“After centuries in diaspora, Israel now serves as a sanctuary to the Jewish people who have been and are still very much an oppressed minority group. As a Progressive, this is something I am proud to support and want to help maintain.” With those words, Maxwell Alejandro Frost, the Democratic candidate for congress for Florida’s 10th district, opens his policy paper published in the Jewish Insider in August. While I, as the founder of an Israeli-based NGO do not interfere with U.S. elections as I respect the sovereignty of the American people to elect whomever they see fit for any office, as a liberal Zionist I must delve into those words, written by Frost, who most likely will be the youngest member of Congress come January 3rd.
Progressive Zionists? Yes, they exist
Frost makes a case rarely voiced: that Zionism is, in its essence, a progressive ideology. Zionism is simply the belief that the Jewish people, who have been persecuted for centuries, deserve to live in their own independent, secure, democratic, and peaceful state. Basically, this is saying that Israel has a right to exist.
At the same time, Progressive Zionism (or liberal Zionism, the term I prefer) adds another component to that: Israel has a right to exist and that does not jeopardize or hamper Palestinians’ right to live with freedom, dignity, and peace. This belief is not only a core value of us in the Israeli-Democratic Alliance but is also expressed in Mr. Frost’s statement: commitment to ensuring Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side, free from the threat of violence. As a matter of fact, this definition is pretty much identical to President Biden’s – a long-time, self-declared Zionist – statement from his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in July.
And Frost is not alone – there are so many who share his (and ours’) views and don’t see a contradiction between supporting Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself while at the same time opposing Israeli policies that hamper chances for peace and stability. As a matter of fact, those two not only aren’t mutually exclusive but actually go hand-in-hand, as Congresswoman Shontel Brown rightly claimed.
Justice is a core value in Judaism and each of Israel’s founding fathers, from Herzl to Jabotinsky, dreamed of a strong Jewish-Arab partnership and Israeli-Arab peace. Decades later, it is time for us – Progressive Zionists and Liberal Zionists, on both sides of the ocean – to fulfill their dreams.