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icjw at the world jewish congress

In May 2013, the World Jewish Congress elected two women’s organizations to their Executive Committee, including the International Council of Jewish Women.

At the WJC Plenary Assembly in Budapest on May 7, the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) was one of three international Jewish organizations elected to the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Executive Committee. ICJW was elected with 191 out of a possible 253 votes, together with World ORT and WIZO.

ICJW will be represented at the World Jewish Congress by Mrs. Sara Winkowski from Montevideo, Uruguay. She has served twice as Vice-President on the WJC Executive Committee and has held many senior positions in international Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, including President of ICJW from 2002 – 2006.
This year the Plenary Meeting of the World Jewish Congress was held in Budapest Hungary to show support of world Jewry to the Jews in Hungary.  Over 600 people attended, including representatives of Jewish communities and organizations in one hundred countries around the globe.  It was certainly a display of solidarity not only for the Jews in Hungary, but also for Jews in small, isolated or threatened communities in other parts of the world, (i.e. Tibet, where there are less than 10 Jews).  There were also over 120 accredited journalists, and the meeting draw world attention to the situation in Hungary and attracted a huge international press coverage.    It should be noted that the neo-Nazi party, Jobbik got 17% of the votes in last elections.
Usually the World Jewish Congress meets in Jerusalem, Brussels or New York, where they have permanent offices.  But due to the raise of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi parties in the world, this year we had a meeting of the Latin American Jewish Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, a meeting of the WJC Executive Committee in Thessaloniki, Greece where the new-Nazi Party Golden Dawn also gained a lot of votes, and now the Plenary meeting in Budapest, Hungary.
Security, “vitajon”, in and around the hotel where the meeting was held was really impressive.  The hotel was completely booked by the WJC, and passengers who were not participating in the Congress, and had previously booked a room in the hotel were transferred to other hotels.  Nobody was allowed to walk through the hotel without his I.D.
On the opening night the key speaker was the Prime Minister of Hungary, Mr. Victor Orban.  He said that anti-Semitism is ‘unacceptable and intolerable’ and that ‘history taught the Hungarians that anti-Semitism must be recognized in time”.   Nevertheless, his speech was not too well taken, as though he spoke against anti-Semitism, he never mentioned the steps his government was ready to take to counteract the Jobbik party.  It was understood that he hoped to take votes from Jubbik at next year´s elections, which might help explain his reluctance to strongly attack them.
The next day the key speaker was Guido Westerwelle, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Germany.  His speech was really impressive.  He said that Europe stands on two pillars:  democracy and law.  Europe is a community based on values, just as Judaism and Israel are.  Germany stands for its commitment to Israel, and will always support its right to defend itself.  They support two states for two people, but he also said time is running off, and the longer it takes the more difficult it will be. 
The Conference discussed three main subjects:  The rise of Neo-Nazism in Party Political System in Europe and Beyond; Prospect for Peace in the Middle East; and Freedom of Religious Practice.
On the subject of the growth of New Nazism in the political system, three case studies were analyzed: Greece, Hungary and Germany, though in Germany it does not have a big support of the population.  Although the new Nazi style movements and ideologies are present in other parts of the world, the ideology that was born in Europe is most likely to show resurgence in Europe, and in the party political system. 
Economic crisis is in some cases plainly a contributory factor, especially in Greece.  And though anti-Semitism remains a central feature of the neo Nazi parties, their main focus in many European countries is on non-white minorities.  In Hungary Jobbik has established a powerful presence due to its disillusionment with mainstream political parties, large scale public hostility to the country Roma population and a widespread feeling of victimization by the outside world which translates into anti-Semitism and denial about the country`s wartime past as a Nazi ally. 
The discussion of the second subject was organized as a panel, with the participation of Helga Schmidt, EU External Action, Ambassador Benny Dagen, Minister of Foreign Relation in Israel, Ambassador Yukata Limnea, Special Envoy from Japan to the Middles East and David Hale, Special Envoy from the United States to the Middle East.
Personally I was surprised to know that there was a Special Envoy from Japan to the Middle East.  Ambassador Limnea said that when Japan was colonized, the first ones to come and help them were the Jews who heavily invested in Japan.  And for that they were very grateful and supported Israel, its right to defend themselves and Peace in the Middle East.
Each one expressed their own views, but they all agreed that time is running off.  Mahmoud Abbas was getting old, the Israelis know him, and they know how he thinks.  It is better to deal with someone you know that with the “unknown”.  They made reference to the “Arab spring” which turned to be and “Arab winter”, meaning that you never know what can come next.  They also mentioned that the constructions in the settlements should stop. 
Of course Ambassador Dagan did not accept their views, as did many people in the audience, which was definitely noted in the questions and answers.  Most of the participants kept referring to actions and things that happen  in the past, starting in1948 when the Palestinians did not accept the partition.  In a way they are right, experience with the Palestinians have not been the best so far.  But the panel kept insisting that we have to look to the future, and action has to be taken now. 
The last issue discussed was Freedom of Religious Practice. Again there was a panel with very important speakers, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kiev and  Ukraine, Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Hungary and President of the European Episcopal Bishop Conference, and Prof. Din Prof.Dr. Din Syamsuddin, president of the Muhhamadiyah (Indonesia).  Each one mentioned the need of Religious freedom, the need of learning to live together, etc. 
Two very important resolutions were approved.  To urge national leaders and legislators in Europe to join the 125 legislators from more than 40 countries in signing the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism,  and  to  urge the international community to recognize the legitimate rights of Jewish refugees in the Middle East who were forced to flee their countries after 1948.  This is considered to be a key point when the issue of the Palestinian refugees comes to the negotiation table between Israel and the Palestinians.
Sara Winkowski