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July 3, 2014 10:44 am

Proud to be a Zionist

avatar by Elliott Hamilton

David Ben-Gurion (Left) signing the Israeli Declaration of Independence, held by Moshe Sharet with Eliezer Kaplan looking on, at the Tel Aviv museum on Rothschild Blvd. on May 14, 1948. Photo: GPO.

Zionism represents self-determination and freedom. It was created to empower the Jewish people in a world where anti-Semitism thrived and dictated how my people lived their lives. The words of Jabotinsky, Herzl, and Ben-Gurion remain etched in the veins of the modern Zionist movement. The Jewish State of Israel represents the culmination of all that the Jewish people fought, died, and struggled for: a place to call home and a place to be proud to be Jewish. For me, Zionist advocacy has become my mission, and I have worked hard to stand up for Israel and for the Jewish people’s right to dictate their own future. Along the way, I have met great individuals and had engaging conversations about the future ahead of us.

One night, I had a conversation with my dear friend and colleague Chloé Valdary about said topic. How do we, as Zionist activists, start gaining the upper hand on campus? We reached the following conclusion: Zionist activism and advocacy finds itself in a predicament when it comes to expressing pride and joy of fighting for Jewish self-determination. It should be balanced between attacking the flagrant anti-Semitism and happily demonstrating our pride for being Zionist. But it is easier said than done.

When it comes to campus life, it remains an uphill battle for many Zionist activists to fight the factually inaccurate claims of “apartheid” and “occupation,” while simultaneously hearing comparisons between Zionism and racism. It is not quiet on the information front, and organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine and J Street use seductive and manipulative tactics to give satisfaction to its student activists. These anti-Israel groups continue to use the language of “liberalism” to reward these college students with the feeling of accomplishment in fighting what is seen as an “inhumane force.” Humans are addicted to self-fulfillment and acquiring a sense of accomplishment. That is a fact that Zionists cannot ignore.

Many Zionist activists, myself included, know that our work is significant and important. We spend countless hours defending Israel’s right to exist, declaring the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and holding the Palestinian government accountable for its crimes. However, we spend an abundance of energy on the defensive, fighting injustice and anti-Semitism. Given how much energy we spend combating this bigotry, where do we incorporate the positivity and the happiness in fighting for the Zionist cause? How do we exemplify to college campuses that fighting for Israel is showing pride in Jewish history and our connection to the Land of Israel? It starts with embracing the Jewish people’s current victories as a nation.

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We have come a long way over the last century. My great-grandparents immigrated to the United States following the Russian pogroms, leaving behind their homes as the Russian Army razed them to the ground. While their hometowns no longer exist, the Jewish people have survived millennia of genocide, persecution, inquisition, and second-class treatment. Today, the Jewish people thrive in Israel, where it is socially acceptable to be Jewish and to express our Judaism in whatever ways seem fit to us. Zionism called for such freedom and autonomy for the Jewish people, and it fueled the hopes and desires of those who fled from anti-Semitic persecution.

Zionism is not just a political right; it is a human right for the Jews to have self-determination in our rightful homeland. As a self-proclaimed Zionist, I champion the beliefs that an indigenous people, thrown out of their home for more than two thousand years, should return to where they belong. If we cannot start taking ownership in our pride for fighting for human rights, then we start losing ground in an information battle that continues its unrelenting attacks on Jewish self-determination.

For the last seven years, I have heard almost every single possible negative comment against Zionism and had almost every anti-Semitic comment directed at me. But what I must do in my last year of college is not only to combat the anti-Semitism that occurs on my campus, but also to tell the story of why I am a Zionist and why I am proud of it. Only positivity can win this war of words and information. If the Jewish people have fought hatred and persecution for millennia and survived, then so shall the Zionists.

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