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In the Jerusalem Post, Gil Troy explains eloquently why he is a Zionist. He gives good reasons, including reasons that resonate deeply with many of us, including myself. However, some of these reasons are not the reasons that I am a Zionist.

Troy writes:

I AM a Zionist because I am a Jew - and without recognizing Judaism's national component, I cannot explain its unique character. Judaism is a world religion bound to one homeland, shaping a people whose holy days revolve around the Israeli agricultural calendar, ritualize theological concepts, and relive historic events. Only in Israel can a Jew fully live in Jewish space and by Jewish time.

I am a Zionist because I share the past, present, and future of my people, the Jewish people. Our nerve endings are uniquely intertwined.

OK that's great. It is almost enough for me, and maybe more than enough. I don't need any other reasons. I am a Zionist because I am a secular Jew. If "Jew" does not connote only a religious affiliation, then it must connote affiliation to a people or nation. So I am a Jewish patriot just as an Irishman would naturally be an Irish patriot and an Italian would be an Italian patriot. I do not need any more justification for Zionism than that, and the state of Israel should not have to apologize for its existence any more than Australia or Ireland or the Czech Republic or Spain apologize for their existence, even if some other native peoples like the Basques or the Sudetens Germans lost rights in the process of creating some of those states. Even if I were not Jewish, I would support the right of the Jewish people to self determination just as I support the right of other peoples to self determination - including many, such as the Amazigh, the Kurds and the Tibetans, whose rights have been trampled upon by the neglect of the international community.

Gil Troy writes:

I am a Zionist because I am a romantic. The story of the Jews rebuilding their homeland, reclaiming the desert, renewing themselves, was one of the 20th century's greatest epics, just as the narrative of the Jews maintaining their homeland, reconciling with the Arab world, renewing themselves, and serving as a light to others, a model nation state, could be one of this century's marvels.

I beg to differ. The right of a people to self determination is not conditional on whether they are a light or a blight. Israel's right to exist, and the legitimacy of Zionism, are not dependent on our moral purity. Nations have the right to states whether they are saints or sinners, and whether their governments are wonderful or terrible. We must never let anyone use imperfections in Israeli behavior as an excuse for denying us our rights. The terrible nature of governance in the Sudan does not in any way threaten the right of Sudan to a nation-state. Nobody calls for the dissolution of Syria because of the corrupt and dictatorial regimes that have ruled that country since its independence. Nobody believes the Chinese people should be denied the right to self-determination because of rights violations in Tibet. As for romanticism, if you are a romantic because you are Zionist, you are in for a big disillusionment. Removing rocks from the ground to redeem the soil is not romantic. It is, as I remember, backbreaking and thirsty work. There is nothing romantic about sweat and barchash flies, even if the girl pulling out rocks in the next row is wearing very short shorts. There is nothing romantic about waiting for telephone calls from your kids every time there is a terror hit, and nagging your daughter not to hitchhike to her army base. When you are doing it, there is nothing romantic about lugging around a gas mask when going to visit customers. When I first came to this country, it was still fairly poor. There is nothing romantic about poverty, novelists to the contrary notwithstanding. There is nothing romantic about army service either. So what is romantic about being an Israeli or a Zionist?

We all get the expected goose bumps and tears watching the memorial ceremonies for Israel's fallen heroes and the yearly independence day ceremonies, but most of history is not like that. It is very inspiring to read about history, but it is usually less dramatic to live it. as Zipporah Porath's account of the first hours of the state of Israel attests. I spent the first hours of the Six Day War filling sandbags and digging trenches -- an effort we had more or less understood was worthless, but that is what we were told to do. I heard about the "historic victory" in the morning hours of June 5 in the un-air-conditioned Kibbutz dining room from someone who had been at a base who heard from someone else who had a friend in the air-force. We were all hot, dirty and sweaty. Yeah, it was history, so what? Romantics will be disappointed here.

But the most alarming and dangerous statement that Gil Troy makes is this:

... we can be "ands and buts" ... a secular Jew BUT also a Zionist.

Think about what is implied there. In the public mind, "Zionism" has been so firmly intertwined with religion, that it is necessary to assert that one can be a secular Jew "but" a Zionist. The statement makes no sense. Religious Zionists have an honored place in the history of Zionism, but they were never the only Zionists, nor were they ever the majority of Zionists in the land of Israel. David Ben Gurion was a secular Zionist, and so were all of his comrades in the Second Aliya All of the people in the famous photo of the raising of the flag at Eilat in 1949, including Uzi Narkiss, Yigal Alon, and Avraham "Bren" Adan, visible on the flag pole, were all prominent secular Zionists and later, if not then, generals of the IDF.

Zionism: raising the ink flag at Eilat, 1949

Most of the people who gave their lives in defense of the state of Israel were secular Zionists, and every Prime Minister and president of Israel has been a secular Zionist. It is sad that many progressive and secular Zionists were so ready to relinquish leadership and responsibility for Zionism, and even sadder that some religious Zionists have reversed history and claimed a monopoly on Zionism for religious Zionism. Clearly, Zionism as an exclusively religious movement would have no future.

That brings me back to the chief reason why I am a Zionist. I am a Zionist because I am a secular Jew, because it seems to me that Zionism is the only meaningful expression of secular Jewish identity in the modern world.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000540.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 2 Comments

I am a zionist, first and foremost for myself, my family, and my people. I offer no apologies to anyone other than to the people I personally may have offended and hurt. But as for apologizing to anyone for things my family or people might or might not have done I will do no such thing because it is morally vacuous to do so. No zionist (and I would define a zionist, as a person Jewish or non Jewish who believes that the Jewish people have a right to restore their aboriginal homeland to be a home for a soverign autonomous Jewish community, where they for their own reasons commit to fulfill environmental restoration, a rejuvenation of an historical script and language, and a societal contract for its individual member citizens to find their way to a psychic and social rehabilitation and improvement) should be placed in the zero sum game of believing, apologizing, or rationalizing the lie of their displacing a "Pal-est-in-ian" Arab community. Frankly to buy this fabrication of Zionists victimizing the Arabs is to turn history on its head. The UN ratified a partition plan in line with the mandate's original articles, the Zionists accepted it, the Arab leadership rejected it with a genocidal rage and the Mandatory, (the British) refused to carry out their duties to the high contracting party that made them Mandatory proctors in the first place. It has nothing to do with romance, but more to do with religion than our secular friends may want to attribute, shalom, a happy diamond anniversary to the midinate and her people, may you have many, many more.

Larry Riteman, Thursday, May 8th

I have lived as a life-long zionist with rational fear, and irrational guilt. I live with constant fear that the second holocaust will happen in my lifetime, and with typical jewish guilt because we were forced to displace others. Don't get me wrong, my politics fall to the right of center, I simply wish we didn't have to do what had to be done.
why am I a zionist?
I read from some that they couldn't resist the romantisism. I read from others that "Zionism is the only meaningful expression of secular Jewish identity in the modern world."
I am zionist for the most practical reasons of all. I understand the romantic feeling and I cry whenever I hear givat ha'tachmoshet. And I do express my secular jewish Identity by being a zionist and promoting zionism.
But I feel the most urgent need to keep and maintain a jewish state for the very survival of our people. Our existence, even in the united states not a garauntee. It is never a garauntee as long as we are living as assimilated jews in someone else's country. We have to keep Israel strong if we want to keep from being an old page in history that will be quikly forgotten.

Tal Ben-Yaacov, Wednesday, May 7th

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