World Zionist Organization

World Zionist Organization

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The World Zionist Organization ( HaHistadrut HaTsionit HaOlamit), or WZO, was founded as the Zionist Organization ( HaHistadrut HaTsionit), or ZO, in 1897 at the First Zionist Congress
First Zionist Congress
The First Zionist Congress was the inaugural congress of the Zionist Organization held in Basel , Switzerland, from August 29 to August 31, 1897. It was convened and chaired by Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionism movement...

, held from August 29 to August 31 in Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. It changed its name to World Zionist Organization in January 1960.

The ZO served as an umbrella organization for the Zionist
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 movement, whose objective was the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine - at that time under the Ottoman Empire and following the First World War The British Mandate of Palestine. Theodor Herzl
Theodor Herzl
Theodor Herzl , born Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl was an Ashkenazi Jew Austro-Hungarian journalist and the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the State of Israel.-Early life:...

, who with Max Nordau
Max Nordau
Max Simon Nordau , born Simon Maximilian Südfeld in Pest, Hungary, was a Zionist leader, physician, author, and social critic....

 and Zvi Shimshi, organized the first Congress, later wrote in his diary: "If I were to sum up the Congress in a word – which I shall take care not to publish – it would be this: At Basle I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it."

When the State of Israel was declared 51 years later on May 14, 1948, many of its new administrative institutions were already in place, having evolved during the regular Zionist Congresses of the previous decades. Some of these institutions remain to this day. The WZO's headquarters was permanently moved to Jerusalem, after being located over the years in capitals of Europe, including Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 and London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, and most recently in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, in the United States.

Membership and delegations


Membership in the ZO was open to all Jews, and the right to vote for delegates to the Congresses was secured by the purchase of the Zionist Shekel
Shekel
Shekel , is any of several ancient units of weight or of currency. The first usage is from Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. Initially, it may have referred to a weight of barley...

. Delegations from all around the world, and from many different political backgrounds and religious traditions, took part in each Congress; delegations/parties were mainly grouped by ideology, rather than by geography.

In 1960 the ZO changed its name to the World Zionist Organization and adopted a new constitution under which individuals are ineligible for membership, which is reserved for organizations.

Presidents of World Zionist Organization

  • Theodor Herzl
    Theodor Herzl
    Theodor Herzl , born Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl was an Ashkenazi Jew Austro-Hungarian journalist and the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the State of Israel.-Early life:...

     : (1897–1904)
  • David Wolffsohn
    David Wolffsohn
    David Wolffsohn was a Jewish businessman, prominent early Zionist and second president of the Zionist Organization .Wolffsohn was born in Darbėnai, Lithuania, to religious parents, Isaac and Feiga. He received an observant religious education from his parents and in 1872 was sent to Germany to...

     : (1905–1911)
  • Otto Warburg
    Otto Warburg (botanist)
    Otto Warburg , was a German botanist and industrial agriculture expert, as well as an active member of the Zionist Organization...

     : (1911–1921)
  • Chaim Weizmann
    Chaim Weizmann
    Chaim Azriel Weizmann, , was a Zionist leader, President of the Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on 1 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952....

     (1st time) : (1921–1931)
  • Nahum Sokolow
    Nahum Sokolow
    Nahum Sokolow was a Zionist leader, author, translator, and a pioneer of Hebrew journalism....

     : (1931–1935)
  • Chaim Weizmann
    Chaim Weizmann
    Chaim Azriel Weizmann, , was a Zionist leader, President of the Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on 1 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952....

     (2nd time) : (1935–1946)
  • David Ben-Gurion
    David Ben-Gurion
    ' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

     (acting) : (1946–1956)
  • Nahum Goldmann
    Nahum Goldmann
    Nahum Goldmann was a leading Zionist and the founder and longtime president of the World Jewish Congress.-Biography:...

     : (1956–1968)
  • Ehud Avriel
    Ehud Avriel
    Ehud Avriel was an Israeli diplomat and politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Mapai between 1955 and 1957.- Biography :Born in Vienna in Austria–Hungary, Avriel was educated at a local gymnasium...

