Want to End Funding to the Settlements? Vote.

What do you think about Settlements?  Do you think Jews should continue to settle in the West Bank? Should the current settlements continue to expand? Do you think the Government of Israel should fund them?  Do you think public Jewish money should go to funding the Settlement enterprise?

If so, good for you.

If not, what are you going to do about it? You can boycott products from the Settlements but that doesn’t really work and is problematic for a whole slew of reasons.

You can make Aliyah and vote in the Knesset.

Or, instead, you can help us have a say in where the public money of the Jewish people goes.

Here’s how you can: vote in the World Zionist Congress Elections.

Voting in the World Zionist Congress Elections – Now through March 11th – is the only democratic opportunity for Jews living outside of Israel to have our vote represented in Israeli society.

Here’s where it plays into Settlement funding.

The Jewish National Fund or Keren Kayemeth L’Yisrael (not to be confused with JNF-USA) was founded in 1901 to purchase land for Jewish Settlement in the Land of Israel. Since then, it has been the largest non-governmental procurer of land and today owns roughly 13% of the Land of Israel, with an over $400 Million annual budget. The question of purchasing land in the West Bank was never clearly defined as policy of the organization and is subject to the ideological position of its leadership. We, as the Reform Movement, are uniquely positioned to assert our leadership of this legacy institution and to ensure that your dollars no longer support this controversial policy.

Our commitment to the Zionist Movement is manifested in the significant role we play in these institutions. And, we expect that they will live up to the high ideals that they represent. We’ve already been successful. But we can’t stop, not now. Due to our strength in numbers, stemming from the WZC 2015 elections, we were able to blow the whistle on secretive land purchases, exposing behind-the-scenes funding of settlements.

We took action as soon as we were alerted to the circumvention of funds.  But, let me be clear – we are not cutting ties with KKL.  On the contrary. If we don’t have a presence there, this behavior would have continued. It was the very fact of our leadership position, and our presence, that allowed us to demand transparency, full accountability, and change. That’s why we are even more committed to being present and having strength in this critical organization.  Now, as settlements emerge as a critical part of the election campaign in Israel, it’s even more essential for world Jewry to weigh in.

Diaspora Jews (ie. You) voting in the World Zionist Congress Election will determine the leadership of this massive and tremendously significant institution, in addition to determining many other critical funding and land-use decisions.

While it is not sufficient to say that these settlements are the main obstacle to peace – as real lasting peace will require a bilateral negotiated arrangement with a certified commitment to an end of conflict, and a recognition of Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish Nation-State in agreed-upon borders –  the expansion of settlements does make the prospects for a Two-State final arrangement considerably more challenging.

If you care about the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State, and don’t want the public institutions owned by the Jewish people to continue funding settlements, you must vote. The future is at stake and it’ll only cost you $7.50.

Make your voice heard. We, in the Reform Movement, believe deeply in a partnership between world Jewry and Israeli Jewry. That’s why we engage with the WZC; that’s why our leadership is so important. But, we can’t do it without you. We need voice and votes to make a difference.

To vote go to arza.org or zionistelections.org

About the Author
Rabbi Josh Weinberg is the Vice President for Israel and Reform Zionism for the URJ, and President of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. He was ordained from the HUC-JIR Israeli Rabbinic Program in Jerusalem, and is currently living in New York.
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