“It’s the state of Israel I’m against, not the Jewish people.” This statement is a mere justification to continue pushing an irrational narrative. “I’m anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic,” is a clarification to dispel any notion that one can discriminate against an entire group of people. “Make America Great Again.” These are all expressions that evoke a specific set of emotions. We have become numb to the point of blind acceptance when it comes to these statements when we should be questioning the underlying meanings and intentions of these dangerous assertions. Taking issue with the land of Israel’s existence and her people is a mentality created through hate and ignorance, not out of any desire to improve the conditions on the ground. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and to disagree could only mean that one is unaware of the proper definition for Zionism or, alternatively, that one is just a blatant anti-Semite.
My identity has been hijacked and I, a proud Zionist, am fighting to take back what makes me who I am. Not a baby killer, settler, or colonizer — all terms I’ve been referred to as in the past — but a Jew who is proud of my people’s story. The Jewish people were forcibly exiled from their land 2,000 years ago. This isn’t “religious” or “biblical,” but is a fact based off archaeology and a simple understanding of human history. Our return was not a scriptural promise from God but a basic human right.
Today, extremists are trying to associate the term “Zionism” with extreme right-wing politics and ideologies that solely embrace the Jewish settling of land. In doing so, anti-Zionists are striving to warp the term to fit the false narrative that Zionists do not care about the well-being of the Palestinian people. Yet, in reality, Zionism has nothing to do with land or settlements. While the Zionist movement was originally founded to re-establish a sovereign Jewish nation, it has transformed into one that seeks to affirm the right of a Jewish nation to continue to exist. The means by which we can ensure a secure Jewish nation varies among individuals. However, the understanding that the Jewish people have a right to flourish in their eternal homeland is what makes a Zionist. This is a concept that is hatefully invalidated by anti-Israel activists on campuses and in high bodies of power each day.
To invalidate a part of who I am and deny my story in the name of pushing an opposing agenda is anti-Semitic. These claims do not lead to compromise and solution but to delegitimization and conflict. Now more than ever, it is our job to challenge the common sentiments that “Zionism is racism” and that we have simply stolen the land we now call home. We have overcome expulsions, pogroms, and a Holocaust and finally returned to our home. This is the home we have been longing to return to for thousands of years and whose existence is the only way to guarantee that “never again” remains a reality. After 2,000 years we are finally home and for that reason alone we must find the bravery to stop those with hate from defining who we are.
Ben Suster is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.