The World Zionist Congress: day 1

It turns out that the (entirely unpredictable) risk of plastering the phrase “Non-Stop Zionism” all over the podium is that the Prime Minister of the State of Israel might give his keynote address with his head covering the “Non”:

Photo 20-10-2015, 10 54 31
More charming in the original Hebrew: “Zionism without breaks”

Thus it was that Bibi Netanyahu rose to address the 37th World Zionist Congress with the slogan “Stop Zionism” adorning his unexpectedly subversive left shoulder – after the chair desparately tried to get order in the room full of rowdy Jews by hissing into the microphone, “Please can you all sit down and stop talking, the Prime Minister is coming!” Just one step away from going to fetch the headteacher.

To rapturous applause from an adoring audience, he explained that he was going to tell us “10 big lies” (drawing on your skills, fair play, mate). I was expecting a ‘Call My Bluff’-style gameshow where the listeners were tasked with detecting the lies, but it turned out that he was busting lies commonly told by Arabs.

One of the lies he addressed was the utterly untrue factual statement that: “There should be international observers on Temple Mount to maintain peace.” A lesser man might have accepted this as an expression of opinion – and an entirely inoffensive opinion at that – but not Netanyahu. He let the lying bastard have it with both barrels.

(As it happens, the fine line between fact and opinion was a recurring theme of the day: later on it was announced that “non-stop Zionism is a fact, not just a slogan” – and aside from it obviously being a slogan, one is left wondering exactly what the ‘fact’ actually means…)

My fellow lefties and I didn’t join in the standing ovation that followed Bibi’s contribution, and a man sitting behind rebuked us: “You should stand. He’s the Prime Minister of the State of Israel!” Really? Gosh, I’d had literally no idea who it was that spent the last hour giving a speech to us.

Bibi’s uncontroversial, unifying rhetoric was the high point of Congress decorum. The rest of it was so chaotic that it’s a wonder the Jews ever managed to get a state together. The event was officially opened by the “Congress Elder” (who certainly didn’t look like the sort of person to lead a world-dominating Jewish plot: appearances can be deceptive) and then we heard from the Chief Justice of the World Zionist Supreme Court.

The World Zionist Supreme Court was, I firmly believe, so named with the express purpose of provoking conspiracy theories which we can then have the pleasure of calling out as anti-Semitic. The institution serves no purpose other than whinging.

The Chief Justice continued the classroom behaviour theme by refusing to start her speech “until you all stop talking”. Then she launched into a long speech about the importance of Zionism and of the Israeli government cracking down on security. It’s nice finally to meet a judge who feels able to speak their mind on intensely political controversies without worrying about all this ‘impartiality’ nonsense.

Finally she turned to a judicial topic: “All these election appeals… they are not necessary, they should not have happened.” Well, quite. Stop expecting the poor jurist actually to go to all the effort of doing her job.

“Please, Mrs Butler,
This slate, Arzenu,
Keeps winning elections, miss,
What shall I do?”

“Try to campaign better, girl,
Join the PSC.
Do whatever you think, my dear,
But don’t ask me!”

In fact, a dismissive attitude to democratic concerns marked most of the rest of the day. The decisions had all been predetermined in surreptitious corridor conversations, so delegates didn’t need to go through all the bother of actually voting.

Instead, the chair would call, “In favour?”, one seemingly nominated person at the front would half-heartedly raise their hand, no-one would expend the calories necessary to vote against, and it would be declared that the support of a majority of the 750-odd delegates (in some cases, very odd delegates) had been secured.

A Gala rounded off the day with Israeli singers, film clips, the Speaker of the Knesset, a Herzl impersonator riding a Segway, and – to cheer our hearts – a glitzy showreel of modern anti-Semitism: hooray, the Jewish people still has something to feel aggrieved about!

On the subject of feeling aggrieved, today will see the ever-popular sub-committee meetings. They’re the bit to which delegates were advised not to wear nice clothes. One British representative threatened that if their motion gets rejected they’ll take it to the Knesset (and my dad’s a policeman, too).

Join the blog again tomorrow for the sketch!

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