Opinion: Israel, a tipping point


Published: 03-18-2023 6:00 AM

Cantor Amy Brenner Mitz of Sugar Hill has served congregations in Chicago, New York, and New Hampshire and is the only Jewish Clergy to reside year round in the northern region of New Hampshire.

So much is at stake in Israel right now. The combustible heat of a corrupt leader and the growing power of the right-wing ultra-orthodox in government is of dire concern.

The recent unrestrained extreme violence of Jewish settlers just towards Palestinians, though unprecedented, is the result of decades of a pressure cooker fed by Israeli enabling. It’s abhorrent that not one of the perpetrators has yet been called to account for the crimes committed. There is plenty of blame to go around in Israel.

As dangerous and counterproductive as Netanyahu and his cohorts are in uncorking the cooker, it’s just as scary how much of the world would be happy to see the demise of Israel. A world where way too many see Zionism as a dirty word, Jews as alien and enemy, and all the other new and old tropes which prey upon the worst of human impulses.

A world where the term Zionism is used as a touchstone for the misplaced agendas of other entities. A world where Zionism is simply misunderstood because demonizing Zionism remains a handy undercurrent for demonizing Jews.

That’s not the Zionism of those protesting in Israel by the hundreds of thousands right now. These are the brave Israelis who are proud Zionists protesting against all Netanyahu represents. They are against settlement expansion. They believe in improving civil rights for all her citizens. They still believe in a two-state solution. They are vehemently against an Israeli government that threatens to dictate by autocracy and antiquated interpretations of Jewish law.

Zionism is the antithesis of a one-path formula for governance. Zionism is a large tent, not a conquering imperative. It is a democratic vision of a Jewish return to our safe home from the relentless history of persecution and displacements from ancient times onward.

Zionism is a touchstone. Jews have always held two homelands in our hands. The evidence is in the history of our prayer books and rich exchanges of talents and contributions the world over — a yearning for safe haven and also as active patriots as immigrants in foreign lands we also call home.

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Zionism does not impose its vision on any other entity, political or religious. Its definition in the Oxford Language Dictionary is “a movement for the re-establishment and now the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” It originates from ancient memory. From 1000 BCE, in spite of numerous Arab conquests, until Rome conquered it 1,600 years later, the Jews of Palestine constituted its main population and maintained large periods of independence there.

Israel is our original Jewish homeland. To disavow the term Zionism is to disavow the term Indigenous. Nevertheless, numbers of Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews have all shared residency in these territories continually since.

When Israel gained independence within a sliver of the original territory after centuries of exile according to UN resolution 181 called the Partition Plan in 1947, two states were to be formed, one Israeli and one Arab. This set of circumstances made it politically feasible for Jews to gain a homeland. Jews began feeding in from Europe and other lands.

This also meant the unfortunate displacement of many Palestinian Arabs from what would soon be the new Jewish State of Israel. Jews were attacked in response to the resolution. Multiple battles ensued inside Palestine resulting in many deaths of both Jews and Arabs. At that same time, over half a million Jews were being driven out of Arab lands. These Jews too found their way eventually to their ancient homeland. With the rejection of Israeli Independence in 1948 by neighboring Arab states, wars and tensions followed. The battered beginnings of this baby democracy and shelter for homeless Jews obviously set the stage for a complicated set of troubles. But Israel was founded on the hope and return of a desolate people. The national anthem of Israel is HaTikva, the hope.

Zionism, originating in the late 19th century in response to antisemitism, has precariously bound together the threads of Jewish heritage, beliefs, and cultures from all over the world. In modern times it’s a messy and often fragmented but very maverick collaboration. Hope in Israel was built on a fragile democracy, the only one in the world to hold such a wide range of political coalitions in its parliament if only for a brief time last year.

Zionism is what our country, the United States of America, supports and protects all these decades. Zionism is not racism. It is not colonialism. Zionists are not religious zealots.

Zionism is in the heart of every one of the protesters wrapped in blue and white Star of David Israeli flags who do not relinquish the dream for a Jewish homeland inside of an evolving inclusive democracy with the goal of justice within and peace with her neighbors.

Zionism is not Netanyahu, he is the antithesis.

I stand with all those who support Israel and Zionism. I pray along with the protesters that an autocracy is averted and modern Zionism prevails.

I pray you join us.