By Mirele B. Goldsmith
Over the past few weeks I’ve learned that politics is a tough business. As a candidate for the Green Israel slate, running for the World Zionist Congress, I’ve gained a lot of respect for anyone willing to put themselves out there on the campaign trail. My potential voters are asking a lot of hard questions. Fortunately, I have the answers. Here are the 5 questions I get most often. I hope the answers are compelling enough to get you to click and vote for Green Israel.
What is the World Zionist Congress? What can it possibly do?
The World Zionist Congress exists to give Jews in the diaspora a voice in Israeli affairs. Before 1948, the World Zionist Congress was the prestate parliament of what would become Israel. After Israel was established, most of its powers were taken over by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). Since all Jews have a stake in what happens in Israel, the WZC was retained to give diaspora Jews a voice.
The WZC retains considerable influence over several important institutions. These include the Jewish Agency (which is involved in immigration,) and most important for our purpose, the Jewish National Fund. The JNF, which most people know as the organization that plants trees in Israel, owns 13% of the land in Israel.
With so much control over land, the environmental policies of the JNF have tremendous influence in Israel. The composition of the WZC determines the makeup of the board of the JNF. Today, through the WZC, the Green Israel slate — supported by Aytzim and its projects, the Green Zionist Alliance, Jewcology, and Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth — has named two of Israel’s leading environmentalists to the JNF board. Alon Tal and Orr Karassin have pushed JNF to take the lead on a number of environmental issues, including taking stands for the protection of open space and against fracking. The Green Israel slate must be reelected to continue to influence the JNF.
I’m not a Zionist, so why would I vote?
When I agreed to join the Green Israel slate, I anticipated that potential voters would assume that the WZC was an antiquated and irrelevant institution. Somehow I didn’t realize how many Jews are uncomfortable with the terms Zionist and Zionism themselves. My answer is simple. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish People. It achieved its initial aim when Israel was established. But no country is perfect. Fortunately, there are ways we can help to make it better. Voting in the WZC elections is one way.
I’m not so comfortable with the JNF either, so why should I support it?
The JNF is a large, politicized, bureaucratic organization that is part of Israel’s establishment. I don’t agree with everything that the JNF does. That’s exactly why I’m on the Green Israel slate. Because people voted for the Green Israel slate in past elections, there have been major improvements in how the JNF does business. It has adopted significantly better policies on forestry, stream restoration, and soil reclamation. JNF is taking the lead on green infrastructure such as bike lanes, solar energy, and wastewater reclamation. Now JNF’s Sustainable Development Committee, chaired by Alon Tal, has established a program to prioritize quality of life improvements in Arab communities that have long been neglected by the JNF. The JNF has power, and we can leverage that power by voting.
Why do I have to pay to vote?
The American Zionist Movement has contracted with an independent company to run the online election. This is to insure that the election is fair. The registration fee is being used exclusively to pay for the election. It is not a donation to the WZO. I wish there was no fee, but it is a small price to pay to make a real difference in the future of Israel.
In the last few weeks I have asked hundreds of people to vote for me. In the last election, it only took 500 seats to get a seat at the WZC. That means that every single vote matters. Please vote right now at worldzionistcongress.org.