Reclaiming Zionism From Antisemites Will Not Occur With Tikkun Olam

Zionism, the ideological undergirding of Israel, is a debatable political philosophy.

– Keith Ellison, Attorney General of Minnesota, former Congressman (D-MN), former Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee


Over 1,000 Jews from around the world came to Basel, Switzerland this week to mark the 125th anniversary of the first World Zionist Congress. They celebrated the incredible success of the Modern State of Israel, now 75 years since its reestablishment, a mere 50 years from Theodore Herzl’s initial conference of inspiration was turned into a reality.

The kickoff speaker was Israeli President Isaac “Bougie” Herzog. His speech welcomed the Zionists from around the world, regardless of their religious denominations or political affiliation. He urged all of them to get involved in the Zionist project and questions regarding “the whole Jewish People… to debate them together, in a spirit of mutual responsibility, and most importantly, of full and institutionalized partnership.

He concluded his remarks that the broad community must “reclaim Zionism” from the vile smears that populate society today. Herzog offered his prescriptions which included uniquely Jewish and Israeli goals, as well as dealing with global issues such as climate change. He mentioned “tikkun olam (repair the world)” three times, as a mission (and potential balm) to combat the insidious woke anti-Semitism infecting the world. “[M]odern Zionism gives us our sense of not only shared fate but also shared destiny, as long as it remains anchored in our deepest roots, weaving together the inseparable threads of peoplehood, land, and state.

“Nothing is creepier than Zionism. Challenge racism”

Linda Sarsour, former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March

Herzog’s outreach to his diverse Zionist audience was sweet but showed that he has not internalized the anger and misconceptions about Zionism from the anti-Israel world. Joining the far-left in combatting climate change under the banner of Zionism sounds like he’s read a few articles about intersectionality and “allyship.” To be sure, fighting global issues is a responsibility Israel shares with the entire world, but was not a foundational matter for Herzl’s Zionism 125 years ago, and redefining Modern Zionism in such a manner today will do nothing to “reclaim” the definition from Israel haters who wish to tarnish and destroy the Jewish State.

“We need to pay attention to the Anti-Defamation League. We need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation. We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues. We need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses. Because just because they’re your friend today, doesn’t mean that they have your back when it comes to human rights. So oppose the vehement fascists but oppose the polite Zionists too. They are not your friends.”

Zahra Billoo, SAN FRANCISCO EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE COUNCIL OF AMERICAN ISLAMIC RELATIONS (CAIR)

Herzog is correct that we need to “reclaim Zionism,” but not by stretching its meaning into something far afield from its core tenets. We need to educate the world about simple foundational truths, and what Modern Zionism actually means and created.

European Jewish Zionists claimed to be descendants of the ancient Palestinian Hebrews and to be merely “returning” to their ancient land.”

Joseph Massad, Professor at Columbia University

Universities and extremist media have painted Zionism as a violent nationalist effort by European Jews to steal Arab land. They claim Jews have no history or ties to the land and are simply the latest version of European colonialists. Does Herzog really believe that Israelis bonding over climate change help stop such inanity?

Zionism was never the gentlest of ideologies.

Steven Erlander, Journalist for the New York Times

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to kill people and blow things up

David Halbfinger, the new York Times’ Jerusalem Bureau chief

Jews, historians and all people of good will need to be clear about basic historical truths and the mission of Modern Zionism.

Modern Zionism did not steal Arab history or land. It is not a derivative of the forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which falsely asserts an aim to rob Palestinian Arabs as a subset of global domination. The simple fact is that Jews have thousands of years of history in the land of Israel, and have always lived and moved to the land because it is a central part of Judaism.

The Zionist idea to dominate the area from the Nile to the Euphrates was well known, but Israel realized that the two-State solution would not take it in that direction.”

Hiba Husseini, chairs the Legal Committee to Final Status Negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, and a speaker at the united nations

The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.

