The Zionist Federation rejected a membership application from Yachad because the grass-roots advocacy group had not done enough to show vocal support for Israel, it was claimed this week.
ZF chairman Paul Charney had initially said there were “no grounds” for not accepting the Yachad application, which was rejected following a ZF national council vote.
But Mr Charney admitted on Tuesday that the ZF’s constitutional committee had found that “although Yachad have signed the Jerusalem Programme, in practice they do not comply with it”.
The Jerusalem Programme is part of the World Zionist Organisation’s constitution and acts as the WZO’s official platform, outlining its beliefs in the foundations of Zionism.
Mr Charney said: “You need to show you are supporters of Israel and will defend Israel where needed. Yachad have not shown enough.
“If you look at their website, their visits to Israel are only to Hebron and east Jerusalem. They supported the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.”
Yachad runs “educational day tours” to areas in the West Bank. The trips are led by Israelis. The leading campaign on Yachad’s website is a call for supporters to work to prevent the demolition of the Palestinian village of Susiya in Area C of the West Bank.
It is not yet known whether Yachad will reapply for ZF membership in six months — the earliest available opportunity under ZF rules — or if Hannah Weisfeld, the Yachad director, will meet ZF leaders to put forward her organisation’s case. But the JC understands Yachad leaders are not prepared “to beg to be let in”.
Ms Weisfeld said the ZF was acting as the “Zionist police”. She said: “It feels to me like this is the ZF policing the term ‘Zionism’. I do not imagine for a minute that they are going round checking on every one of their affiliate members. Who said Paul Charney gets to be the judge of what is ‘Zionist’?”
Yachad would make “no apology for what it is and who we are”, she said. Speaking out on issues which affect the long-term future of Israel was essential and was proof of the organisation’s support of the country.
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former prime minister, offered his support to Yachad this week when he said: “A two-state solution is the only possible road to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. The work of Yachad, which takes a strong and firm approach in support of this outcome is to be commended as the work of a truly Zionist organisation.”
ZF affiliates, including the Reform Movement for Judaism have been working to find a solution to the row.
Jenny Pizer, Reform chairman, said the issue had caused “deep concern”. Mr Charney will meet the Reform Movement’s board and community to discuss the case.