How I Became a Zionist

This is a post about normalizing changing your opinion when presented with new information: something that I did at age 43 (I am now 44!)

Like many well-intentioned progressive American Jews, I fell into the leftist anti-Zionist propaganda trap. And I didn’t begin the process of unlearning and unpacking until a little over a year ago – what timing!

I grew up in the reform synagogue where I was seeped in Jewish culture but always conflicted about organized religion altogether. I never questioned my Judaism but I always questioned my connection to Israel.

I would say ignorant things like “Well I am 99.7% Ashkenazi Jew and all my ancestors are from Eastern Europe so Israel doesn’t really mean much to me.” In reality, Ashkenazi Jews have origins in the Levant, which Israel is smack dab in the middle of. Europe was just a stop along the way to America for my ancestors – chased into South Philadelphia and Brooklyn from the pogroms.

Anyway, I was totally ignorant about Israel. I never went on birthright. I had Israeli family members and all I knew was that I loved the food. I didn’t get it.

I considered myself a political expert on domestic policy (still do!) but feigned absolute ignorance about any foreign policy including the Middle East conflict. I was at best agnostic and at worst problematic.

Why? Because I am aligned with the international social justice movement that seeks freedom from all prejudice, bias, and oppression – except when it comes to Jews.

I was not naïve to this problem. I wrote about my disgust and disappointment with the Women’s March leaders back in 2018. But even in that post I said “Liberal Jews tend to have a more lenient and supportive view of the BDS sanctions against Israel.” Which isn’t even entirely true. Most (not all but most) progressive Jews do support Israel – they have just been afraid to speak up (now we know why!)

Anyway, I followed the bullshit rabbit hole of Jewish Voices for Peace (which is not really Jewish or for peace!) and supported anti-Zionist people and said with my whole chest “Anti-Zionism is Not Antisemitism!” Yes, it is! I was wrong.

I realized I was wrong a little over a year ago when talking with my rabbi in preparation for my son’s Bar Mitzvah. I explained that I didn’t know how to feel about Israel and was having a lot of trouble parsing it out. He encouraged me to do some research. So I did, and I read loads of historical unbiased documentation of everything that has happened and refused to do my learning from TikTok or YouTube videos.

I believe Israel has the right to exist therefore I am a Zionist. It’s really as simple as that. But the problem is: everyone wants to kill us!

In terms of the current conflict in the Middle East, what I have found is that the social justice movement is eager to contextualize everything into an oppressor/oppressed framework without reading or understanding historical context or actual facts.

I don’t know anyone who isn’t sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people being held captive by HAMAS or anyone who hasn’t criticized the right-wing extremism of Netanyahu.

But using language about colonialism, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing is simply false – and in my opinion does an injustice to the places where this has happened historically and is actually happening now.

I would encourage further learning from a range of Jewish and Israeli voices and certainly from Palestinian voices in and from Gaza. I do not have many Palestinian resources to share because it is dangerous for Palestinians to speak out against HAMAS. I also offer perspectives from Iranian people who have been speaking up against the Islamist Regime and its funding of terrorist organizations including HAMAS, as they have an acute understanding of what it is like to live under a terrorist government.

ZIONESS: Learn how Zionism is aligned with progressivism

Instagram:

@ROOTSMETALS – my favorite account for cited, researched information on Israel and Judaism with receipts

@danaaliyalevinson – Trans Jewish woman doing phenomenal Q+A on her page

@MANDANADAYANI – Iranian-born Jewish woman

@blackjewishmagic – Ethiopian Israeli

@theamyalbertson – Chinese-American Jewish woman

@EliciaLebon – Iranian activist

@peacecomms – The Center for Peace Communications created “Whispered in Gaza”, a platform for ordinary Palestinians to share testimony of life under Hamas rule.


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