Proud to be a Zionist

14 Jul


I’m back to a language issue. It’s time to take back the words “Zionism” and “Zionist.”

Let me start with this – I am a proud Zionist.

Zionism is not a four-letter word. It often seems, however, that anytime the word “Zionism” or “Zionist” is used, it is used with a hugely negative connotation. It’s time for this to change. It’s time to take back the words “Zionism” and “Zionist” and restore them to their proper usage, to tell our story our way and to inspire those proud to wear the “Zionist label.”

Let’s start with a proper definition. According to Webster’s Dictionary, Zionism is defined as, “Political support for the creation and development of a Jewish homeland in Israel.” It’s important to emphasize that Zionism is entirely about a Jewish homeland in Israel. It’s that simple.  And then it’s about our narrative – a narrative we must define and not let others with negative agendas define it for us.

Being a Zionist means to believe in the existence of an independent Jewish homeland – it’s that simple. And while those who love Israel often struggle with some of the policies of Israel’s government, it doesn’t alter one’s ability to love the State of Israel. It’s the same as an American disagreeing with the policies of the United States government and struggling with choices our leaders make. In America, that’s called being a patriot.

Yet somehow, when it comes to Israel, being a Zionist is purported to mean something else, something with questionable connotations or worse. It’s up to us to rectify this, and restore the rightful meaning to the words “Zionism” and “Zionist.”

Let us stop allowing opposing views about the Israeli governmental policies to color our love and caring for Israel. Let us stop attacking each because we differ over the political actions of the Israeli government. As Yossi Klein-Halevi wrote in his recent article in The Jewish Week, “delegitimizing fellow Jews is itself a kind of existential threat.”

Wise words indeed – we can disagree about policies, but share a common love for Israel. We can struggle and work together to ensure that Israel is not just our homeland but a place that also lives up to the Jewish values to which we all aspire.

Howard Tevlowitz is the Executive Director of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.

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