4 Types of Zionists on Yom Ha’atzmaut

It’s a few days after Yom Ha’atzmaut. The flags have been waved, the Hebrew National hot dogs have been eaten, the sno-cones and cotton candy consumed, and the beer has been drunk, and the Israeli rap has been listened to.

It was interesting to see the turnout yesterday at the city-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut party in Montreal. Thousands of Zionists, mostly Jews but also some Christians, Hindus, atheists, and even a few Muslims of all colors and all walks of life gathered in the Quartier des Spectacles, waving thousands of Québec, Canada, and Israel flags (the organizers were giving them away for free after all). It was beautiful to see, a safer space for a Zionist than any radical left-wing so-called “safe space” ever could be, even though theirs usually have cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Ours had flags, a beer truck, a concert by SHI 360, a raffle, and even a parade float. Doing a scan of the crowd chanting Am Israel Chai, singing O Canada and Hatikvah, and draping themselves in full-body Israeli flag capes with stars of David painted in blue eyeliner on their faces in the bitter cold and through the rain, I can’t help but wonder: who are all these people coming out of the woodwork? The Facebook group, Montréal United with Israel only has about 145 members, and this crowd looked like it had at least 50 times that.

Asking around the crowd, I came up with an interesting list, called Types of Zionists. Without further ado, here it is:

1) The Zionist Activist

This group is the smallest as there aren’t that many of us active in the movement, although the number has grown since Protective Edge. We’re the ones who celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut all year round, to an almost obsessive degree. We keep blogs on sites like Israellycool, the Times of Israel, and sometimes even JPost. We’re the kinds of people who crash pro-Palestinian talks (I’m looking at you, Ryan), debate asshats on Facebook, and are the ones raining on everyone’s parade by bringing up the elephant in the room – aka the conflict – when most Jewish organizations like to pretend it doesn’t exist. We believe that if we don’t tell our side of the story there will only be one narrative out there among those not raised Zionist – theirs. And that’s what’s happening. We’re admins of Zionist Facebook groups and correspond with fellow Zionist activists from all over the world, whom we sometimes talk to more than our real friends. At the rally, we were the ones with fancy cameras taking a zillion pictures to post on our Zionist blog.

2) The Apolitical Zionist

The apolitical Zionists formed the majority of the people at the rally, but the vast majority of them didn’t go unless they happened to be in the neighborhood during their lunch breaks. They just go for the party. After all, who doesn’t like a good party? These Zios have jobs, interests, and lives that they’re crazier about than Zionist advocacy, and trust the Zionist Activists to stand up for Israel on their behalf. Sometimes, the apolitical Zionists get upset with the Zionist Activists when they get too political. The Apolitical Zionist sees politics as something that divides people, and therefore believe that drawing too much attention to the controversial aspects of Israel does more harm than good. Their love for Israel is probably just as strong as that of the Zionist Activists, they just don’t feel comfortable in the activist arena. On occasion, during times of conflict, they post something positive about Israel to diffuse all the negative, and can sometimes be seen “liking” some posts from Zionist Activists, and other times shaking their heads when they feel they “go too far.” These folks are most likely seen chilling with their friends, and since it’s the one day a year they feel they can go all out and show their love of Israel, they go wild, draping themselves in Israeli flags, dressing in trendy blue and white ensembles, and making themselves up with glitter and blue and white facepaint. However, there won’t likely be photos posted on Facebook of this, because they don’t want to risk rubbing any of their friends and colleagues the wrong way. People are more important than politics, after all.