HAMAS Charter, Article 32

Modern Zionism was launched by Herzl on only two ideas. First, that Jews will forever be targeted as minorities in countries around the world, whether they present as devout Orthodox Jews or assimilated secular ones, and second, that the only way for Jews to be secure and have a future is to have sovereignty in their homeland once again.

To be an anti-Zionist means that one doesn’t believe in one of those two things. To be against the first, is to ignore and belittle the horrific crimes committed against the most persecuted people in history. To stand against the second, is to urge for the destruction of the one Jewish State. Both are blatantly anti-Semitic.

The three basic characteristics of Zionism are: racism, expansionism and settler colonialism

UC San Diego speaker at Divestment vote

Israel in its inception is not a Jewish idea but a European one.

University of Wisconsin BDS Vote

“Reclaiming Zionism” as Israeli President Herzog desires is needed, but his prescription for joining woke causes is nonsensical. Such efforts will not reorient college campuses and the media away from their misconception that Israel is a violent European colonialist state.

Instead, we must state repeatedly the fundamental truths about Jews and the land of Israel. We must clearly articulate the meaning of Zionism, and that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. And we must loudly proclaim that we are proud Zionists, and amazed by the liberal democracy that thrives in the illiberal Middle East.


Related articles:

A Core Tenet of Zionism Is Combatting Anti-Semitism

Squeezing Zionism

Hamas And Harvard Proudly Declare Their Anti-Semitism And Anti-Zionism

In San Francisco Schools, Anti-Zionism is Anti-Racism

Black Lives Matter Joins the anti-Israel “Progressives” Fighting Zionism

American Jewry is Right on Israel

The World Zionist Congress completed its elections which it holds every five years and published the results on March 23, 2020. The voting tally was 123,629, a growth of 118% compared to the 2015 elections.

Exhibit 1: WZC Elections Results for 2020 and 2015

2020 2015
Slate votes per cent votes per cent
Reform 31,500 25.5% 21,766 38.4%
Mizrachi 21,698 17.6% 9,594 16.9%
Eretz Hakodesh 20,023 16.2%
MERCAZ 14,666 11.9% 9,890 17.4%
ZOA 10,313 8.3% 2,738 4.8%
American Forum 4 Israel 8,132 6.6% 3,773 6.6%
Hatikvah 7,932 6.4% 3,148 5.5%
Shas Olami 2,046 1.7%
Kol Yisrael 1,752 1.4%
Dorshie Torah Vtzyion 1,373 1.1%
Herut 1,157 0.9% 304 0.5%
Vision / Alliance for New Vision 1,036 0.8% 735 1.3%
Americans4Israel / Zionist Spring 857 0.7% 2,696 4.8%
Israel Shelanu 769 0.6%
Ohavei Zion 375 0.3% 1,650 2.9%
Green Israel 443 0.8%
123,629 56,737

The enthusiasm for the elections seemed to touch people of all backgrounds and interests with almost every slate showing a net add from 2015 (Ohavei Zion split into Shas Olami and Ohavei Zion, while Green Israel did not run in 2020).

Taking a look in the change in the votes reveals some trends:

Exhibit 2: Change in WZC Votes from 2015 to 2020

Change 2015/2020
Slate # votes votes % # change %
Reform 9,734 -12.9% 45%
Mizrachi 12,104 0.6% 126%
Eretz Hakodesh 20,023 16.2%
MERCAZ 4,776 -5.6% 48%
ZOA 7,575 3.5% 277%
American Forum 4 Israel 4,359 -0.1% 116%
Hatikvah 4,784 0.9% 152%
Shas Olami 2,046 1.7%
Kol Yisrael 1,752 1.4%
Dorshie Torah Vyzion 1,373 1.1%
Herut 853 0.4% 281%
Vision / Alliance for New Vision 301 -0.5% 41%
Americans4Israel / Zionist Spring (1,839) -4.1% -68%
Israel Shelanu 769 0.6%
Ohavei Zion (1,275) -2.6% -77%
Green Israel (443) -0.8% -100%
66,892 118%

While the Reform movement was able to add 9,700 voters from 2015 to 2020, the 45% increase paled to the overall 118% increase in voter turnout. As such, the percentage of the overall votes for the Reform slate declined by 12.9%, from 38.4% to 25.5%. The biggest percentage gainers in the election were the politically right slates of the Zionist Organization of America (+277%) and Herut (+281%). The brand new slate of Eretz Hakodesh was also a stand-out, pulling in over 20,000 votes.

