One of the biggest lies ever told about Zionism is that the subjugation or oppression of the Palestinians is somehow a central tenet of the movement.
Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist organization with chapters at several universities, posits that “the Zionism that took hold and stands today is a settler-colonial movement, establishing an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others” and that “Palestinian dispossession and occupation are by design. Zionism has meant profound trauma for generations, systematically separating Palestinians from their homes, land, and each other.”
These claims are also spread by chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine on campuses all over the USA, including recently at the University of Chicago and John Jay College. At UChicago, the local SJP chapter called for a boycott of all Jewish groups remotely affiliated with Israel, including the ADL and the Visions for Peace classes, which discuss peacemaking in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At John Jay, the SJP went even further and labeled the recent terrorism against Israeli citizens as “resistance.”
However, Zionism has nothing to do with Palestinians intrinsically. It is an inseparable part of Jewish identity itself. For over two millennia, Jewish communities across the diaspora have maintained strong ties to the land of Israel. Along with this, there has always been a Jewish presence in the land of Israel. In the first half of the 19th century, thousands of Jews lived in Jerusalem before the emergence of Political Zionism.
19th-century Political Zionists like Theodore Herzl were concerned with the plight of Jews in Europe. He saw that Jews were threatened not just by assimilation but by widespread antisemitism in countries like France and Russia. Political Zionists saw the Jewish state as a natural progression for the Jewish people and a solution to widespread antisemitism in countries where Jews remained a small and often oppressed minority.
After Herzl first defined Political Zionism, it branched off into numerous different ideologies. These included Labor Zionism, which sought to blend Zionism with socialism. Religious Zionism, which saw the rebirth of the State of Israel as part of the process of bringing about the messianic era, and Cultural Zionism, which emphasized creating a new national culture for Jews, such as learning the revived language of Hebrew.
When the Israeli Declaration of Independence was penned, the founders of the state swore that “it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions, and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
While Israel is certainly not a perfect nation, what matters are the central principles that the country was founded upon, and what Israel strives for every day. It is wrong to say that Israel seeks to oppress Palestinians on code when being a Zionist has nothing to do with Palestinian statehood.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is an entirely separate matter from Zionism, which only concerns itself with establishing a sovereign Jewish state. Ask any Zionist today, and they will tell you why they are proud of Israel and why they think Israel is important. They will speak of the Jewish people’s special bond, our history in the Levant, and how Israel has saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from ethnic cleansing.
The idea behind CAMERA on Campus’ “This is What a Zionist Looks Like” campaign is to show people how diverse Zionism is and how Zionism is a positive movement. It seeks to establish a safe homeland for the Jewish people, which can coexist with all of the other states in the Middle East.
While Zionism is a modern political movement, the Jewish people’s bond with the land of Israel is ancient, and there has always been a Jewish presence there. We want Jews to be proud Zionists and not feel ashamed of saying it publicly, as Zionism is an intrinsic part of being Jewish.
To learn more about the “This is What a Zionist Looks Like” campaign, visit www.zionism.me and CAMERA on Campus Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. You can help elevate the movement by sharing the #ThisIsWhatAZionistLooksLike hashtag and campaign posts.
A slightly different version of this article was featured in The Algemeiner.
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