     : (1968–1972)

Chairs of the Executive of World Zionist Organization (and the Jewish Agency for Israel)

  • Simon Greenberg
    Simon Greenberg
    Dr. Simon Greenberg, was a Russian born American Conservative rabbi and scholar. Greenberg was part of the senior management of many Jewish organizations in America. He helped to found a number of institutions, including the American Jewish University, of which he was the first President...

     (1963 - 1968)
  • Louis Arie Pincus (1968 - Oct 1973), head of the executive of WZO until 1972
  • Yitzhak Navon
    Yitzhak Navon
    Yitzhak Navon is an Israeli politician, diplomat, and author. He served as the fifth President of Israel between 1978 and 1982 as a member of the center-left Alignment party...

     (1972 - 1978), only head of the Executive of WZO
  • Aryeh Dolchin
    Aryeh Dolchin
    Arieh Dulchin was a Zionist activist who served as a Minister without Portfolio between December 1969 and August 1970, though he was never a member of the Knesset....

     (Oct 1973 - 1975), only chairman of the Jewish Agency
  • Pinhas Sapir (1975 - 12 Aug 1975), only head of the Jewish Agency
  • Aryeh Dolchin
    Aryeh Dolchin
    Arieh Dulchin was a Zionist activist who served as a Minister without Portfolio between December 1969 and August 1970, though he was never a member of the Knesset....

     (12 Aug 1975 - 6 Jan 1976), only chairman of the Jewish Agency
  • Yosef Almogi
    Yosef Almogi
    Yosef Aharon Almogi was an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset between 1955 and 1977, as well as holding several ministerial posts.-Biography:...

     (6 Jan 1976 - 1978), only chairman of the Jewish Agency
  • Aryeh Dolchin
    Aryeh Dolchin
    Arieh Dulchin was a Zionist activist who served as a Minister without Portfolio between December 1969 and August 1970, though he was never a member of the Knesset....

     (1978 - Dec 1987)
  • Simcha Dinitz
    Simcha Dinitz
    Simcha Dinitz was an Israeli statesman and politician. He served as Director General of the Prime Minister's office and political advisor to Prime Minister Golda Meir from 1969–1973, before becoming the Israeli Ambassador to the United States from 1973 to 1979...

     (Dec 1987 - 14 Feb 1994)
  • Yehiel Leket
    Yehiel Leket
    Yehiel Leket is an Israeli Zionist activist and former politician who briefly served as a member of the Knesset for the Alignment in 1977.-Biography:...

     (Feb 1994 - Feb 1995)
  • Avraham Burg
    Avraham Burg
    Avraham "Avrum" Burg is an Israeli author; he was formerly a member of the Knesset, a chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a Speaker of the Knesset.-Biography:...

     (Feb 1995 - Feb 1999)
  • Sallai Meridor
    Sallai Meridor
    Sallai Meridor is an Israeli politician. He was the Israeli Ambassador to the United States between 2005–2009, appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert...

     (25 Feb 1999 - 2005), "acting" until May 1999, then elected
  • Zeev Bielski
    Zeev Bielski
    Ze'ev Bielski is an Israeli politician who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for Kadima. He previously chaired the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization...

     (2005 - 2009)
  • Avraham Duvdevani (2010 – present)


In 2009, the positions were separated again. Natan Sharansky
Natan Sharansky
Natan Sharansky was born in Stalino, Soviet Union on 20 January 1948 to a Jewish family. He graduated with a degree in applied mathematics from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. As a child, he was a chess prodigy. He performed in simultaneous and blindfold displays, usually against...

 was elected as the head of the Jewish Agency and a new Chairman of the WZO was elected at the 36th Zionist Congress, on 15 June 2010.

Sister organizations


The finances of the WZO were conducted by the Jewish Colonial Trust (founded in 1899), and acquisition of land was conducted by the Jewish National Fund
Jewish National Fund
The Jewish National Fund was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine for Jewish settlement. The JNF is a quasi-governmental, non-profit organisation...

