How Israel's Dusty Zionist Bureaucracy Survives

Jobs for Cronies — and Ties to Deep-Pocketed Diaspora

haaretz

By Anshel Pfeffer

Published May 10, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(Haaretz) — The Knesset is full of young politicians, a generation unacquainted with the national Zionist institutions, which thinks they’re dusty and irrelevant old relics. Only the experienced operators — headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — are aware of the treasure that lies in them: unsupervised budgets, jobs for cronies and a direct link to the golden goose that is the Jewish Diaspora.

Israel’s media long ago forgot these un-sexy bodies. There are no dedicated Diaspora reporters anymore, and last month’s investigation into the affairs of the Jewish National Fund on Channel 10 was a rarity. But the JNF is just the richest and strongest link in a chain of organizations set up in the days of pre-independence to create the state-to-be. Israel is now 66 years in the being, and there seems less justification than ever to keep alive the bureaucracy, which should have been disbanded at independence.

The secret of the survival of the World Zionist Organization, the JNF, the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod — United Israel Appeal is the people running them — politicians of the kind that other politicians, no matter of what party, can do business with. People who can quickly and quietly transfer funding, solve a problem for a mayor or deputy minister, connect a Jewish donor with a good cause and find a job for a loyal Knesset member who lost his seat.

The anonymous great leader from the WZO

On Monday night, when Israel’s great and good gathered at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem for the traditional ceremony marking the transition between Memorial and Independence Days, they looked beyond Theodor Herzl’s grave towards Helkat Gdolei Ha’umah, the plot of the nation’s greats. Only presidents, prime ministers and speakers of the Knesset are eligible for burial there, along with their partners. But the resting place of one functionary, virtually unknown to the Israeli public, is reserved on the mount — Avraham Duvdevani, the chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

Duvdevani, or “Duvdev,” as everyone calls him, is a veteran member of the old National Religious Party, now rebranded as Habayit Hayehudi, the son of a Knesset member and a devoted public servant in his own right who has spent his entire career in various posts in the Jewish Agency and JNF.

Duvdevani is the landlord of Mount Herzl, as the WZO is responsible for Herzl’s gravesite. And as WZO chairman, a title that was first held by Herzl and subsequently David Ben-Gurion and Haim Weitzman, Duvdevani, he is also eligible to be buried there.

Despite his anonymity, Duvdevani has achieved a rare feat that few are aware of. He breathed new life into an organization that the entire Jewish establishment had written off as a useless appendage.

Five years ago, following a prolonged struggle, the heads of the Jewish Federations of North America, which finance two-thirds of the Jewish Agency’s budget, succeeded in forcing the Agency to detach itself from the WZO, which had served as its board of directors with seats divided according to the relative strength of the Zionist parties in the Knesset. The Jewish Agency Chairman was also the head of the WZO, which symbolized to American members all that was corrupt and politicized; an obstacle to reform. Disconnecting the two organizations was their victory.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.