Most Jews engaged with their heritage are aware that Theodor Herzl was the founder of Zionism as an organized international movement. Sadly, most are unaware that the World Zionist Congress that Herzl convened in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, still functions and holds elections approximately every five years. The Congress determines the policy directions and funding priorities of the World Zionist Organization, which oversees a budget of about a billion dollars annually. Some of this money has funded settlements in the occupied territories.
Commensurate with their proportion of world Jewry, American Jews will elect approximately one-third of the delegates to the Congress scheduled to convene in Jerusalem this October. Voting online has begun and will continue through March 11th. Similar to Israeli elections, delegates are selected from competing slates or lists, in proportion to the votes cast for each list. This year, 15 slates are in competition, including most Jewish religious and cultural streams (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Sephardi) and Zionist political orientations.
In recent past elections, Ameinu has partnered with other Labor-Zionist and left-Zionist organizations (Ameinu, Habonim-Dror, Partners for Progressive Israel, and Hashomer Hatzair) and individuals to run together as the HATIKVAH Progressive Israel Slate. This year, Ameinu is proud to again be a partner in the HATIKVAH Slate, strengthened and expanded to include 11 American-Jewish organizations (see below).
The HATIKVAH platform includes working toward the following goals:
A two-state solution and ending the occupation
Social justice and protection of democratic rights for all Israeli citizens
Religious and cultural pluralism
Full legal and social equality for the LGBTQ community
Dignity for refugees, asylum seekers and foreign workers
Environmental sustainability and regional cooperation
(Click for the FULL PLATFORM.)
As the initiating sponsor of The Third Narrative, Ameinu is asking for your support in this effort. Ameinu’s president, Ken Bob, puts it this way:
. . . we are asking you to please take a few minutes right now to cast your vote in support of a powerful progressive Jewish voice in the World Zionist Congress. We and our predecessor Labor Zionist organizations have been involved in this effort since the first World Zionist Congress in 1897. So why is this Congress election different?
There are two reasons:
1. While the World Zionist Congress is often referred to as “The Parliament of the Jewish People,” in recent elections our people have not been showing up to vote. To change that situation, we have brought in many additional progressive Israel groups as full partners into the HATIKVAH slate. This has created an opportunity for us that is new and exciting.
2. The Trump and Bibi bromance has created a sense that Zionism and Israel represent their joint dystopic world view. Only a strong vote for HATIKVAH will send a message that American Jews are NOT party to that false narrative.
There are those in our camp who suggest that it is best to just ignore these archaic, out of touch institutions. While I am somewhat sympathetic to that point of view, did you know that the Zionist Congress directly impacts the distribution of one billion dollars in annual budget, touching the lives of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jewish communities around the globe? With elections taking place every five years, your vote will help determine how five billion dollars gets spent!
And on a personal note, I feel very honored to head the HATIKVAH Slate and am joined by ten other Ameinu staff, board members and leaders on the list.
Voting takes only a few minutes. In order to vote you have to self-identify as Jewish, be over 18 as of June 30, 2020 and live in the US. You also must NOT be planning on voting in the March election in Israel. That’s because the Israeli delegation to the Zionist Congress is determined by those votes, and there should be no double counting.
In addition, you need to pay a small processing fee, which pays for the cost of the election. It’s not a donation to the World Zionist Organization, HATIKVAH or any other organization. It’s $7.50, or $5.00 if you are 25 or under. Lastly, you need to “affirm the Jerusalem Program” as the platform of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). While the language is not how Ameinu necessarily frames Zionism in 2020, clicking on it is simply acknowledging that it is the platform of the WZO, and it is necessary to do so in order to vote.