I am a Zionist.

 I am a Zionist.

If I announced that, on walking into a party in New Zealand, I would quite likely get a worse reaction than if I declared that I am a P-addicted, ISIS sympathising prostitute. It’s not the kind of thing that one can state in polite company, at least without fear of a hostile reaction.

These days Zionism is a dirty word, a loaded term that carries political and emotional connotations. For many people, due to a deliberate campaign to make it so, the very concept of Zionism is synonymous with colonialism, fascism, racism, and possibly pretty much every crime against humanity you can think of.

Zionism is none of these things.

Zionism is the commitment to the right of an indigenous people to self-determination in their historic homeland. Those indigenous people are the ethno-religious group known as the Jews, and the land has been known variously amongst other things as Judaea, Canaan, Zion, Syria (as part of the Ottoman Empire), British Mandate Palestine and Israel.

Zionism transcends left-wing and right-wing ideology, and race and religion.

The right to self-determination for all peoples is embodied in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations, as well as being a fundamental principle of international law. Israel is the first sovereign state of an indigenous people in the world, and should be celebrated as such.

I am a Zionist.

I am a Zionist because I believe in the legitimacy, justice and inherent worth of a Jewish state in the land that is now known as Israel.

The Jewish people are the indigenous people in the land of Israel. You don’t need to believe in or rely on the bible to accept this fact. No credible historian, archaeologist or geneticist disputes it. The Jewish people originated in that part of the Levant now known as Israel. Genetic studies of different Jewish groups show that Jews share a common genetic pool dating back 4,000 years, as a marker of their common ancestral origin. The first Kingdom of Israel was established  around the 11th century BCE (BC) and while there were interspersed brief periods of Jewish sovereignty, the land was subsequently ruled by a succession of foreign powers, including, from the 7th century CE (AD), Arabs who had recently adopted Islam. For thousands of years, Jews have maintained a physical, spiritual and religious connection to the land, and those in exile yearned to return home. There has never been another sovereign state in the land and Jews have never given up hope of again having sovereignty over it.

In 1947, the United Nations voted to turn the aspiration for a Jewish homeland into a reality.  Most states have been established, or their borders defined, through war, negotiation, or colonialism. New Zealand as we know it was established through a combination of those things. Israel, established under the auspices of the United Nations, has more legitimacy than most if not all other states.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/80/8e/e9/808ee9e6adb8ad05af37b3f6b57598d2.jpg
Jewish couple in traditional attire. Late Ottoman end of 19th. credit: Pinterest.

As for Israel being a Jewish state, all Israeli citizens, which includes some 20% Arabs and a multitude of religions, have the same rights under the law. However, Jewish people have preferred status when it comes to immigration to Israel, and there are certain laws that preserve the Jewish character of the state. In comparison, in New Zealand, the indigenous Maori people have special recognition and status for certain things, and public holidays are observed on Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter, but not on Hindu or Muslim festivals.

Israel is a liberal democracy that operates according to the rule of law. It has a widely respected judiciary and a very vibrant media that both hold the government and individuals to account when they fall short, just as in New Zealand. Despite its huge challenges, Israel has prospered and made significant contributions to the realms of arts, medicine, science, technology and humanitarianism.

I am a Zionist.

I am a Zionist because I believe in the need for a Jewish homeland. Jews have a history of persecution that, due to its length and severity, is tragically unique in the history of the world. The Spanish Inquisition, ghettos, pogroms, the Holocaust – Jews have been forcibly converted, culturally assimilated, enslaved, quarantined, expelled, falsely accused, assaulted and exterminated for as long as they have existed. Many people thought and hoped that after World War Two the world had rid itself of antisemitism for good, but time has proven that this was nothing but wishful thinking, with antisemitism now the highest it has been since that era.

I am a Zionist.

I am a Zionist but that does not preclude me from being a proud and patriotic New Zealander. I have been blessed to grow up in a country where I have also been able to be a proud and unapologetic Jew and Zionist. These days, it is becoming more difficult to be so. Israel is demonised and delegitimised in a way that no other country is. And ironically, it is exactly that antipathy towards Israel that makes me feel insecure and accentuates for me the need for a Jewish homeland.

Looking back | The refugee crisis during World War II
Refugees March 4, 1944, at Haifa, Israel, after landing. credit: LA TImes.

