Opinion

Proud Zionists will not be silenced

The American Zionist Movement election committee’s unilateral decision to change payment conditions for voter registration just before World Zionist Congress elections is about denying the weakest Jews their democratic rights.

Israelis participate in a march to celebrate Israel's 71st Independence Day near Havat Gilad in Judea and Samaria on May 9, 2019. Photo by Hillel Maeir/Flash90.
Israelis participate in a march to celebrate Israel's 71st Independence Day near Havat Gilad in Judea and Samaria on May 9, 2019. Photo by Hillel Maeir/Flash90.
Dmitry Shiglik
Dmitry Shiglik

In a couple of weeks, the elections for the next World Zionist Congress will be underway. For those not familiar, these elections will have a profound effect on such matters as Israeli immigration and absorption, fighting anti-Semitism and BDS, Israel advocacy worldwide, Jewish education, Jewish settlement and other vital issues for Israel and the Jewish people’s future.

Policies will be decided, and budgets will be apportioned. The stakes are extremely high, and that is why more and more organizations and activists have entered the fray for this year’s election. The likes of Peter Beinart, the extreme liberal writer, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the far-left group J Street, have thrown their hats into the ring.

This means that every single vote counts in an election open to all Jews above the age of 18.

That is why a recent decision to change a long-standing policy by the Area Elections Committee of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), the organization in charge of the elections in North America, may have enormous ramifications.

The American Forum for Israel, an organization I proudly chair, which sees an increasingly liberal Jewish establishment, critical of Israel, supportive of dangerous concessions to the Palestinians and in agreement with a capitulation by the West to Iran, as extremely dangerous to Israel and the Jewish future, has appealed against this discriminatory and dangerous decision, which at first sight seems rather innocuous.

Just before the scheduled elections, the Area Elections Committee unilaterally decided to change payment conditions for voter registration to allow only two people to register using the same method of payment, instead of up to four people as was the case during the 2015 election.

Furthermore, the AZM election committee denied the American Forum’s request of a 50 percent discount for senior citizens and Holocaust survivors, even though it is considering providing such a discount to students.

According to the Pew Research Center, one-fifth of all U.S. Jews report annual household incomes of less than $30,000, with those who have reached retirement age being especially well-represented in this group.  They are often forced to move in with their adult children, creating multi-generational homes and thus increasing the size of the household. Many of these Jewish households, comprising three to five people, commonly have only one bank account. Therefore, that sole bank account is often the only way for the individuals in these households to register.

This decision is thus discriminatory against Holocaust survivors, the elderly, new immigrants and those on lower incomes.

It is disgraceful that the American Jewish establishment discriminates against the weakest Jews and steals their democratic rights.

Nevertheless, we will not let that happen—we’ll fight in every court possible to give the weakest American Jews their voice and their right to influence the future of the Jewish people.

The Jewish establishment also know that it is precisely these Jews who are sick and tired of their concessionist policies.

The American Forum for Israel’s election campaign has been centered around loosening the grip of the liberal and critical Jewish establishment. It is seen as a threat by those who have been in power for so long.

Our supporters are those who have had enough of them speaking in the name of Zionism and for the Jewish community, when they clearly do not speak for us.

We are those Jews who have had enough kowtowing to the left and want our voices heard where it matters.

The Zionism of the liberal Jewish establishment is about concessions, submission and weakness. Unfortunately, they are in control and place Jews who want a strong, proud and successful Israel on the sidelines, and try to keep us out. However, we want to stop this and have our voices heard. We have an opportunity to say enough, that we will no longer accept this contempt and disdain.

We should stand up proudly and say it is our time; it is time for our Zionism. Our Zionism is about strengthening Israel; it is about standing unequivocally with Israelis against their enemies, and it is about ensuring an unbreakable partnership between Israel and the Diaspora. It is about fighting anti-Semitism in all of its manifestations, including anti-Zionism.

This is what these World Zionist Congress elections are really about, and any attempt to tamper with the rules to swing the vote should be condemned and amended immediately.

This seemingly bureaucratic rule change is so much more than meets the eye. It is about discrimination and exclusion. It is about continuing to control the debate, and not allowing new and proud Zionist voices into the decision-making processes.

It is unconscionable that the likes of Beinart and Ben-Ami are welcomed into the process but strong and proud Zionists, including Holocaust survivors, are being forced out.

This is a battle worth fighting, and we will take all legal measures necessary to fight for inclusion and our Zionism.

We hope you will join us.

The opinions here reflect those of the author and the slate, and not of JNS.

The writer is chairman of the American Forum for Israel www.american-forum.org.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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