In considering the overall trend of the election, Americans veered strongly to the right, both religiously and politically in their attitudes towards Israel.

Exhibit 3: WZC Elections by Religious and Political Leanings

Exhibit 3 shows that the religiously right slates added a remarkable 371% votes while the religiously left only grew by 46%. The political divide wasn’t quite as sharp, with the politically right growing by 231% and the politically left slates by 152%. The slates which touted Zionism without the religious or political underpinnings grew by 39%.

There is obviously much speculation as to why the right-leaning voters came out in such great numbers relative to the left-leaning ones. Overall, American Jews still lean heavily towards the left politically and the Orthodox movement is much smaller than the other branches, yet the masses did not come out to vote in the same percentages as right-leaning American Jews.

Mobilization

A key part of getting the votes is simply getting the voters to spend the few minutes and few dollars to cast their vote.

The Mizrachi slate was effective at getting their supporters to participate in this election cycle. The slate consists of Amit, the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, Touro, Bnei Akiva, National Council of Young Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America. It worked its email lists and had people at the college campuses urging fellow students to vote for its slate.

The success of Eretz Hakodesh comes from a different orientation than the other slates which rely on established organizational structures. It, like Shas Olami, used the power and draw of its rabbinical leaders. The further right one goes on the religious spectrum, the more inclined one is to follow the directives of one’s spiritual leader. If the rabbis of the devout tell their followers to go out and vote, they will do so without the persistent reminders and second-guessing that exists to a much greater extent in the other denominations.

The Battle Within

The political right rallied the vote in greater numbers than ever before due to the perceived threats to Israel from within the American Jewish community. While Israel has always had hostile Arab and Muslim neighbors, the support of America and diaspora Jewry was never in question, until recently.

Over the past years, the Democratic Party has become more critical of Israel. While the party ditched its pro-Israel platform in 2012, there was still hope among many Jews that the pivot to a “neutral” stance would bring peace to the region. But in 2014, the peace process collapsed and in 2015 the Democratic Obama administration signed the Iranian nuclear deal giving Iran a legal pathway to nuclear weapons without requiring any change in the country’s behavior including its calls to destroy the Jewish State. At the end of 2015, the Obama administration allowed the passage of United Nations Resolution 2334 which declared it illegal for any Jew to live east of the 1949 Armistice Lines including the Old City of Jerusalem. By 2018, vocal anti-Zionists like Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) won seats in Congress promoting a boycott (BDS) of Israel. For many American Jews, it was too much to bear, especially as the two surrounded Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is the most anti-Israel presidential candidate ever to run on a national ticket.

The ZOA platform targeted BDS and supported a Unified Jerusalem, fielding a slate of 27 groups like Americans for a Safe Israel, The Lawfare Project, NORPAC, One Israel Fund and Students Supporting Israel. These groups are fully engaged in a mission to support and defend Israel all year. Their Zionism is not a complacent one as it might be for some of the other slates which are pro-Israel, but in a more passive and secondary mode. ZOA, like Herut Zionists, were highly motivated to combat the strong forces turning against Israel from within the American Jewish community.

ZOA Chairman Mark Levenson said “we were at this for nine months and a lot hard work went into getting us here. There are several important issues for us to address including fighting BDS and terrorism and we’re thrilled to have a majority of center-right and right-leaning parties with whom to work with going forward.

