Can Zionism claim Green credentials? The jury is still out on this one.
On the one hand, Zionism was initially very much a “back to the land” movement, in the European Romantic tradition. Trees were being planted in Palestine as early as 1901, there was a strong emphasis on agriculture and “redemption of the land”, and communal settlements blossomed.
There is no doubt, however, that the growth of the Yishuv –– Jewish community in Palestine –– also put a huge strain on the country’s environment and natural resources, especially post-1948. The emphasis was on the huge challenges of defence and security, development, absorption of immigrants and building the state. Given this mixed record, it would probably be fair to say that the founding fathers mostly followed the best practices of their day, but those practices would not pass our Green scrutiny today.
Concern for the environment in Israel has grown exponentially in the last couple of decades, to the point where the Green movement in Israel has almost caught up to its Western counterparts.
The legacy Zionist bodies: the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), though, have lagged behind somewhat when it comes to Green thought and action. The Green Zionist Alliance (GZA), with the resolutions it is proposing for the 36th World Zionist Congress happening June 15-17 in Jerusalem, is out to change all that!
While its resolutions at the 2006 congress were somewhat cautious, those for 2010 are much bolder and require the three bodies to thoroughly green their own premises, activities, governance and congresses.
The most significant of the resolutions, however, call for the further transformation of the KKL-JNF, turning it into a “Green leader” by means of the following proposals:
Making Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael / Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) a green leader
BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED THAT the Congress recommends that Zionist representatives on the board of KKL seek to influence KKL to:
- Increase funding for environmental research, river restoration, sustainable development and academic studies on environmental issues.
- Develop a sustainable-business incubation division whose purpose is to serve as an incubator for new Israeli companies specializing in green technologies and/or sustainable business practices. The KKL would provide funding, guidance and help with developing the new technologies and practices.
- Implement and develop new environmental ideas and technologies, such as constructed wetlands and decentralized grey-water systems to maximize the country’s water resources; vertical farms, roof gardens and urban agriculture to more efficiently manage land and provide jobs and locally grown produce to city centers; and construction-material reuse facilities to help construction debris be reused instead of trashed.
- Work with small farmers and communities to develop mutually beneficial relationships such as CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs in order to help ensure that all Israelis have access to healthy and nutritious food.
- Ensure that the funding that the organization uses to financially support agricultural research is dedicated to sustainable farming practices.
- Establish and maintain a seed bank and a gene bank of animal, plant, fungal and bacterial species indigenous to Israel.
The GZA is also proposing another half-dozen or so resolutions concerned with Greening the activities of the three bodies referred to (WZO, JAFI and KKL-JNF)
- Saving water and energy. Mandates the use of energy-efficient lighting and vehicles, and the use of solar panels and rainwater saving systems on premises.
- Abating climate change. Calls for carbon offsetting for delegates’ and other travel and a reduce, recycle, compost regime at congresses.
- Integrating immigrants into Israeli society. Will make the environment and sustainability part of the agenda and experience at JAFI absorption centres, including the growing of fruit and vegetables.
- Food justice. Congresses will be required to support small, local food producers and sustainable farming practices, reduce meat consumption and require meat slaughtered in a kosher, ethical and humane way.
- JNF governance. The paid posts of World Co-Chair and Deputy World Co-Chair would be eliminated and the savings applied elsewhere.
- Dor Chadash. 15% of all slates should be filled by those aged 31-45.
The full text of the proposed resolutions is well worth reading, and the GZA Website outlines a variety of ways to help accelerate the Greening of Zionism.