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January 23, 2017 8:28 am

Anti-Zionism, B’Tselem and the World Zionist Organization

avatar by Matan Peleg

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Uri Zaki. Photo: Facebook.

Uri Zaki. Photo: Facebook.

In Israel, there is a critical news story that has passed beneath the radar of public awareness. Perhaps this is not a surprise, given the high visibility of the recent UN Security Council vote, John Kerry’s speech and the Elor Azaria trial verdict.

Nevertheless, this virtually unreported story is incredibly significant, and potentially damaging, to the future vitality of the state of Israel.

In the closing days of 2016, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) approved the appointment of Uri Zaki, a former director of B’Tselem USA, to a senior position in the organization’s Department for Zionist Enterprises.

Zaki’s appointment represents a microcosm of the titanic battle raging between two ideas within the WZO: the Zionist idea that strives for Jewish independence in the state of Israel; and, in opposition, an idea seeking to limit the sovereignty of the Jewish people, by encouraging foreign governments to impose their policies on Israel.

B’Tselem, the organization in which Zaki has played a prominent role, has continuously worked to undermine the Israel in every way possible, culminating this past October in the UN Security Council, when B’Tselem’s CEO urged the council members to “take action” against it. For its anti-Israel activities, B’Tselem and other groups of the same ilk have been rightfully spurned by the pro-Israel community for advancing values opposed to the aims of Zionism.

By approving Zaki’s appointment without even requiring him to issue a public renunciation of B’Tselem’s anti-Zionist policies, the WZO has astoundingly enabled radical anti-Zionism to finally gain a foothold in the mainstream Zionist circle, something it had heretofore failed to accomplish.

Ultimately, the real problem is not Uri Zaki; he is merely a symptom of it.

Today, we see an increasing and distressing trend in which organizations promoting de-legitimization of Israel partake in various WZO programs.

For example, the Herzl Museum in Jerusalem, one of the primary symbols of the WZO, encourages its visitors to volunteer with Shatil, the operating arm of the New Israel Fund (NIF). The NIF, of course, funds dozens of anti-Zionist organizations. The Herzl Museum also promotes volunteering with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, an NGO that falsely accuses Israel of violating international law, promoting “ethnically discriminatory policies” against the Bedouins in the Negev and perpetrating war crimes in Gaza.

At a time when Israel is quite literally fighting for its right to exist against those seeking to destroy it, this Zionist embrace of an anti-Israel agenda sets a very dangerous precedent. It sends a message that one can engage in a slew of anti-Israel activity, including accusing Israel of perpetrating war crimes, slandering the IDF and promoting international pressure, yet still be accepted by the Zionist movement.

This misguided and self-destructive thinking not only empowers those who work endlessly to undermine the state of Israel, but also corrodes the very fabric of the Zionist enterprise that the WZO has been so committed to nurturing and promoting.

As the organization that represents the very essence of consensual Zionist values, the WZO has a responsibility to unequivocally reject all those who de-legitimize the State of Israel. This must be a red line, and if serving as a leader in an organization that accuses Israel of apartheid policies and war crimes does not cross that red line, then what does?

Since its founding in 1897 by Theodor Herzl at the First World Zionist Congress, the WZO has been spearheaded the Zionist movement. It’s a shame that such a venerable organization fails to draw a clear and distinct line around the values that constitute its very identity.

The WZO must decide if it wants to continue promoting the Zionism of Herzl or not. If the WZO opts to continue its association with anti-Zionist organizations and forgo the Zionist values on which it was established, it will, at the very least, need to adopt a new name. Because it certainly will no longer be a Zionist organization.

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