I’ve been spending a great deal of time lately reflecting on the meaning and importance of Zionism. One reason is that I’m writing a book on the subject, but there is also the news. And this past week, the news included the atrocious murder of a dedicated Zionist, Ari Fuld.
People like to say that he was murdered because he was a Jew. That is only part of the story: he was murdered specifically because he was a Jew living in Eretz Israel. I’m sure his murderer hated Jews in general, but what really infuriates them is Jews living in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.
I am not saying that Jew-haters wouldn’t murder Jews if there were no Jewish state. Obviously, they did so throughout the long period of exile. But the existence and flourishing of the state represents the victory of the Jews over their enemies, and the frustration of the desire to rid the world of our people drives Amalek and his friends wild, to the point that they will die themselves to achieve their aims.
Recently I read a dumb article by a smart guy, Anshel Pfeffer, who said that Zionism had ended 70 years ago with the founding of the state. “Despite the –ism in its name, Zionism was not an ideology, it was a program,” a program that was completed in 1948. You can’t be a Zionist any more, he said, although you can argue interminably about the shape and nature of the state.
He is obviously wrong. Zionism is both an ideology and a program, and while the program has changed over the years from establishing the state to protecting and preserving it, the ideology is still around, and is still hotly disputed both by Jews and others.
The minimal propositions of Zionist ideology are 1) that the preservation of the Jewish people is desirable, 2) that this requires the existence of a sovereign Jewish state, and 3) that the Jewish people have a historical, legal, and moral right to said state in Eretz Israel. You can add to these, but you can’t take anything away.
“Zionist” has become an ugly epithet in some quarters. Look it up in the Internet’s “Urban dictionary” and you’ll find that it refers to a “race supremacist, colonialist, extremist.” Ask Al Jazeera’s “Palestine Remix” propaganda generator and you find that Zionism is “A colonial movement supporting the establishment by any means necessary of a national state for Jews in historic Palestine.” UK Labour Party star Jeremy Corbyn famously said that “Zionists… don’t understand English irony.” And “Palestinian feminist” Linda Sarsour believes that it is impossible for someone to be both a Zionist and a feminist.
Zionism has nothing to do with race (or gender!), and the Jewish state came into being as an act of anti-colonialism, not the opposite. Needless to say – I wish it were truly needless – Zionism does not assert that Jews are superior to non-Jews, that Jews ought to dominate or exploit non-Jews, or that the religious concept of “chosen people” refers to anything other than the Jewish burden of observing the mitzvot of Torah. And believe me, Jews understand irony better than most folks.
The recently-created Palestinian people have an ideology and a program too. Their ideology derives from that of the 7th century Arab conquerors/bandits, and it states that Eretz Israel (and a whole lot of other places) belong to them in perpetuity, and that they have a right to occupy our land, take our property, kill our men, rape our women, and enslave our children. The program varies in detail depending on which Palestinian faction you ask, but it clearly conflicts with the Zionist program.
But the Palestinians are not the only ones opposed to the ideology of Zionism, although they are among the most honest about it. Some of the less honest anti-Zionists are to be found among American Reform Jews, who claim to be Zionists and to care about the preservation of the Jewish people and their state, but actually hold an ideology that denies fundamental aspects of Zionism.
The Reform ideology has matured since 1885, when the movement in America was founded. At that time, its platform was sharply anti-Zionist, stating “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.” Today’s platform pays lip service to their love and support for the State of Israel, but they have not significantly changed their ethical system based on “tikkun olam,” a Kabbalistic concept which they have redefined as a universalist, liberal, humanistic vision. Insofar as this system often places the welfare of other groups, including Palestinian Arabs, ahead of that of the Jewish people – and often even aligns the movement with the anti-Zionist Left – it contradicts the Zionist idea of protecting the Jewish people and their state.
In particular, Reform movement officials and rabbis often call for a “two-state solution” despite their lack of understanding the security concerns involved. Reform ideology and closeness to the political Left led directly to the creation of J Street, a supposedly Zionist lobbying group which has nevertheless systematically lobbied against the interests of the State of Israel, and the even more extreme “If Not Now” organization which puts on propaganda performances such as saying Kaddish for Palestinians killed in conflicts with Israel.
Ari Fuld was a traditional kind of hero, who saved at least one person’s life by chasing down and shooting the terrorist with his last ounce of strength. He was also a less dramatic sort of hero by devoting his life to activism on behalf of the Jewish state, and on behalf of its right to possess all of its historic homeland in Judea and Samaria. Ari, the son of a rabbi from Queens NY, came to Israel 27 years ago and served as a combat soldier in the IDF. In addition to tireless efforts as an advocate for Israel on social media and as a speaker, he worked for an organization that brought donated supplies to IDF soldiers wherever they were. He was liked and respected even by his political opponents.
Liberal American Jews were probably no less horrified by the brutal murder of Ari Fuld than Israelis (at least, insofar as they knew about it – coverage of Palestinian terrorism in foreign media is sparse and biased). But they should know that by legitimizing the terrorists in any way – by taking the position that the conflict is about Palestinian “rights,” by maintaining that the presence of Jewish communities across the Green line is illegitimate, by repeating the atrocity propaganda about Israel’s actions in self-defense, or by supporting organizations like the New Israel Fund that finance anti-Zionist causes – they are helping drive the terrorists’ knives into the backs of Jews like Ari Fuld.