I need to know that there is a place for me in Israel should I no longer be welcome in my home country New Zealand, just as there has been for other Jews since Israel’s creation. Jews like Eastern European refugees displaced after the war, the hundreds of thousands forced out of their Arab homelands in retaliation for the creation of Israel, Russians set free in the 1980s, Ethiopians fleeing famine, and now French Jews who no longer feel safe with the rise of antisemitic attacks, terrorism and Islamism in their country. Perhaps to you it sounds like I’m being overly-dramatic and paranoid. I hope you’re right, but I’d rather be that way than lulled into what with hindsight turns out to be misplaced optimism.

I am a Zionist.

I am a Zionist but that doesn’t mean I think Israel is perfect. Of course it is not. Has it got an unblemished past?  No. Has it made mistakes? Yes.

The state of Israel, as with any other state,  embodies a nation of heterogeneous, evolving people with different interests, opinions, ideologies, motives, and needs. Just as with New Zealand, I don’t agree with everything Israel has done or does as a state and all its policies, nor do I condone everything every individual in that state does.

When Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbours on its establishment, some Arabs were displaced and lost their homes (some through choice, and some through coercion).  The Palestinians, numbering in their hundreds of thousands, were not generally welcomed, resettled and naturalised in any Arab states where they fled. Populations are routinely displaced when states are born and when their borders change.

After Britain partitioned Pakistan from India in 1947, some 14 million people were displaced, as Muslims in India fled to Pakistan and Hindus in Pakistan fled to India. As hard a reality as it is for those living it, there is nothing unique about people becoming refugees due to territorial changes, but it is unique to perpetuate and indeed magnify the situation, while clinging to the vain hope – for almost 70 years – that those changes will be undone.

As a result of the 1967 war, when Israel’s neighbours sought to destroy it for a second time, Israel still controls parts of what is commonly known as the West Bank and has settlements there. Israel has proven that it is willing to make painful compromises, right from the founding of the state. Israel has traded land for peace, disbanded settlements, and made peace with some of its Arab neighbours before. When the Palestinians are ready to accept that Israel is here to stay, take accountability for themselves and also make compromises, they will get their state in the West Bank too.

But even if Israel was guilty of everything it is accused of, which it most certainly is not, these things should not delegitimise Israel. Have you ever heard anyone argue that the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet, now in its eighth decade, should mean that China should be dismantled? Or Turkey should cease to exist, because of its Armenian genocide, repression of Kurds, and occupation and ethnic cleansing of Northern Cyprus? No, because even though these crimes and injustices far exceed anything Israel has ever done, you only ever hear Israel’s right to exist questioned.

http://www.wnd.com/files/2015/05/israel.jpg
credit: WND.com

Israel is not some kind of failed experiment. It is neither an experiment, nor is it a failure. Recognising Israel’s past, its imperfections, mistakes, and challenges, does not mean Zionism is an inherently evil concept. It does not mean Israel should not exist as a Jewish homeland or should not be treated as an equal among nations. It is not a binary choice.

I am a proud Zionist. I celebrate Israel as the nation state of its indigenous people, the Jews, and its right to exist as such. And I will never apologise for doing so.

 

Juliet Moses is a Jewish New Zealander and Auckland-based lawyer.
Originally published at Shalom.Kiwi.
Shalom.Kiwi’s contributors are a mix of Māori, Pakeha, Jewish and non-Jewish New Zealanders, who have all spent considerable time in Israel.  http://shalom.kiwi/

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10 comments

  1. Sami, the bedouin.

    “When Moses the Egyptian received from the mouth of Yahweh the name of the promised land for his people, he jumped in terror. “What? Palestine! It is the land of giants!”
    The Canaanites were the [indigenous Arab] inhabitants of Canaan, the older native name of Palestine, and the jews were just invaders!

    • Wrong on all counts.
      Best you look up some history of the region and not listen to the garbage you’ve been fed.

      Arabs are not indigenous to the region.
      As the name suggests they come from ARABia.

      • Sami, the bedouin.

        I just reveal the Talmudic GARBAGE you have been brainwashed with … the jews have NEVER EVER been the natives of Palestine but invaded Palestine based on a lie that the jewish jehovah gave them our land of milk and honey.
        Palestine was inhabited by its native 7-nation-tribes for 6000 years BEFORE any jewish invasion to destroy the Palestinian cities.
        Just a stimple question: Wheer is the native land of the jews BEFORE the jewish jehovah popped his head to promise them Palestine?

