MK Avital raps WJC for postponing meetings

New York's World Jewish Congress office locked in a bitter dispute over control of the group's Jerusalem office.

avital mk 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
avital mk 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The New York office of the World Jewish Congress, locked in a bitter dispute over control of the group's Jerusalem office, is facing new criticism for unilaterally postponing a meeting of Jewish parliamentarians from around the world. The latest dispute involves a meeting of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, which receives financial backing from the World Jewish Congress, that was supposed to take place in Washington DC this year. More than 70 Jewish parliamentarians from 30 nations attended the council's last meeting in Jerusalem in January 2006 But plans to hold this year's conference in Washington, following a commitment by the US office of the World Jewish Congress to fund the event, have been put off indefinitely by the WJC, throwing the future of the international parliamentary group in doubt, Labor MK Colette Avital said this week. "You can imagine my surprise when I heard that, without proper consultation or the agreement of the leadership of the ICJP, a decision was made unilaterally not to hold the next gathering at its agreed-upon location or time, and maybe not to hold it at all," Avital wrote in a letter to WJC President Edgar M. Bronfman on January 1. "By working hand-in-hand, there is so much we can accomplish. By unilateral decisions, we reverse our achievements," she wrote, asking Bronfman to intervene. A copy of the three-page letter has been obtained by The Jerusalem Post. Avital wrote in the letter that a decision was made to hold the 2007 meeting in Washington at the urging of New York-based WJC secretary-general Stephen E. Herbits, and that a commitment was made by the New York office that included funding and logistics. Avital's letter marks the second time in as many months that a parliamentarian has asked Bronfman for help on the issue. "We have run into some unanticipated difficulties in preparing the 2007 conference of the ICJP," Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), the president of the council, said in a statement. "Together with my fellow Jewish parliamentarians in the organization's leadership, we are attempting to work through these issues to ensure the organization's objectives can still be met," he said. The group's founding chairman, Lord Greville Janner, did not return calls for comment. "Traditionally, the ICJP has met once every two years. After its last meeting in Jerusalem in January 2006, consideration was given to holding its next meeting in Washington, DC. That option is still being considered," the WJC's New York office said. "The important work of this organization, which got off to such a good start last year, has been halted," said Ruth Kaplan, who served as coordinator of last year's conference. "We have to find a way to get this organization back on its feet," she said. The forum was created to provide a platform for Jewish leaders to cooperate on issues of concern to Israel, the Jewish world and the international community, including the spread and growth of anti-Semitism, and the need to improve interfaith relations.