3. The “Progressive” “Zionists”

I’m putting both “progressive” and “Zionist” in quotes because it’s arguable whether these folks can be definitively called progressive and also arguable whether these folks can be called Zionists. I personally think they are Zionists in principle, even though their type of Zionism is not exactly one I would personally espouse. In fact, I find it extremely naive and dangerous, although they would disagree. They accept the premise that everyone just wants peace and to go along with their lives and base their actions on that premise. They also suffer from underdogma, or the assumption that the underdog is always oppressed and morally superior to the entity in power as to them, power is evil and suffering is virtue.
These Zionists believe that Israel should exist in principle. They do not oppose the concept of a Jewish state. Technically this alone means they are Zionists. However, they just find some parts of the existing state, in practice, problematic. Different “P” “Z”s have problems with different aspects, but in general these guys relate more to SPHR/SJP than to pro-Israel groups like StandWithUs and Israel On Campus. They claim, “just because Israel should exist doesn’t mean Palestinians shouldn’t have human rights,” not realizing that to the Palestinians, Israel’s very existence is a violation of their human rights. Some “P” “Z”s dislike that “Palestinians had to be displaced in order for us to have our state,” and others resent that Israel has not turned out to be the socialist wonderland its founding fathers wanted it to be. Many of these “P” “Z”s internalize a lot of the anti-Israel bias in the media, as well as the narratives provided by the UN, Amnesty International, SJP and other anti-Israel organizations, and see themselves as “fair”, “just” and “nuanced” in how they consider both sides, unlike those “shallow Zionists” in the other three categories. Often they see their hypercriticism as a sign of love for their country – they “love” it so much they desire to make it the best they can be. When I ask these people why they criticize Israel so harshly and use the 3 D’s (demonization, delegitimization, and double standards), concerned that it might give their enemies ammunition, they typically respond that other countries aren’t the ones speaking on their behalf, so as Jews they feel they should scrutinize Israel more harshly because they are Jews and care about it the most, and therefore apply a higher standard because “we can always do better.” They see all cultures as equal and can often feel torn between their Zionism and their sometimes radical leftist affiliations. They can be seen writing articles in support of BDS as a “necessary pressure tactic to get Israel to start treating Palestinians better, dismantle the settlements, and give them a state.” They deny that BDS is antisemitic although they admit that many people in the movement are. They see BDS as doing “what’s best for Israel” or “saving Israel from herself“. They believe Israel is a settler colonialist apartheid, but still consider themselves Zionist because “it doesn’t have to be.” They take the “pro-Palestinian” activists at face value, assuming they aren’t antisemitic and just want peace and justice. They can also be seen attending pro-Palestinian rallies because they take the Palestinian narrative as seriously, if not more seriously than the Israeli narrative because “the Palestinians are a marginalized group silenced by our government so we have to overcompensate by letting their voices be heard disproportionately.” If they ever did attend the pro-Israel rally, which is unlikely because that would cause trouble between them and their Palestinian friends, they would be carrying some sign about peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians, or carry an Israeli flag in one hand and a Palestinian flag in another as a “gesture of peace.” After the rally they would probably go to a Nakba Day memorial service, unbeknownst to the fact that the Palestinians consider our very existence a “nakba” – which is Arabic for “catastrophe.”

Their idea of a fair way of putting Zionism into practice can be one of three things: 1) Moving Israel somewhere else, somewhere really remote and unclaimed, or at least somewhere the host country wouldn’t mind parting with; 2) A two state solution, right now; or 3) A one state solution with full right of return, trusting that the Arab Palestinians will allow the Jews to keep the Jewish character of the country. What? You’re telling me they’d turn it into an Islamic country by democracy? That’s racist!

4. The Zionists who come for the beer

Well, if they were antizionists, they wouldn’t be caught dead in that rally, enveloped in a sea of blue and white flags. So I guess they could be called Zionists. But they’re really just here for the beer. Because, come on, it’s beer. And it’s free. And if they’re lucky they would win an iPad mini in the raffle, or a free trip to Israel. Who wouldn’t want to travel for free? And besides, they heard the beaches in Tel Aviv are pretty nice.

Found Category 3 too depressing? Here, these photos should cheer you up:

Celebrating Israel’s freedom to love, a freedom that does not exist elsewhere in the Middle East. But the so-called “Social Justice Warriors” don’t want you to know that as they simultaneously march for gay rights and Palestine.

Thousands gathered in Montréal in support of Israel.

Abigail Hirsch, CEO of AskAbigail Productions, Brad Martin, Montréal’s CAMERA on Campus Fellow, and me.

Braving the rain and near-freezing temperatures, thousands gathered in Philips Square and marched from there to the Quartier des Spectacles

(From left) A Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian at the rally for Israel. Yes, really.

Abigail Hirsch and I at the Independence Day BBQ

Hillel’s Wall of Awesomeness at the BBQ



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

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