I have been thinking about Zionism a lot lately, questioning where my deep, burning passion for Israel comes from. For sure ideology can do funny things to a person. Ideology can give people the spirit to move mountains, to revive a dead language, to happily walk to the gallows with the knowledge that they never wasted a moment in fighting for their goals. Ideology will give people the strength to gladly give their lives in the pursuit of an ideal. But ideology can also have a darker side, ideology that is often the midwife of a country could also throw out the baby with the bathwater if kept around for too long.
I can be brought to tears by the stories of struggle and survival that the godfathers of Israel went through in order to provide us with our home. The struggles of our soldiers throughout the decades in the face of adversity have moved Jews all over the world, moved them to give their money, their lives, their souls. Zionism has moved Jews to come and live here, to work toward getting other Jews to move here, to raise funds for the cause and to make sure that Israel is on the agenda everywhere.
Those who believe in Zionism, who proudly call themselves Zionists will go to war in the Golan Heights and in the columns of the Guardian, all contributing whatever and however they can. But Zionism has served its purpose: Israel exists, I traded in my ideology for a blue passport with a gold menorah emblazoned upon it.
After all, we won…right?
Our state is here, we got what we wanted, we beat off hordes of enemies looking to throw us into the sea and then we did it again. At some point Zionists became Israelis, and supporters of Israel. There is no Zionist in AIPAC for example. The crisis of Zionism came when the declaration of independence was declared, where does the ideology stand when the central aim has been achieved?
There are a lot of arguments that bounce back and forth between left and right. They concern the legality of the settlements, the contribution made to the defense of the country, whether the left are just naive, the importance of living in the land spoken about in the Torah verses making sacrifices in the name of peace and many more. Those arguing have a truly impressive command of the minutiae and history of this land while they look at it through their own ideological lenses.
The truth is that it all boils down to your Zionism; the rest is just the way you justify the Israel that you wish to see. When the Israel of 1967 occupied the Palestinian territories, that is precisely what it did. I don’t see this through the prism of my ideology; my ideology is for a Jewish state to exist. I would imagine that through the lens of modern Zionism, the occupation is all part of strengthening the country and the borders. This is undoubtedly Zionism in its most classic form, and it is where Zionism and I part company.
It is also the exact point at which someone else picks it up. Behind all of the arguments between right and left lies the simple disagreement about the direction of Israel’s future. The legal and moral issues are just window dressing: either you feel that the future of Israel is in the West Bank or you don’t. I don’t.
And this is where Zionism lies in the 21st century, at loggerheads with the modern state that is Israel and all that we wish our country to represent to the world.
Ultimately, either Zionism or Israel will have to go. I know which one I prefer.