Paul Mirbach

I am Proud to be a Zionist. It is Historically and Fundamentally Just

In light of the anti-Israel, pro-Hamas protests on the campus of Columbia University and other campuses, the depiction of Zionism as an inherently evil enterprise and protest leader Khymani James’s assertion that “Zionists don’t deserve to live”, this has to be said.
I am a Zionist. I am proud to be a Zionist. Because, there has been no historic liberation movement that is more just than the right for the Jewish people to self-determination after 2000 years of deprivation and dispossession of our nationhood. That is Zionism at its essence. The people who portray Zionism as fundamentally unjust and “colonialist”, are either ignorant of history, uninformed or prejudiced against Jews.
That is not to say that everything that Israel does is just; there are many injustices done in the name of “Zionism” – by extremists, that cannot be tolerated and must be repudiated. They may call themselves Zionists, but in fact they are ultra-nationalist fascists who are using Zionism to whitewash their racist and expansionist cause. They do us all a grave disservice and undermine our cause. I cannot, and will not justify the Occupation and the oppression of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, or in Gaza. But what is happening in Gaza is NOT genocide. Genocide requires intent to wipe a nation off the face of the earth. The people who are calling for that, are Hamas, not us.
In any event, that does not change the fact that the essence of Zionism is fundamentally just; the legitimacy of our existence as a Jewish homeland should not be called into question. Just like the existence of the United States, despite the genocide of the Native Americans does not call into question its legitimacy, or the genocide of the Armenians does not call into question Turkey’s legitimacy.
In the year 70 CE, one thousand, nine hundred and fifty-four years ago, the vast majority of Jews were expelled from what was called “Palestina” by the Romans, the ultimate imperialist colonizer. There is one thing that can be said about the Romans: When they did something, they did it properly. When they were ruthless, they were utterly ruthless. And just like the Roman aqueducts, built thousands of years ago, which are still standing, and functioning today, when they determined to disperse the Jews, scattering them throughout the empire so that we would never again be a united nation and return to our homeland, they made sure that our expulsion endured for 1900 years, and still endures for many today.
Exiled, sold into slavery and scattered among other Roman provinces, we were stripped of all our possessions and our dignity. We were forced to live in lands not ours, among other nations as sojourners.
But these countries never absorbed us. At best, we were tolerated, and at worst, we were persecuted, murdered and driven out, forced to wander, until another country grudgingly allowed us residence – until they too drove us out. We were always dependent on the grudging “hospitality” of the host countries. And they were host countries. But, we were always the “other”, always regarded with suspicion. Throughout our history, it was made abundantly clear to us that we did not belong. We were never wanted. When times were good, they left us alone. When times were bad, we were the “whipping boy”, always the scapegoat.
For centuries, we endured Inquisitions and pogroms, expulsions and impermanence. And being homeless, we had no choice but to absorb it, bow our heads and move on.
Because we had nowhere to go.
And then, when the Nazis conquered Europe and devised the Final Solution to the “Jewish Question”, we were denounced by our neighbors, people we lived with, who helped round us up, to be imprisoned in ghettos, while they appropriated our possessions and property. And then we were sent to concentration camps and death camps. Genocide. Real genocide, with malicious intent and malevolent methodology. Not some kind of rhetoric-based propaganda.
So, if you want to talk about an “injustice” done to a people, our history is the mother of injustice.
Eventually, we got the message, that we were not wanted. We don’t belong. So, where do we belong?? That was when we decided; if we were not wanted, we would build a homeland for ourselves, so that we wouldn’t impose upon our grudging hosts, where we were unwanted.
That was the birth of Zionism. And, given our long and tortured history, being dispossessed of a home and renounced so often by our host countries, there is no cause more just than that.

And if we are to build a homeland, then there is no place more just than where our history is and only here in Israel can this historic wrong be righted.

Israel’s declaration of Independence. 15 may, 1948. (Courtesy of the Times of Israel).
That is not colonialism. It is invoking the right of return, after nearly 2000 years. There is no statute of limitations on the right of a people to return to their historic homeland!
And do you know what? The question of “indigenous” is irrelevant. Because no-one living in the region of Historic Canaan (Israel today) is indigenous. Not us, and not the Palestinians. Do you know why? Because we both migrated here. But, here is where the heart of our culture and heritage resides. Here is where our connection to the land is unbreakable. Because of the blood. Because of the seed. Because of our Bible, which details geographical locations of events, that occurred, that could not be dreamed up in a fiction; something that would be uncanny – impossible – if there was no historical basis.
We have a right to a place where we belong. It is a universal right. Even if spurious theories try to undermine our connection to the region, like the theory that Eastern European Jews are descended from the Khazars, it’s irrelevant. Because they are JEWS! And because they were Jews, they were persecuted, and told that they do not belong – Khazars or not. Not in Poland, and not in Lithuania. Khazars or not, they were gassed by the Nazis and murdered at Babi Yar. Because they were Jews.
Because we, as a people have a right to exist, as does any other people. And, as a people, we have a right to a homeland. (I was led to believe, as a Left-wing liberal, that that right is inalienable and universal, for all people. Us, too).
Israel’s establishment is the only just Final Solution – a homeland for the Jews, where we can live freely and unconditionally. Without our existence being grudgingly tolerated by unwilling hosts, and without our existence being denied by rejectionists of history, motivated by some kind ideology of racial purity of the region.
No land stays empty forever. During the 1954 years that the people who had lived in the region were forcibly exiled, others migrated into it. These people – at least some of them – have lived here for centuries, and their right to live here is no less than ours. But it also does not supersede ours. And that is why the Palestinian rejection of our right is fundamentally unjust. Zionism, while being a Jewish homeland, can tolerate that the land need not be exclusively for Jews that the two need not be mutually exclusive. Palestinianism cannot.
Don’t judge us by the extremists who think that they are Zionists, but are really ultra-nationalists.
Judge Zionism by its fundamental essence. Not by its demonization, by a people who seek to deny our right to exist, because we are Jews.
About the Author
Paul Mirbach (PEM), made Aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz, transforming rocks and mud into a green oasis in the Gallilee. Paul still lives on Tuval. He calls it his little corner of Paradise.