Zionism represents self-determination and freedom. It was created to empower the Jewish people in a world where anti-Semitism thrived and dictated how my people lived their lives. The words of Jabotinsky, Herzl, and Ben-Gurion remain etched in the veins of the modern Zionist movement. The Jewish State of Israel represents the culmination of all that the Jewish people fought, died, and struggled for: a place to call home and a place to be proud to be Jewish. For me, Zionist advocacy has become my mission, and I have worked hard to stand up for Israel and for the Jewish people’s right to dictate their own future. Along the way, I have met great individuals and had engaging conversations about the future ahead of us.
One night, I had a conversation with my dear friend and colleague, Chloé Valdary, about said topic. How do we, as Zionist activists, start gaining the upper hand on campus? We reached the following conclusion: Zionist activism and advocacy finds itself in a predicament when it comes to expressing pride and joy of fighting for Jewish self-determination. It should be balanced between attacking the flagrant anti-Semitism and happily demonstrating our pride for being Zionist. But it is easier said than done.
When it comes to campus life, it remains an uphill battle for many Zionist activists to fight the factually inaccurate claims of “apartheid” and “occupation,” while simultaneously hearing comparisons between Zionism and racism. It is not quiet on the information front, and organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine and J Street use seductive and manipulative tactics to give satisfaction to its student activists. These anti-Israel groups continue to use the language of “liberalism” to reward these college students the feeling of accomplishment in fighting what is seen as an “inhumane force.” We are addicted to self-fulfillment and acquiring a sense of accomplishment. That is a fact that Zionists cannot ignore.
Many Zionist activists, myself included, know that our work is significantly important. We spend countless hours defending Israel’s right to exist, declaring the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and holding the Palestinian faction governments accountable for its crimes. However, we spend an abundance of energy on the defensive and fighting the injustice and anti-Semitism. Given how much energy we spend combatting the bigotry, where do we incorporate the positivity and the happiness in fighting for the Zionist cause? How do we exemplify to college campuses that fighting for Israel is showing pride in Jewish history and our connection to the Land of Israel? It starts with embracing the Jewish people’s current victories as a nation.
We have come a long way over the last century. My great-grandparents immigrated to the United States following the Russian pogroms, leaving behind their homes as the Russian Army razed them to the ground. While their hometowns no longer exist, the Jewish people survived millennia of genocide, persecution, inquisition, and second-class treatment. Today, the Jewish people thrive in Israel, where it is socially acceptable to be Jewish and to express our Judaism in however ways seem fit to us. Zionism called for such freedom and autonomy for the Jewish people, and it fueled the hopes and desires of those who fled from anti-Semitic persecution.
Zionism is not just a political right; it is a human right for the Jews to have self-determination in our rightful homeland. As a self-proclaimed Zionist, I champion the beliefs that an indigenous people, thrown out of their home for over two thousand years, should return to where they belong. If we cannot start taking ownership in our pride for fighting for human rights, then we start losing ground in an information battle that continues its unrelenting attacks on Jewish self-determination. To declare our freedom as a national entity no longer bound by the hatred that threatened to destroy us sends a stronger message to those who seek to destroy us and our rights as human beings.
For the last seven years, I have heard almost every single possible negative comment against Zionism and had almost every anti-Semitic comment directed at me. To name a few cases, these anti-Semitic bigots have told me to go back to Khazaria, get thrown back into the oven, and have had blood libel directed at me. Despite this hatred, I have not backed down and I have no intention of doing so, either.
But what I must do in my last year of college is not only to combat the anti-Semitism that occurs on my campus, but also show the Claremont Colleges why I am a Zionist and why I am proud of it. Only positivity can fight this war of words and information. We need to pick and choose the time to remain strong on the facts and the time to be happy and proud to have a state and an ideology worth fighting for. If the Jewish people have fought hatred and persecution for millennia and survived, then so shall the Zionists. Just as we have before, we will always prevail.