Sunday, November 18, 2012

Taking Back the “Z” Word!

Like many, I have spent a fair amount of time monitoring a variety of sources to see what is going on in Israel. And like some I feel torn that I am not there sharing the stresses and helping. The truth is,  given my lack of training and experience, I would probably just be in the way their. But I can help spread the word. There are two postings I have rad over the past several days that I want to make sure as many people as possible read and think about and hopefully act on. Here is one of them. It was posted today on eJewishPhilanthropy and written by Rabbi Loren Sykes.

While over one million Israeli citizens need to be close enough to protected shelters to avoid death by missiles shot with the intention of killing civilians, while thousands of missiles have been shot from Gaza into Israel on a near daily basis over the past few year, reclaiming our 2,000 year old dream, “being a free people in the Land of Zion and Jerusalem,” from those who seek to destroy us, seems to me to be the least we can do.

With tensions escalating throughout the region, with increasing numbers of citizens living under the threat of missile attacks, it is not surprising that an important date in modern Jewish and Israeli history passed by [last week] virtually unnoticed. On November 11, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed the infamous Resolution 3379 declaring that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” While the UN revoked the resolution in 1991 after the first Gulf War as an enticement to gain Israel’s involvement in the Madrid Peace Conference, General Assembly Resolution 4686 could not undue the damage already done. The revocation, while symbolically important, was irrelevant in practice. The basis for today’s efforts to delegitimize Israel were sown and given legitimacy by the UN with the 1975 resolution. The term “Zionism” became anathema, the equivalent of the actually repugnant “N” word.

The 1975 UN resolution initiated a process whereby individuals, countries and terrorist groups co-opted Zionism for their own purposes, turning it into the “Z” word. To make matters worse, by preceding the “Z” word with the modifier, “Anti,” they gave themselves cover from accusations of anti-Semitism. “We don’t hate individual Jews; rather, we are just opposed to Israel.” The far left throughout the world, the Jewish world included, took ownership of Zionism, turned it into the “Z” word and claimed that those who were Zionists were, by definition, racists, discriminators and murderers.

Worse still, as the far left claimed the “Z” term with greater and greater passion, many in the organized Jewish world distanced themselves from using the word Zionism. Sadly, that distancing continues today. The result is the strengthening of radical BDS groups who revel in our embarrassment while, at the same time, strengthening the true racists and murderous terror organizations and the regimes, past, present and emerging, that support them. Terms such as “pro-Israel” and phrases such as “support Israel” are wonderful. At the same time, I believe they represent reactions to the co-opting of the word Zionism by those who hate Israel, who seek to delegitimate it and to destroy it. “Pro-Israel” is clearly a reaction to “Anti-Israel.” The time has come for a new strategy, one that is proactive rather than reactive.

Instead of distancing ourselves from Zionism, we must reclaim the word and celebrate it anywhere and everywhere. While definitions abound, we must make clear that the meaning of the term Zionism is “the certain knowledge of the right of the Jewish People to a safe, sovereign State in our ancient and ancestral homeland.” We must cease arguing the legitimacy of this right with those who seek to delegitimate Zionism, Zionists and The State of Israel. Engaging in such argument is a waste of time as it simply legitimates the ability to raise the question of our right, a right that is as inalienable as it is ancient.

When others try to embarrass us by turning Zionism into the abhorrent “Z” word, we cannot not run and hide. Our response must be clear, full-throated and unbending: Those who deny the fact of the “the right of the Jewish People to a safe, sovereign State in our ancient and ancestral homeland” are the racists, the spreaders of hatred, the hypocrites. One can accept the fact of this right and still be critical of or have a problem with specific policies. One cannot, however, be a denier of the fact of Israel and expect to be invited to join, be part of or initiate conversations that seeks to solve those problems by eliminating that fact.

Being “pro-Israel” or “supporting Israel” is important. We need as many people as possible to side with Israel, to support her, to love her. What we need even more, however, is for everyone who knows with certainty the fact of “the right of the Jewish People to a safe, sovereign State in our ancient and ancestral homeland,” everyone throughout the world – Jews and non-Jews alike – to take back the “Z” word from those among our detractors who seek to destroy Israel. We must remove any sense of shame that others may give to it, shouting loudly to the world in a strong, clear voice that the “right of the Jewish People to a safe, sovereign State in our ancient and ancestral homeland” is a non-negotiable fact.

While over one million Israeli citizens need to be close enough to protected shelters to avoid death by missiles shot with the intention of killing civilians, while thousands of missiles have been shot from Gaza into Israel on a near daily basis over the past few year, reclaiming our 2,000 year old dream, “being a free people in the Land of Zion and Jerusalem,” from those who seek to destroy us, seems to me to be the least we can do.

Rabbi Loren Sykes serves as the CEO and Executive Director of the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center of the USCJ. Title and organization affiliation are solely for identification purposes. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone.

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