The left-wing was passionate as well, with an additional 34,800 people voting for progressive religious and political slates. The non-Orthodox movements had an advantage of getting people to vote when they gathered at temples on Saturday which the Orthodox groups could not as they do not use computers or pay for items on the Sabbath. But the nearly thirty-five thousand incremental votes only tell part of the story. There are a significant number of left-wing Jews who support groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink and IfNotNow. These groups were not allowed to participate in the elections by the American Zionist Movement as they do not support the Jerusalem Program and are viewed as anti-Zionist. Many of those groups’ supporters likely voted for the Hatikvah slate which is viewed as a tad more mainstream and therefore allowed to participate in the elections, but many alt-left Jews likely avoided the WZC election altogether.

Overall, the parties on the right surpassed those on the left, in a dramatic reversal of the 2015 WZC election results which had the left trouncing the right by a margin of 34,804 to 13,371.

Reacting to the results, Vice Chairman of World Zionist Organization and Chairman of World Likud Yaakov Hagoel said “It is amazing to see how the number of ballots cast doubled in this election from the last congress. It is a testament of how the Zionist movement continues to work and to grow even reaching new communities that were not involved in the past. Similarly, we are thrilled that the broad right wing Zionistic factions have grown in number and strength, which will ensure that this World Zionist Congress will move the national institutions in a better direction on behalf of the Jewish nation.


In July 2015, just a few months after Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, and one month after the last WZC election, the Jewish people commemorated the holiday of Tisha B’Av, about the destruction of the Jewish Temples. Don Futterman, the Program Director at The Moriah Fund and columnist for the left-wing paper Haaretz wrote the following:

For secular Jews, “Tisha b’Av seems a vestigial organ. It may have had a function in an earlier stage of our evolution, but today seems irrelevant. Many non-Orthodox Jews feel there is enough officially mandated sadness in our calendar.

Viewing Jerusalem as a “vestigial organ,” likely made it easy for secular Jews to support Obama’s nod to U.N. Resolution 2334. That same attitude may be permeating swaths of progressive American Jewry regarding all of Israel, as an outdated talisman unworthy of support; an easy sacrifice to build bridges to coveted intersectional brethren for more pressing social justice causes. At least that’s what American Jews of the political and religious right believe, and they came out in droves to combat that sentiment and fully support the Jewish State.


Related First One Through articles:

Facts and Stats about the World Zionist Congress Elections

A Review of the Fifteen US Slates for the World Zionist Congress

Losing the Temples, Knowledge and Caring

Members of Knesset and the Jerusalem Program

Jews, Judaism and Israel

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Members of Knesset and the Jerusalem Program

The World Zionist Congress just finished its elections on March 11, 2020. There were few conditions to voting in the United States such as being Jewish and 18 years old. However, there was another requirement to have one’s diaspora voice heard in Israel: a confirmation of supporting the Jerusalem Program. As detailed by the American Zionist Movement, those beliefs are:

  • The unity of the Jewish people, its bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, and the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation;
  • Aliyah to Israel from all countries and the effective integration of all immigrants into Israeli society.
  • Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world.
  • Ensuring the future and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people by furthering Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education, fostering spiritual and cultural values and teaching Hebrew as the national language;
  • Nurturing mutual Jewish responsibility, defending the rights of Jews as individuals and as a nation, representing the national Zionist interests of the Jewish people, and struggling against all manifestations of anti-Semitism;
  • Settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.

Yet these same principles are not held by many members of Israel’s own parliament, the Knesset.

The Joint List – a collection of four Arab parties – received 15 seats out of the 120 in Knesset, a 12.5 per cent tally. The party is led by Ayman Odeh, a man who called on Palestinian Arabs across the Green Line to fight against Israel and refused to attend a meeting in New York City held on the same floor as the Jewish Agency, the group that helps facilitate “aliyah to Israel,” as called for in the Jerusalem Program. The party also includes Ahmed Tibi who has said that Hamas is “not a terror organization,” even with a charter calling for the total destruction of Israel and the murder of its Jewish inhabitants.

