Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements on Monday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to block the appointment of a Likud activist, notorious for his racist views, to a high-ranking position in the World Zionist Organization.
They also requested that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit launch a criminal investigation against the activist, World Likud movement co-chairman Jacques Kupfer, for incitement to racism and violence.
Haaretz podcast: If Biden wins, Trump transition could prove very significant for Netanyahu
Kupfer’s appointment to the position of director of the WZO Department for Diaspora Affairs, approved two weeks ago as part of a deal reached at the World Zionist Congress, still requires the final approval of the WZO executive board, which meets this week.
French-born Kupfer has in the past called on Israel to deny voting rights to its Arab citizens, denounced Arab lawmakers as “terrorists” and “enemies of the state,” and referred to “Palestinianism” – that is, support for Palestinian rights – as a deadly virus, and has castigated Israeli leftists as traitors.
“We find it fundamentally unacceptable that a man who regularly incites on various different platforms should be appointed to the senior position of a department director at the WZO, which is the equivalent of a minister in the Israel government,” the movement leaders wrote in their letter, also sent to Miki Zohar, the newly appointed chairman of World Likud, and Yaakov Hagoel, the newly appointed chairman of the WZO.
“An investigation we conducted reveals a disturbing picture of racist remarks against Arab citizens of the state of Israel, suspected of having been said in violation of the law, as well as violent and vulgar statements against citizens from the left side of the political map.”
The letter includes a list of such offensive remarks and statements, as well as links to online video clips of Kupfer addressing crowds.
- ‘Who needs so many Arabs?’ Meet the man tasked with improving Israel’s ties with the Jewish Diaspora
- Averting crisis, compromise reached on top jobs at Zionist institutions
- French WZO to be kept out of next World Zionist Congress
“In our view, an individual who promotes an agenda that undermines the democratic foundations of the state of Israel and the fundamental values of Zionism is not suited to fill a senior role in the national institutions,” they wrote. “This is even more the case when that person sees his partners around the table of the Zionist leadership as traitors.”
The Reform and Conservative leaders urged Netanyahu, in the letter, to appoint a “worthy, competent and law-abiding” Likud representative to this high-ranking position in place of Kupfer. “We are sure the World Likud has representatives capable of expressing the positions of the movement without crossing the red lines of incitement, racism and hatred,” they wrote.
The letter was signed by Rabbi Alan Silverstein, the president of Mercaz Olami, the Zionist organization of the Conservative-Masorti movement; Sophie Fellman, chair of the Masorti movement in Israel; Rabbi Mauricio Balter, executive director of the World Masorti movement; Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, chair of Arzenu, the umbrella organization for Reform and Progressive Zionists; Yair Lotstein, chair of the Reform movement in Israel; and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel.
The mission of the Department of Diaspora Affairs, as defined on the WZO website, includes “building bridges between Jews everywhere in the world,” “talking about Israel from all angles,” “making connections between Jewish communities and Israel on five continents,” and “strengthening Zionist identity among young Jews.”
As part of the deal struck last week among the various factions of the World Zionist Congress, many important positions in the WZO and its affiliate organization, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, were handed over to Likud. These included director of the WZO’s Department for Diaspora Affairs – a position that for the past five years had been filled by Gusti Yehoshua Braverman, a representative of the Reform movement.
A former head of Likud in France, Kupfer is known even within Likud circles as an extremist whose views are not necessarily representative of Israel’s ruling party. A staunch advocate of the settlement enterprise, he has taken Netanyahu to task for abandoning his plans to extend Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank. He has also organized fundraisers and solidarity marches for the Jewish settlement in Hebron.
Kupfer immigrated to Israel about 20 years ago but travels regularly to France. He is the founder and director of a far-right organization called Israel is Forever, which targets the French-speaking community. It lists among its key objectives “to assert our inalienable rights throughout the Land of Israel and campaign against any further partition plans for the benefit of a nonexistent people and a future terrorist state.”
Other objectives of the organization include putting an end to affirmative action programs directed at members of Israel’s Arab community.