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Michael Rosental Guzman

I define myself, therefore I am

In 1975 Herbert Pagani wrote one of the most important poems of our times. In a few minutes, he explained the modern Jewish experience with the most beautiful words. The video of Pagani reading the poem goes viral now and then, and in these extremely hard times, it was no exception. Pagani concluded in this way:

“Descartes was wrong when he stated: ‘I think, therefore I am’. To me, it means nothing whatsoever. We have been thinking for 5000 years, and we still don’t exist!  

My motto therefore is: ‘I defend myself, therefore I am!”

(Herber Pagani, Plea For my land)

With these new waves of antisemitism, a reality that sadly cannot be ignored, I want to add a step towards defense: Definition. To think, to defend ourselves, in order to be, we must define who we are and defend it. From my personal experience, part of the new ideological tactics of the new antisemitism is redefining everything related to the Jewish people: We are not allowed to define Zionism, we are not allowed to define antisemitism, we are not even allowed to define Judaism.

Now, Zionism is defined as a genocidal, white supremacist, colonial movement that aims to establish Ashkenazi Jews as rulers across the Levant; Antisemitism is defined as hatred against all ‘Semites’ (And let’s remember, Jews are not ‘Semites’ but rather considered converted Khazars and White Europeans). Furthermore, Judaism is now portrayed as a faith without any ethnic or national connections. Consequently, Jews are perceived not as a distinct people, but as random citizens of the world who adhere to a particular religion.

I believe the objective behind the redefinition of Judaism and these associated concepts is to convey to the global Jewish community that we lack the political agency to define ourselves. For left-wing antisemites, it becomes notably convenient to wage a campaign against Zionism when it is portrayed as the epitome of colonialism, white supremacy, and everything perceived as wrong with the West.

But additionally, if antisemitism is not about Jews, but about “All Semites,” Jews have no tools to call out the particular hate against them, which is a form of denial of centuries of persecution and abuse. Lastly, if Jews are not recognized as a collective but merely as individuals united by a common faith, they are denied the right to self-determination. In this construct, they lack a shared history or heritage, essentially being viewed as individuals without any collective rights.

So in order to defend ourselves, in other to be, we must define ourselves clearly. Here are some fundamental definitions I propose:

The Jewish People is one of the oldest collectives in the world, born in the Land of Israel. It has built a unique indigenous identity that evolved and flourished both in its homeland and in the diaspora.

Judaism encompasses all aspects of the Jewish people’s religious, spiritual, legal, historical, cultural, social, and linguistic characteristics.

Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people for self-determination in their ancestral homeland, the Land Of Israel. It had multiple manifestations, from Binational Zionism to Kahanism.

Antisemitism is the hatred towards the Jewish People. While the concept was coined in the 18th century, it encompasses all historical manifestations of Jew-Hate from centuries before. Contrary to misconceptions, it has nothing to do with “Semitic Peoples” because there is no such thing as “Semitic Peoples.”

Pagani was right: we defend ourselves, therefore we are. But defending depends on understanding. This war has multiple fronts, and we must fight the conceptual one by defending the most basic definitions of who we are.

We define ourselves, therefore we are.

About the Author
Michael Rosental Guzman is an International Relations Student and an active member of the Jewish Community in Colombia. He is part of the Youth Network of the Latin American Jewish Congress and part of the IMPACT Fellowship of the Bnei Brith.
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