The Joint List of Arab parties celebrates its showing in the March 2, 2020 Israeli elections with Odeh and Tibi at center (Photo: AFP)

This collection of Arab parties includes people against the Jerusalem Program and Israel itself.

In the past, Arab List Members of Knesset (MKs) included people like Hanin Zoabi who saidI do not represent the State of Israel nor do I speak for the State of Israel, but rather in the name of a struggle that performs the exact opposite of the role of the Israeli Knesset, according to its vision.” Current MK Yousef Jabareen is a member of Hadash (part of the Joint List) who openly calls Israel a racist society and speaks of ending the national identity of Israel.

Israelis somehow don’t seem to mind.

Hadash-member Raja Za’atra founded the B.D.S. (boycott, divest and sanction) movement in Israel and has compared Israel to ISIS and Nazis. While not a member of Knesset he is welcomed as a member of the Haifa City Council.

The State of Israel demands more Zionist affirmation from Jews in the diaspora than from its own citizens with zero effect. The March 2020 elections concluded with openly hostile anti-Zionist Israelis securing a considerable showing in the Knesset, while the alt-left Hatikvah slate had to lie about its Zionist bona fides to participate in the United States’ WZC elections and also secured a sizable vote.

These anti-Zionists are inside the power structure regardless of approach, so a decision should be made whether the Jerusalem Program be scrapped as irrelevant or actively enforced in both Israel and the diaspora to discharge the venom within.


Related First One Through articles:

Ayman Odeh Doesn’t Speak for Arab Israelis, Jewish Israelis or Peace

“Peace” According to Palestinian “Moderates”

In Defense of Foundation Principles

Arabs in Jerusalem

Jews, Judaism and Israel

Israeli Arabs SUPPORT Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People

The Debate About Two States is Between Arabs Themselves and Jews Themselves

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A Review of the Fifteen US Slates for the World Zionist Congress

The World Zionist Congress is holding elections through March 11, 2020. There are fifteen slates running from across the political and religious spectrum. They represent roughly 1,800 individual candidates.

In the last election held in 2015, there were eleven slates representing 1,100 candidates. Reform Judaism took the greatest number of votes by a wide margin, surpassing the combined total of the Conservative and Orthodox slates.

2015 World Zionist Election
United States’ Election Results

Slate Votes Seats
ARZA – Reform Judaism 21,766 56
Mercaz USA – Conservative Judaism 9,890 25
Vote Torah: Religious Zionists 9,594 24
American Forum for Israel 3,773 10
HATIKVAH: Progressive Zionists 3,148 8
ZOA 2,738 7
Zionist Spring 2,696 7
World Sephardic Organization 1,650 4
Alliance for New Zionist Vision 735 2
Green Israel 443 1
Herut North America 304 1

In this WZC election, one of the 2015 slates – Green Israel – did not run again. Two slates modified their names and there are five new slates including Eretz HaKodesh (#1); Dorshei Torah V’Tziyon (#7); Kol Yisrael (#14) and Shas (#15, which was part of Ohavei Zion in the US).

The full list of slates is as follows (with the ordering / numbering having been chosen by the AZM at random):

  1. Eretz Hakodesh: Protecting the Kedusha and Mesorah of Eretz Yisrael
  2. Vote Reform: ARZA Representing the Reform Movement and Reconstructing Judaism
  3. Israel Shelanu (Our Israel)
  4. Orthodox Israel Coalition – Mizrachi: Vote Torah
  5. Vision: Empowering the Next Generation
  6. MERCAZ USA: The Voice of Conservative/Masorti Judaism
  7. Dorshei Torah V’Tziyon: Torah and Israel for All
  8. Hatikvah: Progressive Israel Slate
  9. Ohavei Zion: World Sephardic Zionist Organization
  10. Herut Zionists: The Jabotinsky Movement
  11. ZOA Coalition: Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Torah from Sinai, Make Israel Great (MIG) & National Pro-Israel Partners – Courageously Defending Israel, Sovereignty & the Jewish People
  12. American Forum for Israel
  13. Americans4Israel: Unity, Peace & Security
  14. Kol Yisrael: For the love of Israel – Making Zionism Compelling in the 21st Century
  15. Shas Olami

As in the past election, the main distinction between the slates mostly breaks down according to religious and political philosophy as portrayed on the graphic below.

