Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Here are the numbers:

1. The World Zionist Organization -- 50% of the members of the JAFI Board
2. Jewish Federations/United Israel Appeal -- 30% of the members

3. Keren Ha'Yesod countries + Canada -- 20% of the members

Now, remember those numbers, we will revisit them later.

Some history: A two year old but still current, comprehensive and insightful article in Haaretz --  -- The Politics and Money Behind Israel's Zionist Bureaucracy -- spelled out in graphic terms the "resurrection" of the World Zionist Organization under the leadership of Avraham "Duvdev" Duvdevani. While Haaretz did an excellent job, what it left out was American Jewry's role in raising WZO to its current elevated status. Let me fill in the blanks. 

It was the law of unintended consequences at work.

Yep, men and women of good faith, with the chance to effect real change in the governance of the Jewish Agency, a two-person "task force" led by a wonderful philanthropist, Jane Sherman, and he who was among the system's best and brightest CEOs, Cleveland's Steve Hoffman, we willingly allowed ourselves to be taken to the cleaners by Duvdev and his cronies in leadership of WZO.

Here is what I recall happened. Sherman and Hoffman went into what they might still call "negotiations" with WZO on our behalf. I don't know what goals they had, but they came back with an "agreement," apparently dictated by good old Duvdev and cronies, and that was the "deal." To anyone within earshot, including this writer, Jane Sherman made certain we would understand "this deal cannot be changed" -- not a comma, not a verb or pronoun, not a typo -- "this deal cannot be changed in any way." 

What was the deal? The offices of Chair of the JAFI Executive and the Chair of the World Zionist Organization would be separated and the WZO would no longer receive funding from the JAFI Budget. To secure this "victory" JAFI would pay the WZO 10s of millions for...well, what exactly? No questions were allowed, no changes would be allowed. This was the "deal."

So, what happened? Duvdev took JAFI's multi-million dollar payout and with further multi-year multi-million dollar funding from Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael he took the WZO into direct competition with the Jewish Agency. And WZO did all of this while retaining its controlling votes within JAFI's governance. (And the reality is, notwithstanding the breakdown at the top of this Post, the WZO, should it wish to exercise its "ownership," controls the votes of Keren Ha'Yesod -- another 20% on top of its 50%.)

I suppose that if you asked the leaders who "negotiated" this deal on our behalf how we ended up with...oh, nothing...they would tell you, if they deigned to answer at all, (1) none of your business and (2) 20/20 hindsight is always best. Well, this wasn't 20/20 hindsight. JFNA/UIA JAFI Board members did request changes -- ranging from typos to substance -- immediately upon receiving the deal in writing. They were told in words like this: "What don't you understand about 'no changes, no amendments?'" It was a done deal...period.

Does WZO's continued control of JAFI governance constitute a conflict of interest? Does a bear shit in the woods? Is anyone at JFNA/UIA going to raise the question? Does a bear shit in the woods? Is Duvdev smiling? All the way to the bank.



Anonymous said...

NO, it makes no sense and will most certainly end badly unless something is done to fix it right away!

Anonymous said...

Israeli political parties used jobs in Zionist institutions as political plums for their members.

The secret agreement signed by political parties and movements to distribute jobs in Zionist institutions reached at last week's World Zionist Congress shows that the jobs were given out according to the relative strengths of each party. The Yesh Atid Party, headed by MK Yair Lapid, the only party that did not sign the agreement, yesterday demanded exposure of the deal at the Knesset Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information, but committee chairman Stav Shafir rejected the demand, accusing Yesh Atid of cooperation in the transferal of hundreds of millions of shekels to the World Zionist Organization settlement division without transparency. Signers of the agreement include representatives of Likud, Zionist Union, Yisrael Beitenu, the Mizrahi movement (formerly the National Religious Party), Shas, and Kulanu, headed by Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon.

The copy of the agreement obtained by "Globes" shows that the Labor Party, together with Meretz, obtained the posts of Jewish National Fund (JNF) chairman (MK Daniel Atar was elected), head of the Zionist enterprises department in the Jewish Agency, and head of the education department, which is responsible for many activities of overseas emissaries and the budgets for the Reform and Conservative movements. Likud and Shas are keeping the posts of Jewish Agency chairman (occupied by Natan Sharansky), vice-chairman of the World Zionist Organization, and a list of positions in overseas public relations and the struggle against anti-Semitism.

The Mizrahi movement, together with Yisrael Beitenu and the National Union Party, received the positions of World Zionist Organization chairman, head of the settlement division (now the responsibility of Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel), JNF vice-chairman, the Diaspora Orthodox spiritual services apparatus, and the department for encouraging Aliya (immigration to Israel).


Zionist Union MK elected JNF chairman

Efi Stenzler
Political battle at Zionist Congress to head JNF

The agreement shows that Kulanu, which was taking part in these negotiations for the first time, was responsible for the election of former Minister and MK Uzi Landau as JNF co-chairman during the negotiations between the political parties. The agreement also includes a precise list of the jobs reserved for the parties. For example, Shas International is getting the vice-chairmanship of JNF, Likud International - vice-chairmanship of JNF responsible for the financial committee, Labor Party - chairmanship of the Spielberg archives, and Labor Party, Mizrahi, and Likud - directors in the JNF asset company.

The agreement contains a special clause for additional funding for the institutions' activity. This budget comes from JNF's income on the sale of its land by the Israel Land Authority. It was stipulated that by 2021, JNF would give the institutions NIS 69 million a year, and would add a further NIS 18 million a year when their spheres of activity are expanded, for example in order to pay for the events celebrating the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on October 29, 2015

Anonymous said...

The Jewish Agency needs to stop playing these games and free itself of the stigma that is connected with this system, a system that will eventually bring down both KKL and the WZO.
Hopefully, the Jewish Agency's lay leadership - not the WZO part of it - will take a stand and will get to work immediately on devising a way to free themselves and the Agency from this potentially corrupt and destructive organizational situation so that they can concentrate on assisting the Agency and enabling it to do the good work that it does for the Jewish People.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 10:32

What a wonderful world you live in where JAFI does wonderful work and efficiently at that.

But, more directly, JAFI, JNF and WZO are creatures owned lock, stock and barrel by the Israeli political parties. They make Chicago politics look like a paragon of honesty and decency, and Boss Tweed like a charity works.

They should have been consolidated into the Israeli government upon the formation of the State, but Ben Gurion wanted power and funds external to the machinery of the State. Now, they have become the private piggy bank and patronage tool of the parties.

It is unlikely that JAFI executives - all of whom are political appointees - or the powerless JFNA representatives to the Board of Governors can change anything, even if the desired to, which they unfortunately seem to have no interest in doing.

Isn't it time to lobby JFNA and other organizations to walk away from all three organizations entirely, so that they fail of their own weight and the Israeli government or private charities absorb whatever is of value within, which is likely a very small percentage of the team?

Anonymous said...

Clearly there is only one answer - close down JAFI and start something new.

Anonymous said...

If we're closing things down and starting anew, JFNA should top the list!

Anonymous said...

anon 10:32 - you are simply not correct about the facts