By the waters of Budapest we sat down and wept

world jewish congress then and now

At one point during the 14th Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress, when the whole of central Budapest was shut down and police motorbikes cleared the roads for our motorcade, my colleague Elliot said, “This moment makes the whole event worthwhile.”

But the same could be said of many moments. How many times, for instance, have you been rugby-tackled by a multibillionaire’s bodyguard? Or shared a lift with both the Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine and New Zealand’s ambassador to Trinidad? I’m guessing not that often…

Another highlight was hearing the sentence, “Stop chatting: the Prime Minister of Hungary will not enter until you are all seated in silence.” There I was thinking that finally, I might have broken in to The Big Conspiracy; whereas in fact, I’d ended up in what was apparently a primary school.

However, these were the small things. I also had some big concerns.

Everything was negative. Person after person stood up to list anti-Semitic attacks, anti-Israel statements, bias in the media, neo-Nazi political parties. I know that [some of] this stuff is real, but there’s surely more to Jewish life than being defensive and xenophobic and completely overlooking the positive, religious/cultural/educational side of things.

'One of the people' – democratically elected WJC President Ronald S Lauder has a personal wealth of $3.6bn

‘One of the people’ – WJC President Ronald S Lauder

Then there’s the democracy. Now, having been a Returning Officer I think I know a bit about this. I certainly know better than to  say, “Following extensive negotiations behind the scenes, I can now proudly announce that the election for Treasurer is uncontested.”

Do we not believe in giving the people a say? Apparently not. So much so that, to avoid another contested election (for ‘Chair of the Policy Council’), a hasty constitutional amendment was introduced – and I mean hasty, as in, 2am, The Thick of It hasty – inventing the office of ‘Co-Chair of the Policy Council’ to save the embarassment of having the delegates actually exercise our vote.

The seating was arranged in alphabetical order, and as my eyes widened in astonishment at these pronouncements from on high, I couldn’t help glancing over my shoulder to see what the Zimbabwean representative thought of this democracy. He had a blank face.

That said, one of the two candidates occupies the perfect position on the global rich list for a Jewish oligarch. Yes, I was privileged to meet the person who is, according to Forbes, the 613th richest person in the world.

So anyway, that was WJC ’13. By the waters of Budapest we sat down and wept for Zion. And wept. And wept. And wept.

Hopefully in four years’ time the Jewish people will have found an activity other than weeping. But equally, I hope there’ll be another motorcade.

If you want to read more of me whining, idealistically, about the WJC, see my guest post on the ‘Changing the Board’ blog here.

Prints, shoots and leaves

You’ve got to love technology. 3D printing is gradually becoming a reality, and it could improve so many people’s lives: imagine if hospitals could easily ‘print’ hip replacements, or ordinary households could perform complicated car repairs in just a few minutes.

The Mail on Sunday and the Telegraph have found another way for their readers to improve their lives: ‘printing’ a gun.

The thought of Telegraph and Mail readers, of all the country’s newspapers, having access to technology capable of creating weaponry is the most terrifying.

If we see a sudden rush of new immigrant-detention centres being built out of slightly shoddy-looking layers of plastic, we’ll know that the Mail on Sunday has finally offered its clientele a free 3D printer with their paper, and humanity as we know it will end.

Stephen Hawking scandal

The Jewish Chronicle has news:

wheelchairgate

Yes, you heard them: galactic. Not ‘big’, not ‘considerable’ – galactic.

This wasn’t their full story, but it might as well have been:

hawking-jcA quick apology

ballot_box_1103605In the recent past, this blog may have portrayed the World Jewish Congress as an undemocratic organisation, a body with an aversion to free voting, which goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid people expressing their views.

However, following the revelation that the Royal Society elected Prince Andrew as a ‘fellow’ after a referendum which provided only a ‘YES’ box, Gabrielquotes now realises that the WJC is a paragon of democracy and could teach the rest of the world a lesson.

List of delegates to this blog post
In tonight’s episode, the World Jewish Congress joined forces with the Elections Council of Iran. 3D guns are beginning to replace 2D guns. Stephen Hawking caused a row which made WW1 look like an amicable divorce. This was an Gabrielquotes production.

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