What is Zionism? You tell me. Politically speaking, we’ve never been a more outspoken society. Israel, Palestine and the Middle Eastern conflict being among the most divisive issues.
The word Zionism is, for many, vitriol to be hissed and spat – especially, in my experience, the young lefties. It’s reputation has been corrupted, with many naming it a racist and colonialist movement. The bad press is based on myth. As with any national movement, Zionism has a rich and complicated history. And if we take a magnifying glass to it, it becomes more nuanced than you might have thought. Political, Labour, Cultural, Religious and Revisionist are all types of Zionism.
But at its heart, Zionism is the national liberation movement for the Jewish people, which aims to right the 2000-year-old wrong of their exile by establishing a Jewish homeland in the biblical lands of their ancestors in Israel. But there are a few misconceptions and I’ll deal with them right away.
1. Being a Zionist does not mean that you support the actions of the Israeli government. I am living and breathing evidence of this; I would call myself a Zionist but I oppose the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likkud party.
2. Being Jewish does not automatically make you a Zionist. That is to say, being part of a religion or a culture does not mean that you are any more inclined to have a political opinion on the state of Israel.
3. Being a Zionist does not mean you are opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian State and it is hypocritical to believe in the national movement for the Jewish people not that of the Palestinian people.
So, what does this all look like in practise? If a random student were asked
‘Do you think that the Kurdish people have a right to their own state?’
I am sure most would say
‘Yes, of course! Who am I to question how they self-determine and identify?’
But what response would you get if you replaced the word Kurdish with Jewish?
In my experience, the answers are never the same. A mention of Zionism is often met with harsh criticism.
The truth is Kurdistan media coverage is less trendy. People are less exposed to the issue and are therefore less informed. The topic is often met with indifference, or, at best, an opinion that is hardly formed. So it’s important that you are always developing your own thoughts on this complex issue without feeling pressured to jump on to the bandwagon of either pro or anti-Israeli rhetoric.
This being said, I still find myself at a lost as the narrative of the Kurdish people and the Jewish people is almost indistinguishable. In their own eyes, they were a people native to a land, they thrived and lived in relative harmony and then they were exiled by a foreign power. Zionism and Kurdish nationalism both aim to correct an expulsion of a people from land which was theirs.
You’d think every young person would want to be an advocate for the beleaguered members of society. At a recent freshers’ society fair saw a wealth of opportunity to support organisations such as Black Lives Matter, LGBT Pride, Ambitious About Autism and Friends of Palestine.
All of these stands were being flocked by personalities from every corner of life’s rich tapestry. But it wasn’t all utopian hand-holding.
The stand for the Jewish Society – an apolitical religious group – was being shouted and jeered at by protestors draped in Palestinian flags. They repeated calls for the Jews to be driven into the sea. This was more than a lot to digest, it was stomach churning.
But rather than contest or criticise I will finish by asking you all a question. Why is it that Zionism gets different treatment to all minority advocacy groups despite fitting in with all of the same criteria?
The more I understand about conflict the less I feel I truly know. Learn about the world around you; stand up for what you believe in and not what others tell you to.