 (founded in 1901). Keren Hayesod
Keren Hayesod
Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal is the central fundraising organization for Israel, with operations in 45 countries. The work of Keren Hayesod is carried out in accordance with the Keren Hayesod Law, 5716-1956, passed by the Knesset in January 1956...

 (founded 1920) funded Zionist and Yishuv
Yishuv
The Yishuv or Ha-Yishuv is the term referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel...

 activities prior to the creation of the state of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 through enterprises such as the Palestine Electric Company, the Palestine Potash Company and the Anglo-Palestine Bank.

World Zionist Congress



The World Zionist Congress ( HaKongres HaTsioni HaOlami) elects the officers and decides on the policies of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. Any Jew over age 18 who belongs to a zionist association is eligible to vote, and the number of delegates to the Congress is capped at 500.

From 1897-1901, the Zionist Congress met every year (see the First Zionist Congress
First Zionist Congress
The First Zionist Congress was the inaugural congress of the Zionist Organization held in Basel , Switzerland, from August 29 to August 31, 1897. It was convened and chaired by Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionism movement...

), then every second year from 1903–1913 and 1921-1939. Until 1946 the Congress was held every two years in various European cities, save for interruptions during the two World Wars. Their goal was to build an infrastructure to further the cause of Jewish settlement in Palestine. Since the Second World War, meetings have been held approximately every four years. Also, since the creation of the State of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, the congress has met every four or five years in Jerusalem.
At the 34th World Zionist Congress in 2002, the Green Zionist Alliance
Green Zionist Alliance
The Green Zionist Alliance is a New York-based secular and pluralistic Jewish environmental organization that is a U.S.-registered 501 tax-deductible nonprofit charity...

 became the first environmental organization to ever hold a seat at the World Zionist Congress. The 35th World Zionist Congress was held in June 2006, where Zeev Bielski
Zeev Bielski
Ze'ev Bielski is an Israeli politician who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for Kadima. He previously chaired the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization...

 of Kadima was re-elected WZO Chairman. The next Congress is scheduled for June 2010 in Jerusalem.

Political parties


Participants in the World Zionist Congress are free to form Brit Olamit (ideological groupings), which are somewhat like political parties
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

. While Israeli political parties can participate in the Congress, brits are also organized and voted into the Congress by non-Israelis, making the Congress a multinational deliberative body for the Jewish diaspora. However, as aliyah
Aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

has brought Jews to Israel from other countries, Israeli representation in the legislature has increased at the expense of non-Israeli Jewish diaspora representation. A Brit Olamit must have representation in at least five countries to send a delegation to the Congress.

The largest faction in the World Zionist Congress as of 2008 was a coalition of MERCAZ (representing Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism is a modern stream of Judaism that arose out of intellectual currents in Germany in the mid-19th century and took institutional form in the United States in the early 1900s.Conservative Judaism has its roots in the school of thought known as Positive-Historical Judaism,...

), Kadima
Kadima
Kadima is a centrist and liberal political party in Israel. It was established on 24 November 2005 by moderates from Likud largely to support the issue of Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and was soon joined by like-minded Labor politicians...

, the Green Zionist Alliance
Green Zionist Alliance
The Green Zionist Alliance is a New York-based secular and pluralistic Jewish environmental organization that is a U.S.-registered 501 tax-deductible nonprofit charity...

, Labor-Meretz, and ARZA
Arza
Arza is a small populated town and township, east of Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. It belongs to Lhari County of the Nagqu Prefecture. It contains solar panels....

 (representing Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism refers to various beliefs, practices and organizations associated with the Reform Jewish movement in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In general, it maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the...

).

Other parties include:
  • Tnuat Hamercaz Haliberalit - HaNoar HaTzioni
    Hanoar Hatzioni
    Hanoar Hatzioni is a youth movement established in 1926, with its head offices now in Israel. Its three main pillars are Judaism, Pluralism, and Zionism...