 

Religiously Oriented
From Most Right to Most Left

Shas Olami (#15)
Eretz Hakodesh (#1)
Orthodox Israel Coalition – Mizrachi (#4)
Dorshei Torah V’Tziyon (#7)
MERCAZ USA (#6)
ARZA-Vote Reform (#2)

Politically Orientated
From Most Right to Most Left

ZOA Coalition (#11)
Herut Zionists (#10)
Israel Shelanu (#3)
Hatikvah (#8)

Outside of Religion and Politics

Kol Yisrael (#14)
Americans4Israel (#13)
Vision (#7)

Many of the groups have a philosophy combining both politics and religion, and only a few have tried to stay out of politics and religion at all such as Americans4Israel.

The Jerusalem Program
and the Deserved Disqualification of Hatikvah (#8)

There are not many requirements to vote in the WZC elections. Most are basic criteria such as being Jewish, 18 years old, a permanent resident of the United States and not having voted in the latest Knesset elections. The more affirmative declaration asks people to accept the “Jerusalem Program.”

The Jerusalem Program was first established in Basel, Switzerland at the First Zionist Congress in 1897 and has changed very little since that time. Small modifications were made after significant events in the life of Israel, including modifications in 1951, 1968 and 2004. All modifications were made by consensus.

Key points of the Jerusalem Program highlight the particularity of Israel as the home of the Jewish people. For example:

  • Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic society…”
  • “Ensuring the future and distinctiveness of the Jewish people by furthering Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education…”
  • “… representing the national Zionist interests of the Jewish people…”
  • “Settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.”

The program clearly focuses on Israel as a Jewish State, not a bi-national state. The focus is on Jews, Judaism and Hebrew, not on Arabs, Islam and Arabic.

Yet one of the slates running for the WZC – Hatikvah (slate #8) – opposes those basic principles. Its members include The New Israel Fund, J Street, T’ruah, Americans for Peace Now. The New Israel Fund is actively trying to promote a bi-national state and tear down the distinctiveness of the Jewish State. J Street lobbied the US’s Obama Administration to enable United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which labeled the Old City of Jerusalem as illegal Occupied Palestinian Territory, the very opposite of settling Jews and strengthening the Jewishness of the country. Leaders of T’ruah loudly came to defense of Linda Sarsour, a vocal anti-Zionist. According to the philosophy of the far-leftist groups of Hatikvah, 11 million Palestinian Arab refugees from across the world – including Israel – should similarly have their own “World Palestinian Congress” to direct Israeli money towards Arab priorities inside of Israel.

While the groups in the Hatikvah slate stated they support the Jerusalem Program to get on the ballot, it has the equivalent honesty of the Pope saying he’s Jewish. It is a Trojan horse to break the very Jewishness of the Jewish State.

Suggested Slates

Competing slates hurt each other as there is a defined number of seats available. Two similar parties might end up losing a seat by dividing their votes, so it makes the most sense for everyone to rally around a single slate within a cluster which best represents their preferences.

Below are suggested slates to improve the probability of your vote having impact. While there are fifteen slates running, only six of them should be given serious consideration.

Right Religiously/ Right Politically: Vote Slate #4, Orthodox Israel Coalition. OIC has a proven ability to get votes. Don’t dilute and divide the focus among Shas Olami (#15) and Eretz Hakodesh (#1).

Right Religiously / Left Politically: Vote Slate #7, Dorshei Torah V’Tziyon. There is no other option.

