Zionism Defined

There are so many people out there who say they despise Zionism. There are even Israelis who claim to despise Zionism. Many claim to be “anti-Zionist” but not anti-Semitic.  When asked to define Zionism, most who vociferously criticize Zionism tend to go silent.  They know they hate Zionism because they’ve been told to, but they have no clue what it is.  Every once in awhile, I will get a response.  Some of those responses have been:

  • “Zionism is the belief in Jewish superiority”
  • “Zionism is the belief in Greater Israel”
  • “Zionism is synonymous with the illuminati”
  • “Zionism is a right-wing plot to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians”
  • “Zionism is religious”
  • “Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism”
  • “Zionism is a method used by the illuminati to take over the world”

and many other variations of these common themes.  Zionism is none of the above.

I will solve this great mystery right here and now.  Zionism is the belief that Jews have the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland and not at the expense of anyone else who dwells on that land.  Period. The end. There is a component to Judaism that is Zionist in nature.  Every Passover “next year in Jerusalem” is recited as part of the ceremony that takes place.  However, the Zionist movement began as a completely secular movement and fortunately resulted in the re-establishment of Israel as a secular democracy versus a Jewish theocracy.

In fact, upon the re-establishment of the Jewish state aka Israel, Israel’s Declaration of the Establishment of Statehood, issued on May 14, 1948, includes the following stanzas:

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

WE APPEAL — in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months — to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

Of course the automatic response to the above stanzas from Israel’s Declaration of Statehood is going to be, “but look at what Israel has done to the Palestinians since it was created.”  Yes, let’s take a look at that.  What happened is that Israel was attacked immediately upon declaring statehood by five Arab countries and has been continuously attacked.  It hasn’t been attacked because it “stole land.” This is a myth.  Anyone with a basic education on the history of that land would know this. There was never a country called Palestine, nor was that land solely designated for Arabs only, or Arabs in charge only. So why has Israel been continuously attacked?  For the same reasons Jews everywhere have been the target of hatred.  The attacks on the only Jewish state in the world have occurred for the same reasons Jews in Russia were attacked, Jews in Germany were attacked, Jews in Spain were attacked, Jews in America were attacked.

Ask yourself this – why would it be problematic to have a Jewish state in which Arabs live as equal citizens?  There were dozens of Arab states in which Jews lived as citizens (albeit unequal and most were forced to either flee or were blatently removed). Isn’t it bigotry to claim that Jews have no right to a sovereign government?  The Palestinians were not self-governing at any point in the history of the world. I support their right to be self-governing, and it will come, but not at the expense of Jews’ right to be self-governing and safe from persecution.

So, if we look at the definition of Zionism as “Jews having the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland and not at the expense of anyone else who dwells on that land,” then we would have to view anti-Zionism as being against Jews having self-determination in their ancestral homeland. I can’t think of anything more ubiquitously anti-Semitic as being against Jews having self-determination. Being against black people having self-determination was (and is) considered a racist viewpoint.  Being against Palestinians having self-determination is equally bigoted.

Zionism is important because without it, Jews would still be at the mercy of their host countries where they’ve ended up dispersed throughout the millennia.  Without Zionism, Israel wouldn’t exist.   Without Zionism, Jews who are persecuted in Europe and elsewhere wouldn’t have a safehaven to which they can escape the persecution and violence that has been perpetrated on them in Europe and in Arab countries, and sadly, now in America, Canada, and Australia too.  And if someone dares express the argument that without the existence of Israel there wouldn’t be hatred of Jews, I refer you to the Dreyfuss affair, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the pogroms in Russia, et cetera.

Israel, the well-documented homeland of the Jewish people, is the only place Jews have in the entire world to go to should the need arise.  Sadly, throughout history, the need has arisen at multiple points and it’s not likely to end anytime soon.  This photo was taken today in Los Angeles in front of a synagogue.  The man in this photo is Juan Colon, a staff sergeant in the US Army.  Sgt. Colon and others like him are hired to stand guard where Jews gather. The Jewish community specifically hires active-duty military guards because the threat is so high in Los Angeles.  His presence is why Jews must have a safehaven where they are in charge of their own lives.  If you’re not Jewish, look at your own church or mosque.  Do you have to have armed guards checking people who come in?

Sgt Juan Colon

If you claim to be anti-Zionist and you’re a member of the tribe, then you’re, quite simply, a complete idiot. The Jewhaters of the world do not care if you loathe Israel or not. They don’t care if you’re an atheist or not. They only care that you’re a Jew and for you to be anti-Zionist means you deny your own right to self-determination and the self-determination of your parents, your children and their children.

About the Author
Debbie Hall is a writer and activist living in the diaspora.
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