How one realisation makes Zionism unarguable

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18 October 2015

Leo BroshBy Leo Brosh, FZY Boger

As members of FZY we are some of the strongest Zionist voices in the UK. Zionism though, has been stigmatised and challenged ever since its political re-emergence at the the Zionist Congress of 1897.

On 4th October 2015 George Galloway tweeted:

‘Zionism is a toxic blend of extreme nationalism and the madness of racism’

This is but one example of the hatred of our ideology that we face and that many uninformed spectators accept as true.

Zionism can in fact be used to both strengthen our pluralism and co-existence in Israel. This article will explain how.

We must first understand the biggest misconception about who we are. Jews are a people, not a religion.

This is the vital realisation that makes everything we believe in legitimate.

Look at how you become a part of a religion, specifically at birth or a young age.

In Christianity, religion is assumed based on your parents but not guaranteed. You only become a member of the Christian faith after baptism and then when older Confirmation. After Confirmation you are accepted as a conscious full member of the Church. To be confirmed you must accept the divinity of Christ through Communion.

In Islam religion is also assumed based on your parents desire. You are a Muslim if you accept the five ‘Pillars of Islam’ which are:  Shahada (declaration of faith), Salah (prayer), Zakat (charity), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (pilgrimage).

For Jews it is different. You are a Jew, regardless of what you believe provided your mother is Jewish. You can convert to Judaism if you are not born Jewish by accepting a Jewish life. Otherwise, whether you keep kosher or Shabbat, whether you go to synagogue or not, you would still be considered Jewish.

In other words belief is arguably irrelevant to being a Jew.

Being a Jew is hereditary, based on who your parents are and where you live.

The “parents” part exists today, if your mother is a Jew then you are a Jew. In the same way that a girl is American if her mother is American, or a boy is French if his dad is French. Being a Jew is like being any other nationality.

We are a people, and as a people we have the authority to have self-determination. Only as a people and not as a religion. We had this for a millennium between 1110BCE-70CE with varying degrees of freedom and success. At different points we came to separate kingdoms, we worshipped idols and some Jews left Judea (ancient Israel) for other lands. We have almost never been a united people but our disagreements and our politics makes us normal.

Today’s Israel’s rambunctious democracy is a continuation of that diversity.

After 1800 years of exile from our historical homeland, due a variety of growing trends in European society and geo-politics Zionism, our brand of self-determination was reborn and we acted on it. We started with waves of private emigration back to our homeland to make the soon-to-be Israel the country we wanted it to be, and later in 1948 we declared (with a small UN mandate) a state.

Israel is our historical homeland as Jews. We have cultural, literary, archaeological, genetic and more ties to that area of the world.

Though as I have already stated, there as those who misunderstand Zionism.

A famous example was the New York Times White House reporter Helen Thomas, who was caught on a mic saying in response to a question about “where should Jews go” because (her words) “they are occupying not their land” (she’s talking about Israel proper, not solely Judea-Samaria)

“Go home. To Poland, to Germany”

​This point needs addressing because history is littered with examples of peoples migrating from one location, to settle and set their homeland somewhere else.

The Vandals were a Germanic people who migrated westward and settled first in Spain, and later in Carthage (modern-day Tunisia). This was a people on the move, who settled in a land and made it their own, albeit in different times and involving violent actions against barbarian tribes and the Western Roman Empire (hence the term Vandal). They made their homeland Africa and no longer considered Germany home.

Similarly the first Jew, Abraham started life in Charam in Mesopotamia until G-d says:

‘Go away- for yourself – from the land, your birthplace and your father’s house, to the land which I will show you. I will make you into a great nation’ (Genesis 12:1-2)

Abraham was the original and father of our people and even he wasn’t born in Israel. But he moved and established the Jewish people’s home there. Thus, we as Jews always returned to that place which was designated as our national home.
Even after slavery and exile we always returned to Israel even though our patriarch wasn’t born there, he migrated.

The last point I wish to make concerns co-existence.

Zionism is about the self-determination of Jews in our historical homeland, but what about the Arabs who still live there? Israel is today around 24% not Jewish. The same self-determination idea remains. Arabs who chose to establish their homes in what is now Israel have a right to remain.

We have a responsibility to be good guardians of our homeland and be accepting of our neighbours even if they are not from our nation. Co-existence is therefore totally consistent with Zionism.

Peace and a solution which allows all people of the world to be free in the land which they choose to make their home should always be pursued. Right now, the tension and escalating violence in Israel is seeing the worst brought out of many Zionists and Arabs alike – in how we speak about each other, as well as how we act. Recent violence in Israel has made many observers question whether Jews and Arabs in Israel want peace and harmony. You only need look at the words of the Mayor of Nazareth who said this week:

‘We need to find a way to live together. We cannot fight like this. We are damaging ourselves.”

​Provided we in FZY maintain our love of and belief in Israel we will see peace and tranquility in our homeland.

FZY is a pluralist, Zionist movement, and we should never be afraid to say this loud and proud.

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