Non-Religious / Right Politically: Vote Slate #11, ZOA. A proven vote-getter, avoid the smaller Herut (#10) and the niche Sephardic (#9) and Russian (#12) groups.

Non-Religious / Left-Politically: Vote Slate #3, Israel Shelanu. As noted above, Hatikvah (#8) should not be allowed to participate in the WZC as its actions and deeds are counter to the Jerusalem Program. The best platform is therefore with Israeli-Americans.

Non-Religious / No Politics: Vote Slate #14 Kol Yisrael. This group is about countering antisemitism and promoting Israel without getting into the common fights around the role of religion and politics. It’s appeal and mission are broad and inclusive. While Americans4Israel slate #14 has roughly the same mission, the two will dilute each other so people should rally around one. Vision, slate #7 is much the same.

Left Religiously / Left Politically: Vote Slate #6 Mercaz USA. While the ARZA Reform movement has been a dominant slate in the WZC for many years, its leadership has spent too much time bashing the government of Israel publicly and not using its platform to advocate for the Jewish State. Meanwhile, the Mercaz Conservative Movement has been a more constructive progressive voice while also demonstrating its ability to attract voices and advance its agenda.

Whatever your leanings, take the time to vote at zionistelection.org


Related First One Through articles:

J Street is Only Considered “Pro-Israel” in Progressive Circles

A Basic Lesson of How to be Supportive

Unity – not Unanimity – in the Pro-Israel Tent

There are Standards for Unity

The Anger from the Zionist Center

The Anti-Israel Community in a Jewish House of Worship

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Facts and Stats about the World Zionist Congress Elections

The World Zionist Congress, the organization started by Theodor Herzl in 1897, is having elections again through March 11, 2020.

The organization’s continued existence – let alone the election – is seemingly a curiosity. Why continue an assembly whose mission has already been achieved? The dream of Jewish sovereignty in part of the Jewish homeland was reached in 1948, and throughout Jerusalem in 1967. Is the dream of Zionism still unfulfilled? Does it morph over time?

Or is the WZC simply a manifestation of a collective aspiration, no different than Israel’s national anthem, the Hatikvah, which still speaks of “The Hope” of returning to the land of Zion. Does it remain the country’s national anthem to this day because the hope remains unfulfilled as being free doesn’t end with sovereignty but with true enduring freedom, that the hope is sovereignty that stretches over the entirety of the Jewish homeland, or because one doesn’t stop aspiring to something like love, once already in love?

The Election

The American Zionist Movement is in charge of running the elections in the United States. AZM has been around for 80 years and is an umbrella group of 33 Zionist groups. Its staff includes three full-time people and three consultants.

The election is open to every Jew over 18 years old (as of June 30, 2020). It costs $7.50 to register for the elections, down from the $10 fee in 2015, as AZM is striving to increase voter turnout.

At stake is the direction of roughly $1 billion, which is the collective budgets of the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, JNF-KKL and Keren Hayesod. Various WZC sub-committees will influence the allocation of resources and policies of those organizations. For example, the international program “Birthright” which brings young Jews for a free trip to Israel might either visit Judea and Samaria or be restricted from visiting it depending on whether right-leaning or left-leaning slates get elected to the WZC.

There are fifteen slates in this 2020 election, representing roughly 1,800 candidates with a wide range of viewpoints. A review of those slates can be found HERE.

The WZC Election by the Numbers

The draw of the WZC appears to have faded over the last few decades, at least in the United States. The 56,450 votes cast in 2015 at the last WZC election, was a paltry sum by historical standards. While WZC elections are supposed to be held every five years, it was not held in 2010. In 2006, a total of 75,686 Americans voted in the elections, a total of 88,753 in 2002, and in 1997 the total was 107,832. If those drops of 18%, 15% and 25% between elections look depressing, consider that the 1987 WZC election had 210,957 Americans voting, meaning that during the eventful decade between 1987 and 1997 – those years which included the First Intifada and the Oslo Accords – American apathy towards Israel doubled, if one could use votes in the WZC as a proxy.

