As a representative body for the Jews living in the diaspora, the World Jewish Congress is a non-state actor. Despite this, it has far-reaching powers and extensive representative power. Not only how and why it achieved this representative power is interesting in this, but also how it puts it to use.
This can be illustrated especially well using a specific conflict case: the negotiations regarding the ‘reparations’ to be paid by Germany to Israel and the Jewish population of the diaspora. The developments in the 1950s were preceded by a decade in which predominantly the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and its Institute of Jewish Affairs collected extensive material and developed legal bases in order to avenge the disenfranchisement and extermination of the Jewish people after the war and to enable them to create an economic position which would allow the reconstruction of Jewish life. However, the fact that three actors – Germany as opponents of the claims on one side and Israel and the Jewish Claims Conference on the other – were involved in these negotiations was problematic. At the same time, the CC adopted a special role in these negotiations. Its legal personality was unclear at this time; it was a coalition of various Jewish advocacy groups (with one President of the WJC); it was not backed by a nation state which would legitimise an agreement in international law in accordance with the classic doctrine of international law. However, through the negotiations regarding compensation claims, the CC gained the power of representation and administration for the compensation claims of the Jews outside Israel. The topic not only allowed a dispute (which remains) regarding representative power, assimilation and Zionism to be reworked and, as part of this, perhaps an assertion narrative to be developed; it also allowed a focus on a conflicting situation in which a solution in international law was developed: the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany in 1952.
The specific questions to be addressed in this dissertation project are: How were legal bases developed in the early 1940s? Which ‘inter-Jewish’ conflicts were decided and how? How did the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel react to the non-state actor? Can the knowledge gained be used to form strategies for conflict regulation in international relations and in international law?