Our species is plagued by intolerance and racism. The effects of those attributes can be observed and felt all around the world. It affects the lives of many people, among those affected are the Jews.
The history of the Jews is also a history of discrimination, prosecution, and annihilation.
Jews were targeted as a religion and as people since biblical times, during which other nations tried to force upon them their beliefs, destroyed their temples and displaced the Jews from their land. They were prosecuted without trial and indicted without the right of defense. No matter how advanced a state is, how educated its people are and how well the Jews were integrated and assimilated into the society, there was not a period in which Jews were not attempted to be annihilated. The history of Antisemitism had its horrible peak in the Holocaust, during which over 6 million Jews were killed, and many more were forced into exile.
In those times of suffering, the Jews didn’t have their own country, in which they could feel safe and have the right of self-determination. No country that would be the defendant of the Jewish nation spread all around the globe. The first one to realize the importance of a Jewish home country was Theodor Herzl. He was the founding father of the Zionist movement. It took about 50 years, and the darkest period in human history for the world to see that Theodor Herzl was right.
The world and history have shown us that there is an urge, a need, and a right that this folk has its own country. Never again would this country let its nation be the victim again.
In this historical context, there is no space and no right for people to argue that there shouldn’t be Zionism. Anti-Zionism is the act of singling out the Jewish people and not giving them the right that other nations have. The right of self-determination. In this context, anti-Zionism can be equalized with Antisemitism.
When using examples from the past, it becomes unthinkable to explain that these problems are still very present in this day and time. Unfortunately, I am not always identified as a human, as Viennese or as European. People sometimes choose to single me out as a Jew above everything else, as I often get confronted with prejudgement (e.g., “You don’t look Jewish,” “What do you have to say that your people do this and that in Israel”) or even with direct antisemitism (e.g., “All Jews are the same,” “Fuck Jews-we should have been done with you 70 years ago”).
Antisemitism is still deeply rooted in today’s society. Especially in Vienna, the city in which, until very recently its former mayor, the antisemitic Karl Lueger, from which Hitler learned the popularity of Antisemitism, had a big street named after him.
Although history and many extrinsic factors are drivers for Zionism, I could say my Zionism is based on intrinsic factors. My upbringing, my family history, and my love for history and the State of Israel are all personal reasons as to why this issue is close to my heart.
Zionism, though, shouldn’t just be understood and linked with Antisemitism. Zionism, for me, is the thousand-year-old wish and desire of the Jewish people to return to their home. The urge of self-determination, of being equal, of not being ruled upon and to be reunited after many centuries of Diaspora. There is no other nation in the world that survived to be spread all around the globe for centuries, except the Jews. Every year during Pesach, those Jews all around the world, some even without contact with other Jewish communities for hundreds of years, would say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” After so long, the wish was fulfilled, on the 14th of May 1948.
The day of independence of the State of Israel is a holiday. It shouldn’t just be a Holiday for Israelis or Zionists. It should also be a holiday for everyone that thinks, that all people have the right of self-determination and for everyone that is in alignment with the belief of equality of all people, as everyone is Israel no matter their belief, their sexuality, or their color is equal and included in the idea of Zionism. It is a holiday that celebrates a young Democracy, build from nothing but the desert and the desire to make this country a great country.
This blog has been submitted as part of a wider campaign, which is being run by the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) entitled “Theodor & I – Zionism and Young European Jews”. Being launched on Yom Haatzmaut, the campaign seeks to start a discussion on Zionism, towards challenging the existing conversation surrounding the concept and ultimately highlighting the plurality of Jewish European identity and Zionism.