Perhaps it is unfair to state that American Jews were distancing themselves from Israel in the 1987 to 1997 decade. The Oslo Accords were controversial for many, and maybe Americans concluded that the concept of the Israeli government considering the views of American Jews when making policy was either historical or a marketing ploy. Just as the national anthem of Israel, “The Hope,” would appear as a more logical dream for people OUTSIDE of Israel than its inhabitants, the idea of being a “free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem,” may have held – and holds – different meanings for Israeli and Diaspora Jews: for the former it is a dream of daily peace, while for Diaspora Jews it is an aspiration to bond the Jewish collective of the people, religion and land. Zionism means different things to people around the world, and certainly on a daily practical level for Israelis living in a hostile neighborhood. The Israeli government may care about the opinions of Diaspora Jews, but within limits, and certainly as it relates to daily security.

In regards to the WZC elections, the United States is unique in that it reaches out to its Jews to vote for its representatives. Of the 525 seats in the World Zionist Congress at this election, the United States is allotted 152, or 29% of the seats. Roughly 37% of the seats go to Israel and 34% to the rest of the world based very roughly on the world’s global Jewish population. Israel allocates its seats based on the members of Knesset and the countries of the world allow their major Jewish organizations to directly decide on their representatives.

The WZC voter turnout has been spotty. The United States has eleven states with populations which are over two per cent Jewish. These “Jewish states” did not have great turnouts at the 2015 WZC elections, with fewer than half having one percent of their populations voting. Meanwhile, some smaller states like Oklahoma and Arizona had great turnouts in 2015, with 4.9% and 2.9% of the Jewish populations voting, respectively. As a consequence, the Jews of Oklahoma had a greater impact than the Jews of Oregon, even while the Jewish population was less than one-tenth the size.

2015 World Zionist Election
States with Highest Percentage Jewish Population

State Per Cent Jewish Population Per Cent of Jews Voting in WZC
California 3.2% 0.5%
Connecticut 3.3% 0.8%
Washington, D.C. 4.3% 1.6%
Florida 3.3% 0.4%
Illinois 2.3% 1.4%
Massachusetts 4.1% 0.8%
Maryland 4.0% 1.2%
New Jersey 5.9% 1.4%
Nevada 2.7% 0.1%
New York 8.9% 1.0%
Pennsylvania 2.3% 0.7%

The global community got seats according to their Jewish populations. While Israel and the USA got 190 and 145 seats at the 2015 election, respectively, other countries received significantly fewer seats: France (23), Canada (20), England (19), Australia (13) and Argentina and Russia each with 10. There were 25 countries with fewer than ten seats. Some countries received “penalties” from the Zionist Supreme Court which reduced their seats, resulting in Germany and the Netherlands each having no representation.

The political leanings of the various countries’ ruling authorities were clear. France voted 30% of their members to Likud and England 36%, while Australia only allotted 8% of the seats to Likud. Putting the various parties into groupings of Left, Center and Right shows an interesting divide in the Jewish world’s orientation towards their religious and political leanings as shown in the table below:

2015 World Zionist Election
Global Religious and Political Leanings

Left Center Right
Israel 29% 21% 50%
US 61% 5% 34%
ROW 47% 14% 39%

Note: Left consists of Kadima, Mercaz Olami, Zionist Union, Arzenu and Meretz; Center consists of Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Confederation, Over the Rainbow and undefined; Right consists of Likud, Mizrachi, Beiteinu Olami and Ohavei Tzion

Israel is more right-leaning and the United States is much more left-leaning than the rest of the world. Almost no Jews in the US vote for centrist slates, a unique phenomenon.

If you want to have your opinions reflected in the direction of Zionism over the next five years, register and vote at zionistelection.org


Related First One Trough articles:

I am a Zionist. A Deep Zionist. An Amazed Zionist. A Loud Zionist.

The Anger from the Zionist Center

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