The Ties that Bind Us, and the Fire that Blinds Us: The Case for Sticking Together
Four and a half years ago I wrote an article about #TakingBackZionism. My point of view has changed drastically during that time, but for some reason, I haven’t been able to get this article out of my head lately, especially in recent months.
Being a Zionist has become partisan. It has become a qualifier. It has a whole new set of conditions tacked on.
Four years ago, I wrote an article about how Zionism has become a dirty word among the radical left who ran my campus, but never in a million years did I expect this much breakdown in our Zionist unity.
Four years ago, you didn’t have to be a Republican to be a Zionist.
Nowadays, if you are a Democrat and a Zionist, half think you’re a walking contradiction and not truly dedicated to the values of the Democratic Party, and the other half consider you a traitor or a fake-Zionist, seeing the Democratic Party as morphing into an anti-Zionist cesspool.
Guess what? In 2019, you can still be a Democrat and a Zionist.
Whether you believe President Trump can do no wrong, no right, or somewhere in the middle, should not impact your decision to be a Zionist. And Republicans, stop telling Democrats they can’t be Zionists, as since when do you have to agree with every little detail about a party’s policy to support that party over another party that may be nothing more than the lesser of evils? Democrats, stop telling Republicans they can’t be true Zionists because you think Trump is a white supremacist and Zionism isn’t about white supremacy, but indigenous rights.
The truth of the matter is, you can support left-wing politics in the U.S. while still supporting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, since one has nothing to do with the other (one is domestic policy and the other foreign policy), and the idea that they are mutually exclusive is purely artificial. This is true whether you believe in annexation or separation, or even a bi-national state with right of return for Palestinians (which would ultimately end in Israel’s demise by virtue of demographics, but of course, this aspect is lost on a small subset of very naive people who genuinely believe Jewish Rule will stay in place, making them technically Zionist even if their proposed solutions are, unbeknownst to them, mutually exclusive with Zionism). If you believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, a safe haven, our only insurance against another Holocaust, you are a Zionist.
You can be LGBT and Zionist, feminist and Zionist, and even socialist and Zionist. Did you know that Israel started out as a socialist country? As long as you support Israel’s right to be a Jewish State, regardless of the ruling government or internal politics, you are a Zionist, you are pro-Israel. Not only does Israel have equal rights for women and, for the most part, for the LGBT community, but since when does being gay, lesbian, bi, or trans, or believing that men and women are inherently equal, have anything to do with Israel and Palestine? Maybe some intersectionalists managed to conjure up an imaginary connection whereby Palestinians, LGBT, women, and blacks are somehow connected in their struggles, but why should that be mainstream? You can still be a Zionist because being LGBT and/or a woman has absolutely nothing to do with Israel.
You can still be a person of color and Zionist. You could even still support the principles of the #blacklivesmatter movement, while ignoring their clearly ill-informed, blatant anti-Zionist rhetoric that has absolutely nothing to do with their commitment to black lives and has more to do with the influence of the “Nation of Islam” subgroup of the black community, which tends to get behind black activist causes. (NOI is a black-supremacist group that sees anyone with less melanin as being inherently wrong and colonialist, and assumes Israel colonized the perceived “darker-skinned” Arabs – whom they also bond with as co-religionists – since most of the Jews they encounter are from America, and therefore overwhelmingly Ashkenazi who tend to have lighter skin). That’s because Israel is a safe haven for many Jews of color who escaped persecution in the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia and even Sudan. Also, last time I checked, having more melanin doesn’t preclude someone from supporting the Jewish right to self-determination on our ancestral homeland, and therefore be allowed to escape persecution.
People say that small microclashes preclude others from being “true” Zionists. Whether it be one’s position on Judea and Samaria, whether one supports the current government, or whether the country’s policies are or are not your cup of tea, that does not absolve you from being a Zionist, or pro-Israel. Being pro-Israel means believing in Israel’s right to exist, regardless of whether Judea and Samaria become a Palestinian State, or whether you believe Bibi is the best thing since sliced bread or a war criminal, too left wing, too on point, or too right wing. If you have that much of a problem with Israel’s democratically-elected leadership, you either make Aliyah and voice your concern through the ballot box, or stay quiet because there is no way you know enough about what is actually going on in Israel to be able to make these kinds of value judgments. Being a Zionist doesn’t mean you have to support the current leadership, just as being an American patriot doesn’t mean you have to support Donald Trump. I thought that truth was self-evident, but apparently not in 2019. Being a Zionist means supporting a Jewish – and perhaps also democratic – Israel, which may or may not have voted in a government you are satisfied with.
You should be happy we at least get to vote, unlike our neighbors the dictatorships Hamas and Fatah.
You can still be secular and Zionist, or even Haredi/Ultra Orthodox and Zionist. If you believe that the land belongs to the Jewish People, the Jewish Nation, the Jewish Religion, or even see a Jewish majority as necessary to maintain our safe haven where we can be out and proud Jews and live where the genesis of our People and Culture took place, where the only kingdom that reigned with its headquarters in Judah and Israel once stood; to all the others who controlled the land, we were nothing but a far-off colony to exploit.
Whether you are religious and believe that a crucial step in the coming of the Messiah is for Jews to congregate in Israel and rebuild the temple and the Jewish monarchy, or are secular or traditional and think that’s a load of hogwash, you could still be a Zionist. All it takes is for you to believe in Jewish sovereignty over the land. Where exactly that sovereignty takes place can be a matter of dispute, but as long as you believe in at least some Jewish sovereignty, you are a Zionist, whether you accept the stigma it carries in your social circle or not.
Nowadays, we get too caught up in political minutiae that we fail to unite as Zionists, as dreamers, as believers in Jews reclaiming our birthright. We fight over minor details, when in the grand scheme of things we should be standing together, shoulder to shoulder, against those who chant From the River to the Sea! Against those who think the Jewish State should be dismantled even though millions of Jews have nowhere else to go. Against those who think only the Jewish State, despite dozens of other states popping up around that same time period, often after brutal wars, has no right to exist on that land. (Word of warning: believing that only Israel has no right to exist but all other countries do is literally antisemitism).
We need to focus on what we have in common rather than let differences in the how obscure the similarities in the what or the why.
As usual, while the house is burning down, we are arguing about the color of the drapes. This fire is quickly engulfing everything around us, and will engulf the house itself if we don’t work together to put it out as a team. Instead, we are so blinded by the fires that are raging in our minds – that is, our disagreements over minor details – that we fail to see that we are all on the same team. We all need to put out the real fire, the one that truly threatens our homeland, and for those of us living in Israel, our lives.
We are one people, with many diverse opinions and voices to bring to the table, but we must never forget that we are all facing a common threat, one that we cannot properly eradicate unless we stand together and put our petty differences aside. Someone’s different point of view may be annoying, or even wrong, but it does not preclude them from being a member of the same (Zionist) club at the end of the day, and therefore able to work towards a common goal.