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April 10, 2017 5:30 pm

The Fight for Zion

avatar by Asaf Romirowsky

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A demonstration in Seattle by Jewish Voice for Peace, which is listed by the Anti-Defamation League as one of the top 10 anti-Israel groups in America. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

For American Jews, Zionism has become a source of debate, controversy, embarrassment and guilt, as they try to come to terms with the activities of the Jewish state and its elected officials. Consequently, many seek to detach themselves from what used to embody the core of Jewish identity. A case in point is Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a pro-BDS Jewish group that uses its “Jewishness” to validate its cause.

While JVP’s desire to persuade the Israeli government to change its policies is legitimate, the growing strength of the BDS movement at large makes the demise of the two-state solution ever more likely. JVP’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, is notorious for her hard-left views, as illustrated in her Washington Post op-ed entitled, “I’m Jewish, and I want people to boycott Israel.” So strong is JVP’s antipathy to Israel that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has called it “the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group” in the US.

Yet the true essence of Zionism lies in its ability to encapsulate both religious and secular Jewish identities. The current challenge is to identify the component of renewal. The Zionist enterprise did not end with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948; each generation must redefine Zionism as it is relevant to them.

Theodor Herzl famously wrote in his diary, “Were I to sum up the [1897] Basel Congress in a word — which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly — it would be this: ‘At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. If not in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.'”

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The difference between Herzl’s generation and all post-1948 generations worldwide is a first-hand understanding of what the absence of a Jewish state means for Jewish survival. Israel represents the difference between autonomy and servility, indeed between life and death. But today’s millennial generation has no memory of a time when Israel did not exist, or was ever on the “right side of history.”

Given the wedge that has been pushed between Zionism and Judaism, one might even suggest that were Herzl to raise the question of a Jewish homeland today, he might not receive support. The irony is that what initially led Zionist leaders to bond over the idea of a homeland was the growing threat of antisemitism. Today, even as antisemitism is on the rise around the world, anti-Zionism is often viewed as legitimate criticism.

Abba Eban dispelled this notion, eloquently,stating that, “There is no difference whatever between antisemitism and the denial of Israel’s statehood. Classical antisemitism denies the equal right of Jews as citizens within society. Anti-Zionism denies the equal rights of the Jewish people its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations. The common principle in the two cases is discrimination.”

But with the popularity of the BDS movement’s crusade against Israel, some American Jews on the left have placed other Jews beyond the pale — as people who cannot be debated due to their abominable views. Moreover, an insidious double standard applies: Jewish organizations, like Hillel, must include anti-Israel voices or be deemed intolerant or racist. Jewish intellectuals must engage in dialogue with BDS representatives or other Palestinian advocates who demand the ethnic cleansing of Israel, lest they be called cowards and be subjected to insults. And now, leading American Jewish intellectuals have adopted the rhetoric and methods of BDS, which are applied to Jews only. Perhaps the next move will be to follow the Palestinian lead ,and charge Israelis in international courts.

Individuals like Peter Beinart, in his book The Crisis of Zionism, purport to offer so-called “tough love” to Israel — an approach that is supposedly required to curb the alleged expansion of the “occupation.” Driven by guilt, Beinart has embraced the left’s move to distance itself from Israel and the Zionist enterprise at large. For Beinart, the answer is a “Zionist” boycott of Israeli settlements and products.

Beinart, like many post-Zionists and revisionists, only opposes the “occupation,” which leads him to place all the onus for the lingering Palestinian-Israeli problem on Israel. In this distorted narrative, Israel is largely to blame for the collapse of the Oslo/Camp David process of the 1990s-2000s, and for the subsequent failures to revive the peace process. But the centrality of the “settlements” is an empty issue. It deflects from the core problem that truly obstructs a negotiated settlement: the Palestinians’ century-long rejection of a sovereign Jewish state.

There is little debate that there will be a redistribution of land in the event that a peace agreement is reached. Most of the bargaining will be about whether these exchanges will take the shape of a total phased Israeli withdrawal, or an exchange of land annexing the more populous Israeli towns as part of Israel for other land in the Jordan Valley or Negev Desert. But this must be left to the parties to decide, not imposed by outside powers or guilt-ridden leftist American Jews.

Sadly, anti-Zionist American Jews have found Israeli counterparts even in the Knesset. This phenomenon was on display at the AIPAC Policy Conference in late March, when Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, whose trip to the conference had been paid by AIPAC, decided to join a protest outside the conference. At the protest, organized by the Jewish anti-establishment group IfNotNow, demonstrators held up signs reading “Reject AIPAC” and “Reject Occupation.” Zandberg justified her decision to participate by saying, “there is no greater deed of patriotism than opposing the occupation.”

Stronger Zionist anchors are needed within the Jewish community to overcome the guilt over Israel’s existence, rather than its actions. Collective historical memory is absent from today’s discourse on Zionism, especially in America. While there are Zionists on the left and right who still appreciate Jewish history and believe in Jewish destiny, Zionist renewal outside Zion is needed. There is a serious need to teach and appreciate both Herzl’s Zionism and “Start-Up Zionism” if the Zionist dream is to be kept alive.

This article was originally published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • RW

    There is no evidence that BDS is a threat to Israel in the US. In the US support for Israel is strong among both Jews and non Jews. Support for Palestinians is weak. Having said that, support for Israel in the US is predicated on Israel’s not being at odds with a liberal president When it is Jewish Democrats will support the president…

  • Vestina

    Israel is not to blame for the collapse of the Oslo Peace Accord. She did everything to foster peace but the deceptive, malicious haters do not want peace. The proud ones want what does not belong to them, i.e. land, territory. But they will never get it, no matter how much they try to duplicate the truth. Their lies accomplish nothing, neither does their masked, disguised replicas of the truth. No need to try to duplicate the power of God. Phony ones cooperate with the devil. And, lastly, they will not be successful.

  • Mike AU

    So where is the God of Israel in all this ? The creator
    of heaven and earth, the God Almighty that made an
    everlasting covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
    about the land of Israel? Genesis 12:1-7 KJV. Have
    they all been abandoned as well ? Are the patriarchs an
    embarrassment to the JVP ? The land of Israel, all of it,
    belongs to the Jewish Nation!!!!! Jerusalem is the capital.
    I don’t care how long the”Palestinians”(Arabs) whinge,
    whine or gather support through deceit, lies and terrorism.
    This will not negate one word of the God of Israel. The JVP
    have fallen for the “Palestinian” propaganda hook, line and
    sinker, they are the equivalent of the Israelites that went out
    and spied the land of Canaan and came back with a bad
    report except Joshua and Caleb. Numbers 14:6-9. The JVP
    are cowardly, faithless, self loathing traitors to Israel and the
    Jewish people ! Joel 3:2 KJV tells you, do not divide the land
    God will judge you for it.

  • Hillel

    This is what happens when information is learnt from the likes of Zukerberg and google. The education systems world wide teach anti jewish rhetoric and even the stupid jews believe it. It is sickening. Self deprecating pricks. The past 2000 years have been plagued by this self hate phenomena. They want everyone to love them, aaaaw. Look at the love in Kelce Poland 1949. Damn Poles and and eastern european cohort didnt help kill enough jews so the killed what was left in that village 4 years after the holocaust. Teach your kids and perhaps they wont be voicing JVP and BDS propaganda.

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