Zionism, the fundamental political philosophy of the state of Israel, was established as a political movement in 1897 by Theodor Herzl in response to pogroms against Jews mostly in Russia. His goal was to create a Homeland in Palestine so Jews would not be subject to Antisemitism and be able to defend themselves. It was based on the theory that Antisemitism will always remain and Jews would only be able to protect themselves by having a state of their own. Herzl did not see Jews as an integrated part or equal in any country in which they were born. He saw them as permanent foreigners. He believed Jews would never be completely accepted as equal citizens. By advocating for Jews to move to Palestine, he validated their second-class status. Martin Luther King, facing the same issue, did not advocate for Blacks to move away from America. He fought for equality and rejected the notion that Blacks needed to move to another country.
By advocating for Jews to flee from Europe, Herzl created a philosophy in which Jews embrace fear of non-Jews. Creating a Jewish state led to the politicization of Judaism and a trajectory of violence lasting over 130 years without the ability to extricate the Jews or the Palestinians. The state of Israel and Zionism failed in its most basic purpose: to give peace and security to the Jewish people.
Since the creation of Israel in 1948, thousands of Jews and Arabs have been killed and injured fighting each other. Israel became a brutal occupier of the Palestinians, subjecting them to a two-tier legal system as an apartheid state. It was the first country in history to introduce nuclear weapons to the region. A “Jewish Democracy” is an oxymoron, often unable to have internal stability as evidenced by the frequent falls of its governments. Zionism is the holy grail of Israeli society precluding the introduction of other models. A Jewish State means that most of its population must be Jewish. Incorporating state and religion is a model that most Western democracies reject. It runs contrary to modern living in which people travel frequently and engage with other ethnicities and religions daily. A Jewish State reduces the likelihood that Muslims and Jews will be living together as equals. Separation has not been achieved either. Both sides have religious and personal connections to the land.
Israel has been a source of insecurity for Jews outside. It refuses to accept the fact that Jews are not foreigners in other countries. It engages in an enormous campaign persuading Jews to emigrate to Israel, undermining their standing worldwide by accusing non-Jews of Antisemitism, omitting the fact that Jews are far less safe in Israel. It has also been shaming Israeli Jews who left it. In the past Jews around the world did not seem to mind the Israeli -Zionist agenda percolating into their lives. However, more of them are critical of Israel now, realizing that it is an Apartheid state occupying the Palestinians while at the same time instigating a divide between themselves and the countries in which they live.
Zionism eviscerated almost entirely the identity of Arab Jews. It did not start in the Arab world because there was no burning desire in Jews to flee. Most of them immigrated to Israel after it was created in 1948. They were treated as second-class citizens. Their culture, appearance, language, and identity were not welcomed. They were given a new identity, “Mizrachi” or “oriental,” while their Arabic language was looked down upon. As a result, few descendants of Arab Jews speak Arabic or acknowledge their parents’ culture.
While Zionism is a political movement, it has effectively become a religious tenet of Judaism even though Israel’s leaders have always been secular. They justify their position by claiming that Judaism is not a religion but a culture. This however does not explain the hypocrisy of not including the Palestinians as part of the “culture”. Further, it does not explain calling those who oppose the policy of the state of Israel as “Antisemites “or “self -hating Jews”. If Judaism is a culture, what prevents Israel from including the Palestinians as part of that culture?