palestine and later in Israel, and served as the secretary general of that organization from 1921-35. With the merger of the political group within the Histadrut, Ahddut Avoda of which he was the head, and HaPo el HaTza ir in 1930, he also became the leader of the Palestine Labor Party, The Mapai. Acting in these capacities, Ben-Gurion toured the Jewish Communities in the free world during the middle of WWII, and was one of the chief proponents of the Biltmore Program of 1942, enunciated at the meeting in NY of the same name at which he was one of the attendees. It was at this meeting that the Zionist movement committed itself to the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth as its postwar political objective. Since the Mandatory was directly opposed to the "achievement of THIS object", Ben-Gurion, acting in his capacity as the head of the Yeshuv, through the ZE, authorized armed resistance to the British forces in 1946. He authorized the Hagana to mount, in cooperation with two terrorist groups, the Irgun Tz vai Leumi (ITZL) and Lohame Herut Israel (LEHI), better known to the world as "The Stern Gang", countrywide attacks on British installations in Palestine. (Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, op. cit., p. 121, Vol. 1). At appearances before both the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry of 1946 and the UNSCOP in 1947, he reiterated the demand of the Biltmore Program for a Jewish Commonwealth. It was at the 22nd ZC held in Basle in 1946, that Ben-Gurion, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, and their supporters defeated a proposal by Chaim Weizmann for further round table conferences on the issue in London as offered by the British Government. As a result of this defeat, Weizmann was not re-elected as the President of the WZO. Thus it was established that the real power within the WZO fell to the chairman of the ZE which was only one division of the WZO.

After this meeting, Ben-Gurion also became Commander-in -Chief of the Hagana, in 1948 he was the chair of the People's Council which announced the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, to which his was the first name affixed. He held the position of PM of the State of Israel, as well as the position of Minister of Defense from 1949 to Dec. 1953. In 1955 he rejoined the government as the Minister of Defense, under the PMship of Moshe Sharett, who had also signed the D of E under the former name of Shertok. After the Knesset elections of 1955, he also reassumed the post of PM as well as retaining the M. of D. portfolio until he finally retired in 1963. Moshe Sharett, himself was the Chairman of the ZE from 1961 to 1965. Other recognizable names within the government of Israel who served as chairmen of the ZE included Arye Dulzin, 1973-6, 1978-87, Simcha Dinitz, 1987-1994, and Avraham Burg.


The WZO describes the ZGC as "the supreme institution of the Zionist movement in the inter-Congress period". This means that anything that is the function of the ZC during the four or five year interregnum is left to the ZGC. It functions to receive and consider reports from the real power, the ZE. The two chief functions of the ZGC are to (a) decide on the manner in which the ZE will implement the decisions of the ZC and the ZGC when the ZC is not in session, and (b) to elect a new member to the ZE, the Presidium of the ZGC, if such a position falls vacant during the interregnum of the ZC.

(Continued . . . )

Deir Yassin Remembered

WWW Deir Yassin Remembered