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A Yom Ha’atzmaut Reflection and Response

Last week, several of the children on the Harvard Crimson Editorial Board officially endorsed the antisemitic BDS movement, specifically referencing the Palestine Solidarity Committee, an organization that proudly displays a banner reading “Zionism is Racism Settler Colonialism White Supremacy Apartheid.”

Unfortunately for them, words have meaning, and every word in that sentence is nonsensically wrong. But instead of explaining for the umpteenth time what Zionism isn’t, in honor of Israel’s birthday here is what Zionism is.

Zionism is the movement for the re-establishment, and now the development and protection, of a sovereign Jewish nation in its ancestral homeland. It is not just a political movement; for the vast majority of Jewish people across time and space, Zionism is and always has been an integral part of their Jewish, often religious, identities.

For thousands of years, Jews across the world have prayed to God at least three times a day for a safe return to Zion. The Pentateuch itself references this ancient Jewish hope while the Prophets and Writings repeatedly record this ambition. Over half of the biblical commandments are specifically tied to Israel, and belief in/hope for the return to Zion is part of the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith.

Jews were Zionists before there were Muslims, and even before there were Christians. In multiple places throughout the New Testament, for example, the yearning for redemption is expressed in terms of the familiar and by-then-already-classic formulation of Jewish Zionism (see Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15, paraphrasing Zechariah 9:9). The Quran itself is also quite clear about the long history of Jews in the Holy Land—and especially in Jerusalem. (See, for example, Surah Bani Isra’il, verses 1-7). While it is true that the Jews were twice expelled from their ancient kingdom of Israel, it is also true that they never fully left; since biblical times there has always been a Jewish community living in the eternal Jewish homeland. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, Jews from around the world came to buy and cultivate land to further expand those existing Jewish communities that had remained in Israel as a continuous presence throughout all of the exiles.

On Yom Ha’atzmaut it is worth remembering that Israel’s legitimacy is not rooted in the beneficence of others; the Jewish people’s rightful claims to the land long predate the United Nations and precede the horrors of the Holocaust. Israel’s modern re-birthday commemorates when other nations recognized our Zionistic determination. But no one ever gave Israel to the Jews, and no one can ever take her away.

Israel’s modern re-birthday commemorates when other nations recognized our Zionistic determination. But no one ever gave Israel to the Jews, and no one can ever take her away.

As it relates to the editorial, any form of “anti-Zionism” that calls for discrimination against Jewish people or their allies because of their support for the biblical/prophetic/historical/ethnic/cultural/Jewish ideal of Zionism is antisemitic. That is demonstrably what the BDS movement does, as one brave student dared write in dissent.

As described in Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah” (literally, “The Hope”), Zionism represents the aspiration of moving toward an ideal. Of course, Israel is not perfect, and it is fine to criticize the country. But as the only democracy in the Middle East that protects the rights of all peoples and religions, Israel has a lot to teach the world about the dignity of difference, the power of coexistence, and the strength that comes from tolerance. Israel’s narrative should be empowering, with a focus on the valuable principles Israel consistently models, including civil liberties, religious freedom and a healthy self-respect that marries an undeterred optimism for peace with an unapologetic need for guaranteed national security.

Too often Jews are put on the defensive, responding to the shameful crimson claims of the inexcusably ill-informed. Sometimes we forget the simplistic beauty of what Zionism actually stands for.

It was “Zionist rhetoric,” stories of the city on a hill and a promised land, that inspired the Founding Fathers and later the leaders of the Civil Rights movement to try to make our world a better place. Birthdays are a time for reflection and appreciation, and whether they realize it or not as they sit in the comfort of their Zionist-inspired freedoms (likely typing on computers full of Israeli-made technology,) the Crimson editors should be wishing Israel a happy birthday and thanking God for her existence.

Dr. Mark Goldfeder, Esq. is an international lawyer and Director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center

Source: Jewish Journal

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