Last week, the Zionist Federation issued a strongly worded statement attacking George Galloway for refusing to debate with an Israeli student. The organisation clearly has no sense of irony. A few days later, the same ZF voted to reject the application by Yachad UK to affiliate to the self-proclaimed umbrella organisation for UK Zionist organisations.
Yachad has spent the past 10 months jumping through every hoop set by the ZF as part of its vetting procedure. ZF observers attended Yachad’s meetings and found nothing objectionable.
And yet on Monday night, the ZF still rejected Yachad’s application. In a mirror image of the Galloway incident, the ZF decided that it would simply reject engagement with Yachad as an affiliate – despite, as the ZF’s chairman wrote to Yachad, there being “no grounds” for doing so.
We should not be naïve about this. Yachad was sent packing on political grounds because the ZF perceives Yachad’s progressive mien to be somehow anti-Zionist. The reasoning behind the vote is almost Stalinist in its logic. The ZF does not approve of Yachad’s approach; therefore it decrees that it is not Zionist. It is hard not to despair. It is difficult enough winning friends for Israel in the modern world. When established organisations such as the ZF actively push away and seek to delegitimise – the word is apposite – other Zionists who do not subscribe to their own particular interpretation of Zionism, they damage all of us.
The ZF cannot have it both ways. If it wants to be a sectarian body pushing one particular view, let it be just that. But the clue is in the name: Zionist Federation. If it seeks to be a federation encompassing a variety of views, which all stem from a fundamental belief in the right of Israel to live in peace, then it has to behave like one.
The ZF emerges from this week’s vote with its reputation so damaged that, unless it acts immediately to reverse its position, it will no longer deserve the support of anyone who cares about Israel advocacy in its broadest sense.