To understand my perspective on Zionism in our modern era, I would like you to follow me to the 10th of November 1975. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 is being presented under the subject “Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination”. The text states the following :
“The General Assembly,
Determines that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”
To me, this is exactly how Zionism is perceived today. The definition of Zionism (noun), is a movement for the re-establishment, development and protection of a Jewish nation in Israel. Not something you would condemn as racist in itself or its description. How could the United Nations, the ultimate international body, establish that my right, the right of the Jewish people to a homeland is such an offense to the rest of the world?
To try and understand how the United Nations General Assembly concluded such a statement, let’s take a step back. When encountering someone new, you ask for his story, his roots and his vision. When trying to understand a word, one can only do the same.
The story of the word, is the story of the Jewish people. A nation persecuted and expelled from the land of Israel twice, before being sent into exile all across the globe. The inquisition in Spain, the royal ban in France, the slavery in Egypt, the pogroms in USSR, the Shoah all over Europe, the slaughter of communities in the British Mandate of Palestine, the destruction of the temple by the Romans, and it doesn’t stop there. But the story of the Jewish nation doesn’t rely only on difficulties. The link between all those tragic events is the capacity to never back down, to never give up, to always stand up for the Jewish people values and beliefs. Zionism should then be a story of resilience, of an oppressed people, getting back to their homeland, finally being able to establish a protecting roof over their heads and build for the future. That too, doesn’t feel discriminating at all. To the contrary, it is the example of freedom for oppressed generations.
The only step for those who argue the Jewish state is racist is to prove that the State of Israel is in its application discriminating towards certain populations, and for that you would have to bring forward facts. That is exactly how Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog answered in 1975 : “I can point with pride to the Arab ministers who have served in my government; to the Arab deputy speaker of my Parliament; to Arab officers and men serving of their own volition in our border and police defense forces, frequently commanding Jewish troops; to the hundreds of thousands of Arabs from all over the Middle East crowding the cities of Israel every year; to the thousands of Arabs from all over the Middle East coming for medical treatment to Israel; to the peaceful coexistence which has developed; to the fact that Arabic is an official language in Israel on a par with Hebrew; to the fact that it is as natural for an Arab to serve in public office in Israel as it is incongruous to think of a Jew serving in any public office in an Arab country, indeed being admitted to many of them. Is that racism? It is not! That … is Zionism.“
To end his statement, the Ambassador said : “For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such.” Tearing down the resolution in half.
Before the vote, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations added : “The United Nations is about to make anti-Semitism international law.” /… / “[The United States] does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act … A great evil has been loosed upon the world.”
Today, Arab and African ministers, lawyers, doctors, soldiers, police officers, directors, teachers, radio hosts, TV anchors, comedians, are living daily in Israel. On the total population, over 20 percent is Arab, and over 18% is Muslim. Nevertheless, there have been over 100 resolutions against Israel since 2015, against 66 resolutions for the rest of the world. You might be surprised by this number. I am not.
The fact that I grew up in Israel diversity, before moving to Geneva, learning nearby the United Nations, and had the occasion to meet with Ambassadors and actors of international politics might play a role in it. The fact that I am today, as President of the World Union of Jewish Students, often asked to speak in such a place might add to that. But as Martin Luther King Jr. once answered a student in 1968 : “When people criticize Zionists, then mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism”. The right of Jews to self-determination, the right of Israel to exist, has been an excuse for hate since day one.
Where are the condemnations of Arab countries expelling Jews from their homes, lands and possessions from the 1940s to the early 2000s? Why does the UN still maintain its infamous Item 7, the only item focusing on one single country, not even conflict, targeting once again the Jewish state? When will we see the end of double standards when talking about the Jewish states?
In 1991, George H. W. Bush introduced a resolution to revoke 3379 as such : “UNGA Resolution 3379, the so-called “Zionism is racism” resolution, mocks this pledge and the principles upon which the United Nations was founded. And I call now for its repeal. Zionism is not a policy; it is the idea that led to the creation of a home for the Jewish people, to the State of Israel. And to equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism is to twist history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and, indeed, throughout history. To equate Zionism with racism is to reject Israel itself, a member of good standing of the United Nations. This body cannot claim to seek peace and at the same time challenge Israel’s right to exist. By repealing this resolution unconditionally, the United Nations will enhance its credibility and serve the cause of peace.”
What I understand at the end, is that no matter how we talk about Zionism, about the rights of the Jewish people to a safe homeland, the State of Israel, we need to start living on a unique standard. As long as the bodies calling for the end of racism, discrimination and hate will be vehiculating those exact same values, concrete discussions for peace and about the advancement of Zionism will be impossible. A peace agreement needs two signatures, and an independent body to write the treaty. I strongly believe Zionism is ready to sign. I will support it all the way, and I hope the other actors will be able to join Zionism at the table of discussion.
This blog has been submitted as part of a wider campaign, which is being run by the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) entitled “Theodor & I – Zionism and Young European Jews”. Being launched on Yom Ha’atzmaut, the campaign seeks to start a discussion on Zionism, towards challenging the existing conversation surrounding the concept and ultimately highlighting the plurality of Jewish European identity and Zionism.