How I’m #TakingBackZionism

TakingBackZionismAnyone who knows me in real life knows I’m not easily offended, bothered, or perturbed. So when I am either of those things, you know things just got real.

I’m a feminist, and a very proud one at that. It therefore bothers me when people say things like, “I’m not a feminist, but…” as if being a feminist was such a bad thing. All being a feminist actually means is to believe in equality between men and women. Feminism does not mean that women are a superior species who should be placed on a pedestal in all matters of life, but it’s hard not to think it does, given how most people seem to interpret the term. Feminism has become a dirty word, and unjustly so (even though some parts of the movement are indeed radical and reflect how many people have internalized the adulterated definition of “feminism” and don’t know what it actually means). Those who oppose feminism have made attempts to redefine the term as female supremacy, an extremist movement, reminiscent of second-wave bra-burning and man-hating that didn’t actually happen. Due to their successful attempts to tarnish the term, people often distance themselves from being labeled a feminist, so as not to be associated with the aforementioned radical connotation. These people, who distance themselves from the feminist identity, those who always add a disclaimer like “I’m not a feminist, but…” before saying something feminist are, albeit inadvertently, adding to the problem, and only worsen the feminist movement’s attempts to give women equal opportunities, especially in countries where they are severely lacking. Campaigns such as #WhoNeedsFeminism have done a lot to rectify the situation, but we still have a long way to go.

The same thing is happening to the term “Zionist” right now and frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of seeing people with an agenda, like the anti-feminist Phyllis Schiaflys of the world, sneakily adulterating the term to the extent that even many Jews are reluctant to call themselves Zionists. The term “Zionism,” simply means a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination on our ancestral homeland, a right to have land to call our own like most other ethnicities, a right for us Jews to decolonize our thinking from the Pan-Arabist, imperialist mentality that is trying to engulf us and decry Israel as an illegitimate state. However, for the majority who didn’t bother to pick up a dictionary or an encyclopedia, it’s very easy to think that Zionism is a Jewish supremacist movement hell-bent on driving all the Muslim Arabs out of their vicinity and using racist apartheid and genocidal policies to reach this alleged objective, because that’s how Zionism is portrayed.

Those who are trying to adulterate the term Zionism, to make it a dirty word, are the same types who are trying to revise our history to weaken our cause. They’re the same people who deny the Holocaust or say it’s exaggerated in order to discredit the Jewish People and our need for Israel. The 1967 paradigm shift that was brought on by such revisionism illustrates this point, as in the wake of their Six-Day War defeat, the pan-Arabists suddenly realized they weren’t going to win by force, so they had to try other means – namely, public relations manipulation, tailoring their message to different audiences to win the war of public opinion. The people behind this paradigm shift capitalized on Israel’s military might, with pan-Arabists opportunistically jumping on the “oppressed brown people” bandwagon in the wake of the civil rights movement, depicting Israel as no longer worth supporting due to its persistent power that has inevitably corrupted them into bloodthirsty racist colonizers. Following the rise of “scholars” like Edward Said, the colonizers became the colonized, and the colonized became white supremacist racists. Their brilliantly manipulative revisionist works became part of the academic canon for any course of study even tangentially related to the Middle East, deceptively piggybacking off of some of the very legitimate postcolonial struggles of People of Color all over the world in order to gain sympathy from progressives. Furthermore, those who sought to delegitimize us, who depicted Israel as the cause and effect of all evil in the world, began referring to Israel as “The Zionist Entity” rather than “Israel” or even “Palestine,” thereby associating the term Zionist with all the horrible things these haters accuse us of.

The anti-Israel efforts at tarnishing the term “Zionism” have been largely successful. Successful to the extent that most Jews tiptoe around using the term even when defending Israel, in fear it would discredit them. Even some of my milder “pro-Palestinian” friends on Facebook have described the term “Zionism” as akin to racism, Jewish expansionism, and white supremacism, and assumed Zionists were by definition supporters of apartheid and genocide more times than I could count. Not sure I blame them, because it’s what Zionism has become widely known as due to the antizionists’ superior PR tactics.

The pan-Arabists stole our land, misrepresented our culture, rewrote our history and now they’re telling us what our terminology means. Their redefinition of the word “Zionism” creates the ultimate straw man when arguing with anyone about Israel’s legitimacy, as what they think you’re supporting and what you’re actually supporting are now two completely different things.

If you have ever said something like, “I’m not a Zionist but…” followed by a comment like “I think Israel has the right to exist,” then you’ve said an oxymoron. However, you’re definitely not alone. You’ve fallen into an analogous trap to what the anti-feminists have created about feminism – you feel the need to begin with a disclaimer because the anti-Zionist PR machine has successfully convinced you that Zionism is something that it is not. Zionism, like feminism, turns out to be just a Scooby Doo monster once you know what it means – seemingly very evil, sinister, and scary, but the ultimate anticlimax, the “wow, that’s it?” once you discover its true nature.

Here is the Wikipedia definition:

Zionism (Hebrew: ??????????, IPA: [t?sijo??nut], translit. ?iyonut, after Zion) is a nationalist and political movement of Jews and Jewish culture that supports the reestablishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel

Yep. That’s it. That’s all there is to it: Jews deserve a homeland. All this means is that there should be a state that guarantees us a safe haven that protects the Jewish people after 4000 years of constant persecution that came from the very fickle leaderships of Diaspora countries, on our ancestral land. Does that sound so extreme to you? Does that sound like apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing, or colonialism? It doesn’t, because it’s not.

Another thing people don’t understand is that Zionism is an extremely diverse movement, and in redefining Zionism as a partisan, far-right, racist, anti-Palestinian ideology, our haters are policing the identities of some of Zionism’s more left-wing adherents. Throughout the history of the movement, there have been Zionists of all stripes – liberal and conservative, religious and secular, communist and capitalist, Jewish and non-Jewish, Shas and Meretz. The real definition accounts for this diversity. However, the the fake definition, the one our haters have (often successfully) used to try to overwrite the real one, serves to exclude most Zionists, using a divide and conquer strategy. As a result, many Jews, especially those on the left, feel too ashamed and worried about the implications of coming out as Zionist to do so. We must recognize this revisionism for what it is and not fall into its trap. We need to wear our Zionism with pride, embrace its diversity, and not be afraid to stand up for what Zionism really means; in other words, we need to #TakeBackZionism.

Let’s start a #TakingBackZionism revolution. We’ve taken back our land, so we can definitely take back our terminology and show the world that we will not stay silent as they try to render Zionism a dirty word and thereby legitimize antisemitism. #TakingBackZionism means peace, equality, freedom, progress, innovation, love, security, and fulfillment, not apartheid, genocide, colonialism, white supremacy, Jewish supremacy, racism, orientalism, ethnic cleansing, or oppression. #TakingBackZionism means reclaiming Zionism as ours: our movement with our definition. If you’re with me, I want you to tweet what real Zionism means to you with the hashtag #TakingBackZionism. Together we can stand strong against the hate and give Israel the future it deserves.

I’m #TakingBackZionism. Are you?




Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.