Why Zionism is important & why we must reject attempts to sanitise it

Why Zionism is important & why we must reject attempts to sanitise it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is an important article in Israel’s online +972 Magazine that is required reading for anyone who
wishes to understand Zionism, the movement that dispossessed the Palestinians
and now rules over 6 million of them.

Ephraim Mirvis, Britain’s Chief Rabbi, argues that Zionism and Judaism are inseparable.  His predecessor Rabbi Herman Adler was an anti-Zionist

This is because there is a pressure building
up from the Zionist movement and Israel lobby in this country to equate the use
of the word ‘Zionism’ when used in a pejorative context, to anti-Semitism.  The Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Anti-Semitism
[HASC] of 14 October 2016 recommended
that: [para. 32]

For
the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words
‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered
inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the
Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether
or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic.
Likewise the Jewish Labour Movement, which has
teamed up with the Right and Progress in the Labour Party in order to unseat Jeremy
Corbyn, proposed a rule change to the Labour Party’s disciplinary code, whose Supporting
Argument and Rationale states
that:
Zionism
is no single concept other than the basic expression of the national identity
of the Jewish people, a right to which all people are entitled. This rule
change would recognise that it is not acceptable to use Zionism as a term of
abuse or to substitute the word Zionist for where the word Jew has been
commonly used by antisemites, such as alleging Jewish political, financial
or
media conspiracies and control
Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism found his main opponents were Jewish and his main supporters were anti-Semites such as Edoard Drumont
As the following article shows, this is
nonsense.  There is a very specific
meaning and definition to Zionism.  Zionism
is the settler colonial movement formally established in 1897 by Theodor Herzl at
the 1st Zionist Congress at Basel. 
It was originally scheduled to have met in Munich but the Jewish community
there objected fiercely to what they saw as an anti-Semitic conference whose
purpose was to tell them that they didn’t belong in Germany.  As the Jewish Virtual Library explains:
The first
Zionist Congress
was to have taken place in Munich, Germany. However, due
to considerable opposition by the local community leadership, both Orthodox and
Reform, it was decided to transfer the proceedings to Basle, Switzerland.
This why the idea that Zionism is the ‘national
identity’ of the Jewish people is nonsense. 
There is no Jewish people, since Jews are members of all nations and
given the extent of opposition to Zionism among Jewish people, historically and
today, the idea that it is synonymous with being Jewish is not only absurd but anti-Semitic.  It is the fascists and anti-Semites who use
the term ‘Jew’ and ‘Zionist’ interchangeably. 
The Chief Rabbi of Britain, Ephraim Mirvis, a
man who it should be said isn’t particularly well endowed intellectually, came
out with the absurd statement that:
One can no more separate it [Zionism]from
Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.
Likewise Mick Davies, who was Chair of the Jewish Leadership Councillor,
gave
evidence
to the HASC (para. 21) that ,criticising Zionism is the same as
antisemitism, because:
Zionism
is so totally identified with how the Jew thinks of himself, and is so
associated with the right of the Jewish people to have their own country and to
have self-determination within that country, that if you attack Zionism, you
attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves.
It has to be  stressed that when Zionism
first arose as a political movement it was opposed by not only socialist and
revolutionary Jewish parties but by both the Reform and Orthodox wings of
Judaism.  If in fact it had been part of
the Jewish religion for millennia then why should they oppose it?  The reason was that the idea of a Jewish state
was of recent origin.  It was born in the
age of colonialism and it sought to achieve its objectives through an alliance
with colonialism, which it did in 1917 with the issuance by the Lloyd George
War  Cabinet of the Balfour Declaration.
But according to today’s Zionist propagandists, if you attack someone’s
identity you attack them as a person and that is racist.  It is a very curious definition of
racism.  Presumably it is racist to
criticise those for whom female genital mutilation is bound up with their
religion?  Or criticising the
Niqab/Burka, which is seen by many as integral to the Islamic faith is
anti-Islamic?  This conflation between Zionism
and Jewish identity and the argument that it is racist to criticise or attack
the former is part of the pernicious nonsense that identity politics has
brought forth.
It is also an example of the dishonesty of Zionist propagandists and the
Home Affairs Select Committee (though in the latter case stupidity may also
play a part) that they accepted
a definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust  Remembrance Alliance which states that ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for
actions of the state of Israel’ is an example of anti-Semitism
.’ (para. 17)
whilst simultaneously accepting that Zionism and being Jewish are
synonymous.  So you are damned if you do
and you are damned if you don’t. 
Whatever you do you are anti-Semitic!
If it were true that being Jewish and being a Zionist is one and the
same thing then clearly Jews worldwide are responsible and answerable for the
actions of ‘their’ state.  This is the