  2. Dear Sami,

    You good man is what is known as a ‘word conjurer’, as distinct from a ‘semantic applicator.’ You have taken a small measure of fact, a tad of ‘near truth’, and a large helping of camel poo….mixed them together into one big pile of credible sounding rubbish…and then hey presto, arrived at a description that you believe is tailor made as a name sake for that current identity group living within Israel’s borders…..who wish to call themselves….. Arab Palestinians.

    Back right up now Sami…back to the time of the Egyptian Ramesses….when the word Pelest first appeared in hieroglyphs….along with many, many, many derivative forms of that word….even in cuneiform….and as also appeared in now Turkey, Greece, Syria, Jordan plus other middle eastern countries.

    From their we travel forward; through the bronze and iron ages; yep that long ago, and many civilisations, seeing the word….’Palaestina’. and many derivatives, pop up through the time of Phoenicians, Greeks, Assyrians, Babalonyians , Canaanites, Hittities…to name just a few.

    With the arrival of the Romans, they hit upon the ‘good idea’ of branding current day Syria, and PARTS of the Jordan Rift Valley, and Judaea Hills…. appropriately so by Roman logic, with the Greek tag of ‘Syria Palaestina’, as to remove any claim by then near nomadic Jews of the time, as the rightful heirs to those lands they had secured…and more so in the Jordan Rift Valley and Judaea Hills….and which G-d a little later formally bequested to the Jews.

    From then countless wars took place, with countless numbers of participants, and the Jew ended up being tipped out on his head. As we know G-d had pre-gifted, decreed this land to the Jewish people….per Talmudic/Bible reference as we now know.

    Back in the late1800’s, come early 1900’s, and into the20th century, the push was on for the Jews to return to the land given to them by God…and that is where we are now at.

    However Sami, apart for a period when the Ottoman’s controlled this G-d given land of the Jews, no other Arab, or Arab form, is ever mentioned as participants in any nature or form, as being indigenous to, or settlers of the land we know as Israel.

    That came much, much later….towards the 7th century AD, with the birth and rise of old Mohammed – (please don’t attack this Jewish site for being conflectedly offended by my description of old Mo….I am of Christian extraction…and don’t really give a turnips turn about Mo, or my description of him). Mo, to my understanding was an A-rab….knocked around places like Mecca and Medina, when a young blade sowing his oates I believe!

    So there you have it Sami…in a very abridged form, some 6000 years of rising and disappearing civilisations in what we now know as Israel and the Middle East. Yes, it was once labelled; in a listed number of derived forms, as Palestine….not least, and lastly by the British in the 1920’s through until 1948.

    This all brings us to the very important point….the current Jews of Israel are the descendants of those Jews that the Roman war lords sent packing near to 2000 years ago….they survived and are now back home….bigger, brighter and better than ever.

    For myself, I can understand why they would be poopy with having a lot of johnny come lately A-rabs running their G-d given homeland as if they were the indigenous inhabitants…but that is only my opinion….that of partially extracted Christian.

    Do hope, from now on Sami, that you do spend the same amount of time researching your subject, as I continually do,…rather than just spraying improperganda around the world wide web.

    Now Sami old son…I have to say, I love your tag…”Sami, the Bedouin”. Very catchy…would make a trendy name for a coffee shoppe. Do you have copyright protection for it…..could well be another “Rick’s American Café” from Casablanca. Loved how you have it set against a herd of Camels…tasteful and appropriate eh.

    Shalom Sami

    • Excellent Graham, but I don’t think he’ll ‘get it’

    • Our ‘pal’ Sami, the Bedouin. lives in Denver Colorado.

    • Graham, I really don’t care about this debate, but you are outrageously condescending.

      • Jews Down Under

        And you are outrageously rude.

        If you can’t be bothered to post something constructive and ‘really don’t care’ anyway. Please go play elsewhere.

      • Totally agree with your equally patronising comment Tim, along with every other synonym comparison to condescending that you may find, and hurl.

        You have an opinion at the personal level….toward myself , though not at, or towards the subject matter….Sami the Bedouin’s commentary reply to the Posting.

        Says a lot about the worth, and shallowness of yourself Tim!

  3. It is interesting that Bedouins in Israel have thrived in Israel since 1948. Their population have multiplied many times and the education and health services have improved beyond measure.

    Most Israeli Bedouins are very much pro-Israel and many have served in the IDF with distinction.