Friday, June 05, 2015

Left Storms To Victory in the World Zionist Congress Elections

The World Zionist Congress is an umbrella group of world Jewry that has a significant say in various elements of Israeli affairs. Its membership is divided into three groups -- an Israeli delegation, an American delegation, and a "rest of the world" delegation. The American election just concluded, and progressives stormed to a sweeping victory. ARZA, representing Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, received 40% of the vote and 56 out of 145 seats on its own, dwarfing second-place finisher Mercaz (25 seats -- and Mercaz also probably will lean left-of-center).

The slate I voted for -- Hatikvah, which represents groups like Ameinu and J Street -- finished fifth with eight seats. Not only does this represent a 3 seat gain from the last election, but it also beats out their arch-nemesis ZOA. The Zionist Organization of America, which attempted to kick Hatikvah off the ballot, garnered only seven seats (a one seat loss).

Not all the parties running for seats have clear ideological identities. But the progressive caucus will have at least 65 seats (ARZA, Hatikvah, and the Greens), and arguably 90 seats if you count Mercaz. The hawk-conservatives will have a measly 18 (ZOA, Herat, and the American Forum for Israel), though I suspect that the religious Zionist caucus (24 seats) will align with them as well. The remaining parties, including Zionist Spring, the Sephardi-oriented Ohavei Zion, and the Alliance of New Zionist Vision have less clear ideological orientations, and together earned 13 seats.

The full results are here. This is a striking demonstration of the mindset of contemporary American Jewry and a decisive rejection of the idea that Jews have shifted right in thinking about Israel. Most Jews remain committed to a progressive vision of Israeli society centered around equality (both between Jews and non-Jews and within the Jewish denominations) and a two-state solution respecting the national aspirations of both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. Groups like ZOA may bark loud, but they lack a true robust constituency within the Jewish community -- which is not surprising, given the overwhelmingly liberal bent of American Jews writ large. Hopefully, this election will stand out not just for the policies that result from it, but for the message it sends about who American Jews are and how we relate to pro-Israel advocacy.


Gabem116 said...

Regarding the last paragraph, is there any evidence that the demographics of those who voted in the election accurately reflect the composition or attitudes of contemporary American Jewry?

David Schraub said...

I know of no evidence on that score either way. The "parties" (the Reform movement, the Conservative movement, ZOA, Hatikvah, etc.) did invest quite a bit of energy in getting their constituents out to vote (all American Jews in basic agreement with the WZC platform were eligible to vote). It's probable that the demographics skew towards the more politically-engaged members of the community; but that's true of pretty much any election.