  • The World Confederation of United Zionists, which in the USA is a federation of "Hadassah", the American Jewish League and Bnei Zion
  • Herut
    Herut
    Herut was the major right-wing political party in Israel from the 1940s until its formal merger into Likud in 1988, and an adherent of Revisionist Zionism.-History:...

     Party
  • Mizrachi
    Mizrachi (Religious Zionism)
    The Mizrachi is the name of the religious Zionist organization founded in 1902 in Vilnius at a world conference of religious Zionists called by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Reines. Bnei Akiva, which was founded in 1929, is the youth movement associated with Mizrachi...

  • World Likud
    Likud
    Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

     - Shas
    Shas
    Shas is an ultra-orthodox religious political party in Israel, primarily representing Sephardic and Mizrahi Haredi Judaism.Shas was founded in 1984 by dissident members of the Ashkenazi dominated Agudat Israel, to represent the interests of religiously observant Sephardic and Mizrahi ...

  • World Union Yisrael Beytenu-Moledet
    Moledet
    Moledet is a small right-wing political party in Israel. It advocates the notion of encouraging voluntary population transfer of the Arab population of the West Bank. Moledet was founded in 1988 by Rehavam Ze'evi, who headed it until his assassination by members of the PFLP in 2001, after which...

    -Tkuma

Jerusalem Program


The platform of the WZO is the Jerusalem Program. The Zionist Council, meeting in Jerusalem in June 2004, adopted this text as the latest version.


Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, brought about the establishment of the State of Israel, and views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.

The foundations of Zionism are:
  • The unity of the Jewish people, its bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, and the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation;
  • Aliyah
    Aliyah
    Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

     to Israel from all countries and the effective integration of all immigrants into Israeli Society.
  • Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world.
  • Ensuring the future and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people by furthering Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education, fostering spiritual and cultural values and teaching Hebrew as the national language;
  • Nurturing mutual Jewish responsibility, defending the rights of Jews as individuals and as a nation, representing the national Zionist interests of the Jewish people, and struggling against all manifestations of anti-Semitism
    Anti-Semitism
    Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

    ;
  • Settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.


Herzl Award


Since 2004, Department for Zionist Activities of the World Zionist Organization bestows the Herzl Award
Herzl Award
The Herzl Award is awarded annually by the Department for Zionist Activities of the World Zionist Organization to outstanding young men and women in recognition of their exceptional efforts on behalf of Israel and the Zionist cause. The award was first awarded in 2004, on the centennial anniversary...

 annually upon outstanding young men and women in recognition of their exceptional volunteer efforts on behalf of Israel and the Zionist cause.

Settlement controversy


A document which was brought before Israel's Supreme Court, showed that private Palestinian land was taken and given to Israeli settlers by the World Zionist Organization. The land in question had been ruled off-limits by Israel. The World Zionist Organization had been acting as an agent of the government in assigning land to Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied territories
Israeli-occupied territories
The Israeli-occupied territories are the territories which have been designated as occupied territory by the United Nations and other international organizations, governments and others to refer to the territory seized by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria...

. The Israeli government, to avoid responsibilities under international law, used the World Zionist Organization to settle its citizens in the territory occupied in 1967. The document concerns several homes in the Israeli settlement of Ofra
Ofra
Ofra is an Israeli settlement located in the northern West Bank in the jurisdiction of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council. It is situated on the main road between Jerusalem and Nablus , 25 km from Jerusalem and has 3,200 inhabitants ....

, approximately 15 miles north of Jerusalem in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

. The Israeli Justice Ministry confirmed that the land in question was owned by Palestinians and that the nine houses in question had been ordered demolished. Dror Etkes of Yesh Din
Yesh Din
Yesh Din is an Israeli human rights group providing legal assistance to citizens of the Palestinian territories. Its name comes from a Hebrew phrase meaning “there is law”...

 said "It's an international organization that is, simply put, stealing land."

External links