I find this week’s blog assignment extremely fascinating. The question we frequently ask is “which side” of the political question of Zionism we are on, and rarely whether or not it is indeed a political question at all. This change of framing brings about so many different questions, the most important, in my opinion; what is a political question? In much of the United States, gay marriage is voted upon by the public, and is debated in state and federal legislatures. One can therefore argue that gay marriage is a political issue; however, I know many people (myself included) that would argue that gay marriage is not primarily a political issue, but is rather a personal question, a moral question, a societal question, etc.
With all this in mind, I don’t think that Zionism is merely a political position, but rather encompasses many different aspects. Therefore, instead of picking a side of this question, I’m rather going to explore Zionism through three different lenses: political, moral and philosophical.
First: the political. One often hears discussions concerning candidates or officials who are “soft on Israel” or who offer “unconditional support” for Israel. A state’s support for Israel, expressed either through the individual opinions of its elected officials or through its over-arching behavior and standpoint as demonstrated in votes at the United Nations, can influence a lot. I believe that Zionism is a political position in that when one casts their vote for any position, whether it is in Canada or abroad, it’s important to know what the candidate you are voting for stands for. Israel is very much a Canadian political issue because Israel and Zionism are threatened and discussed on the world stage, which our country participates in.
That being said, when we consider that Zionism is a political position, it’s important to understand what that political position stands for. From a morality perspective, it is important to note that Israel has the only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East. We have a country that is known for supporting causes that are important to personal rights. Tel Aviv is constantly ranked as the world’s most “gay friendly” city. For me, from a moral standpoint, that means more than I can express. When we think of moral values we also think of human rights, the Israeli army, and how Israel protects its citizens. This is an area that I understand is highly contested, and in my opinion, there is no black and white answer. I’ll say this: as someone who supports freedom and human rights, Israel has, on occasion, let me down. So have many other countries, however. When we consider the morals of the Jewish state, we must also consider the morals of states in general. One can question Israel from a moral standpoint, without a doubt. However, one can also do so for international super powers like, China as well as Western democracies like the United States and even Canada.
The societal aspect of this question is a bit more complex. What kind of society do Zionists strive for? As they say, “two Jews, three opinions”, and I think it’s safe to say that the recent court case regarding women and our right to pray at the Western Wall shows that it is impossible to have a state founded upon clear Jewish values because what defines Jewish values is not formally agreed upon by all Jews.. To me, Zionism means acceptance. It is equality, it is justice, and it is an opportunity for safety for all those who feel unsafe in their current atmospheres.
Sure, Zionism is a political position – but I think it can be much more than that too.