same with any people.  British people are
responsible for the actions of the armed forces 
abroad and the war they waged against Iraq unless they take steps to
dissociate themselves from the actions of their state.  But the Board of Deputies of British Jews,
far from dissociating Jews from Israel’s actions does its best to claim that Jews
support Israel’s barbarous and genocidal attacks on Gaza.
Published October 22, 2016
Zionism
today is the fence that encircles the Jewish people, granting it supremacy over
the other people of this land. 
By Noam Rotem
A man holds an Israeli flag during a march in support of the city of Jerusalem at the Western Wall, Jerusalem’s Old City on October 22, 2015,
  following a wave of attacks by
Palestinians. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
The State of Israel is a Zionist
state. All of us graduates of the Israeli educational system know this.
Israel’s first prime minister said it, Ehud Barak said it, even Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it. This declaration can be found in our
educational curriculums, and even in the IDF’s
educational curriculum
. That is all good and well, but nowhere have I been
able to find a formal definition for the term “Zionism”put forth by the Israeli
government.
Is the goal of Zionism to
ensure a Jewish majority in the State of Israel, as former Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon claimed? Is Zionism “Israel’s heritage over the generations,” as
Netanyahu stated. Or perhaps it is a political goal, as the prime minister
argued elsewhere? Or maybe Netanyahu was right when he said that “Zionism is
the return to Judaism, which preceded the return to the Jewish state.”
Or maybe Zionism is the “outlook
that believes in the Jewish people’s sovereignty in the Land of Israel and the
obligations of the believer to take part, all while working toward the common
good,” as is written in the IDF’s educational curriculum?
Or perhaps Zionism is actually a
race, as members of Knesset Yuri Stern and Esterina Tartman claimed?
Or maybe “the essence of
Zionism,” according to Netanyahu, is loyalty to the State of Israel as a Jewish
and democratic state? Or is a Zionist, according to the Education Ministry, a
person who believes that we are growing ever closer to redemption?
Even the Jewish Agency, the
oldest Zionist establishment in the world, which was founded at the behest of
the “father of Zionism,” Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl, admits
that, “it is difficult to define Zionism, but in general one could say that
Zionism is the love of the Land of Israel, loyalty to the state, and an
aspiration to live in it.”
An empty
slogan
Zionism began as a national
awakening of Jews in Europe, part of the same awakening that was taking place
in other nations. The leaders of this national awakening anchored it in religion,
thus tying a modern national liberation movement to ancient, theological
traditions. Everything was fine until that point: Zionism, like other
national liberation movements of its time, called for establishing a
nation-state for the Jewish people. The problem began with its implementation,
and the pesky problem that the promised land was already populated by hundreds
of thousands of people.
The very fact that the Zionists
declared that the land belongs to one nation, despite it being populated
by another people, is an expression of privilege on the basis of religion and
nationality. The very fact that the state is based on Zionism means that it
excludes large portions of the population, whether or not they are Jewish — and
whether or not they are Zionists.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of
Revisionist Zionism (the main ideology of the ruling Likud party), understood the problem.
Thus he decided that the term “Jewish state” is clear: a Jewish majority. These
ideas were not just empty rhetoric — they are quoted still today by the
heads of the Israeli government. Only through the establishment of a Jewish
majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean does Zionism have a right
to exist. 
Prime Minister Netanyahu takes part in the annual day to commemorate Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Revisionist Zionist movement, in the Knesset, August 3, 2016. (Kobi GIdeon/GPO)
A state that privileges one
nation among its population over another nation is not one based on
equality
. A state that views some of its citizens as a demographic threat is
not a free state
. A state that grants rights on the basis of religion is
not a democratic state.
Modern Zionism is a nebulous
axiom so deeply rooted in Israeli society, that one could mold it into whatever
fits the current political moment. Zionism today is the
fence that encircles the Jewish people
, isolating it, granting it supremacy
over the other people of this land
.
It is time to recognize that
Zionism has become an empty slogan used only to grant Jews rights over
non-Jews, and to say goodbye to it forever. Israel’s Zionist citizens’ fear
of losing these privileges is, of course, understandable. But it should
not be taken into consideration. We cannot continue to allow Zionism to deepen
the discrimination against Palestinians.
As long as the Israeli Left
continues to depend on Zionism for the sake of fitting into the consensus, it
will continue to chase the Right, which only seeks to further entrench
discrimination. The Left must reclaim Israeli identity and disconnect it
from religious elements. Only then can it present a different vision — one that
people can follow. A vision based in humanism, freedom, justice, and equality.
Noam Rotem is an Israeli
activist, high-tech executive and blogger at Local Call, where this article was
first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

 

 

 

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