Zionism is a movement for social justice that empowers an historically marginalized, oppressed people. It’s not a contradiction be to a progressive Zionist. In fact, it doesn’t make much sense to be one without the other.
Jews have faced intergenerational struggles for dignity for millennia. Zionism is the Jewish national movement of self-determination in the Jewish ancestral homeland. Identifying as a Zionist does not mean you blindly follow or even support Israeli domestic and foreign policy. I am a critic of Israeli policy and have even been arrested for my beliefs. I also know that it’s the only place in which I, a Jew with staunch progressive beliefs and a penchant for criticizing the government, will be safe. And that Israel is committed to the safety of future generations of Jews. What happened last week with the DC chapter of the Sunrise movement is the perfect example of the biggest challenge my community now faces – exclusion and delegitimization. And we know where that leads.
“Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology,” Sunrise DC said in a statement it posted to Twitter on last week.
If you understand the definition of Zionism this statement is a clear oxymoron.
Zionism is not a right-wing political movement like some anti-Israel organizations and adversaries would like to have you believe. Jewish values and progressive values almost always align, which helps explain why 95% of American Jews support Israel. These same American Jews have played leading roles in every major civil rights movement of the past century and overwhelmingly vote Democratic. Fringe extremists should not deter progressives from defending Israel and its right to exist.
Being progressive means always striving to promote positive change. And many of us here are doing just that. The new government has surprised a lot of people, including me, with its ideological and even demographic diversity. The coalition includes an independent Islamic Arab Party, nine female ministers, and two openly gay ministers. This new government comes equipped with a diverse political agenda as well.
The Sunrise Movement, the national organization with which Sunrise DC is affiliated, called its stance “unacceptable and antisemitic.”
The DC chapters apology was less than half-assed:
“We are committed to learning and growing as we continue to stand against Zionism, antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism, and all other forms of oppression,” the group wrote.
Sunrise’s continued anti-Zionism denies my historical right to exist as part of a people that has championed progressive causes.
Israel is still a relatively new country and, thankfully, is evolving every day. It is certainly not perfect (no country is) and we should not shy away from criticizing government policy when they get it wrong. But we should also not hesitate to recognize when they get it right. Zionist and progressive values go hand in hand. Anyone who claims to be an advocate for oppressed communities should fully support the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. We are, indeed, the original indigenous people’s success story, having been enslaved and expelled and to finally return to our ancestral land. Sunrise’s continued anti-Zionism denies my historical right to exist as part of a people that has championed progressive causes.
If they truly cared about fighting climate change, which is their mission, Israel has the technological solutions and strategies to do so. The Arava desert in the south is the first region in the world to reach 100% solar during the day. Tel Aviv has a higher vegan population per capita than any other western city. But they seem to care more about promoting a climate of hate and delegitimization than about solving real issues. Misguided virtue-signaling won’t solve racism or the climate crisis.