In recent years, Zionism has unjustly been given a reputation that contradicts the reality of the movement. Those who oppose Zionism have tried to paint the movement as a band of right-wing colonialists. In reality, Zionists are simply those who believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland – Israel, no matter their political leaning.
‘This is What a Zionist Looks Like’ is a campaign which shows that anyone can be a Zionist – not just those politically minded. The campaign, spearheaded by CAMERA on Campus, already has more than 500 followers on Instagram – a wide variety of people who are Zionists and are proud to be so. Campaign participants range from vocal Israel activists on campus, like me, to more passive supporters who are less engaged politically. The wide span of campaign participants shows that — regardless of race, religion or gender — anyone can be a Zionist.
A notable contributor is @jewish_chick, a refugee from the Soviet Union who is proud to be a Zionist and stand up for Israel online, and who has just recently been announced as one of the top Zionist activists online by Social Lite Creative. Liora Rez, the owner of the account, has said that ‘radical movements have hijacked the word “Zionism” and turned it into a mask for their antisemitism. Campaigns such as this show that the Jewish right to self-determination is supported by 97% of Jews in the Diaspora as well as by many of Israel’s friends across the world’. Rez, who has a collective 63,000 followers across @jewish_chick and her second account: @stop_antisemitism, strongly believes in combating misinformation about Israel and standing up to those who spread false and antisemitic narratives online.
As a contrast to the political activism done by Rez, Sally is an Israeli native who shares her love for Israel through celebrating its culture. Her Instagram @mysexyveggies is where she promotes healthy living and eating to her 20,000 followers. She sells her own Israeli produce, uniting people through the global language of food. Sally is a prime example of what the ‘This is What a Zionist Looks Like’ campaign is aiming to portray — that regular everyday people can be activists, and that you don’t have to be involved in politics to support or care about Israel.
Being a Zionist simply means believing that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. It is a belief that many Jewish people hold close to their hearts, as it is deeply rooted in Jewish ideology. For example, every year in the festival of Passover, the last prayer of the Seder service says, ‘next year in Jerusalem’, showing a strong yearning for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland. However, Zionism is not just a cause for Jewish people to believe in — it is also a cause that binds together people of all religions and origins. For example, Taylor Roth, the president of Christians United for Israel at the University of Florida, believes in Zionism because ‘everyone has the right to live peacefully, pursue happiness and have the right to self-determination’. This proves that although Zionism is the belief in a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel, and that it is embedded in fundamental Jewish beliefs, it is not a cause for only Jewish people.
Overall, this campaign shows that anyone can be a Zionist, as long as they support the fundamental belief of Jews having a right to self-determination. It does not matter where you stand politically, your ethnic or religious background or whether you are an Israeli activist or someone who connects with Israeli culture, what unites all Zionists is a conviction in the basic human right of self-determination.
Millie Walker is a CAMERA on Campus UK Fellow at the University of Leeds and an incoming CAMERA on Campus UK Associate.